I read the Sept. 5 guest column (“Jackson must do better in stemming cat crisis”) and the sad dilemma Kaleb Lynch, manager at Catman 2, faces on a daily basis. It brought to mind a similar dilemma another community faced decades ago.
Back in the 1970s, when I worked for a small newspaper on the Florida Gulf Coast, my editor sent me on assignment to cover a “cat problem” at one of our prestigious golf courses. He instructed me to take plenty of film because there were at least 100 cats roaming the greens. He gave me the story angle he wanted and rolls of fast film.
I called the clubhouse to give them a heads up and lock in an interview with the manager. He was less than enthusiastic about making it “public” they had a cat problem. (Like people were not already spreading rumors, some of which seemed absolutely preposterous!)
Truth be told the manager frightened me with his tales of woe. Golfers chasing cats with clubs? Groundskeepers using nets? Golf carts breathing down necks of cats but unable to negotiate the bushes and woodsy areas where cats hid out? Spraying those bushes with poisons to flush out “the prey” and then... do what?
I was aware that there were no shelters within 35 to 40 miles and those shelters were in favor of euthanizing if an animal didn’t meet certain “criteria” or if they were overcrowded. These golfers were desperate to save their course and were disgusted that our county was not taking care of “the problem.” Damned if they wouldn’t, come hell or high water!
I didn’t want to face the angry golfers, and yet I did want people to realize that one or two people who had “felt sorry” for a stray, or who had awoken to find a basket of kittens on their steps had fed and cared for them but did not have them spayed or neutered. Cats do what cats will do.... they multiply according to Old Testament biblical directions.
I waited until dusk and asked my husband, an Air Force vet, to accompany me out to dinner at the club restaurant nestled near the 18th hole. I just happened to mention I was on assignment as we approached our destination. As he parked the car I whisked out my camera, attached the flash, and explained I needed lots of pictures to flush out the story. He just stared at me. “You’re kidding, right?”
As we walked down a flagstone pathway flanked by hisbiscus, azaleas and palms, I realized I had no idea how or if I would be able to get some decent pictures of the elusive cats. I did get a waft of fish, shrimp and scallops. My mouth watered. Wouldn’t cats smell their favorites being prepared? Wouldn’t it actually draw them out of hiding?
Sure enough, across the length and breadth of that clubhouse, perched on the edge of a hot tin roof, were about 100 cats – all colors, sizes, shapes and breeds. Enticed by the same scrumptious smelling food we humans paid good money to consume, they posed for me as I made a fool of myself calling out, “Smile ... kitty, kitty, kitty.”
So ... I was about to write a story of how grown men chased cats for weeks on end when all they had to do was throw out scraps of seafood fit for royalty and the cats would come to them.
I snapped several angles of the cats who supposedly could not be herded and went inside to dine and leave a hint about how they just might catch those cats!
The paper ran a full page feature focusing on the trauma of the golfers, the inconsiderate cats who interrupted their games, and a frustrated management. One veterinarian saw the story and offered free services to neuter the cats “once they were caught in friendly cages.” She posed the idea of putting smelly seafood in those cages (brilliant) and relocating cats to remote wilderness areas. (They did.)
I became the cat reporter, I suppose, because yet another, larger and more elaborate resort had 50 to 60 cats roaming the streets and creating a “problem” for condo and home owners. Yep. I got that juicy assignment too.
Of course it’s obvious the cats were not the problem – people were the problem, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar you can’t spay or neuter for stupidity. Ask any cat.
Carol McCrite lives in Whittier.