4.24.2018 ! Important!
Reminder: I have no home internet. I also have a broken laptop screen. This means I must lug a monitor with me to access any Wifi. This means I need two AC outlets. Historically, I have done this at the public library; a considerable hardship for me because I don't have gas money. I place this edit hereat the beginning because I have been unable to thank the wonderful people who have helped me the last few months. I want to emphasize how much I appreciate your support. You have saved me again and again. Because of you my cats have never missed a day of feeding.
Discovery (created 7.25.2017)
I was exploring the mountains north of Redding, California eight and a half years ago. I took a random exit and found myself on a short dirt road on the shore of Lake Shasta. I was startled by the sudden movement of a wild animal. The wild animal was a cat. I approached and discovered one cat was in reality about 20 to 30 cats. Some ran off fearfully into the brush and timber upon detecting me. Others wanted to be petted and, play string. One actually jumped into my truck. I was appalled! Here were pets alone in the woods starving! I rushed home and brought back bowls, food and, water.
I have been feeding these cats every day since (I missed 10 days total attending a wedding, a party and, funeral in Victorville, CA. The cats did not miss any meals.). I bought a trap and starting sterilizing both males and females. The cats became my urgent project.
This is a video showing satellite imagery of my colony’s territory and my route/trails to feeders
A couple of weeks later an employee (Rich Hoover) of nearby Bridge Bay Marina informed me that the source of the animals was the marina. They were abandoned at the marina by whomever. The marina trapped them, drove them north and, released them into the woods; hence, the title of this story. He had been providing dry food for the cats for four years; no sterilization. Another large group existed at the marina. Rich and his wife (Lou), also an employee of the marina, cared for that group. They were in their seventies and retired several months later. I transitioned to overall care of the colony. Bridge Bay Marina was sold to Howard Weinberg and Jacqueline Anderson in 2013. I spoke with Weinberg. He was unaware of the trapping practice. He and his wife were sincerely appalled. He told me it would be stopped immediately. He was true to his word.
Initially I believed I could find homes for all of them. I expected other people to be equally appalled at the situation of a pet alone and starving in the woods. This goal turned out to be exceptionally naïve. Starting with ads on Craigslist I discovered that there was an abundance of unwanted animals of all types in Shasta County (CA). People would leave livestock like horses tied to trees and walk away. The few responses I received were little more than impulsive gestures. No 'forever' homes.
My girlfriend at the time bought a house on 2 acres in 2009. I decided I would build a habitat for the cats and give them a lifelong, safe place to live. She didn't share the scale of my plan but, let me bring home 12 cats and generously supported me and my cats.
I designed and planned for cat towers, high aerial net perches in the trees, tree-houses, masonry summer shelters, suspension bridges between these structures, wooden cat walks, tubes, climbing structures made out of timber, runs under the eaves connecting to the outside structures and, landscape foliage designed for concealment of these fierce predators. I built two large enclosures.
Older photo of my two existing enclosures.
Life had other plans of course. I developed throat cancer in early 2009. My career as a Physician Assistant; already virtually nonexistent and waning, died. After a few years in the new house my girlfriend of 15 years left. I lost 6 family members along the way, including my nephew to suicide and my mother to Alzheimers. My best friend (in Victorville) died. My lake colony, perhaps 30 animals, underwent four mountain lion attacks. In each attack 10-15 animals were killed. PG&E scattered my cats with timber/brush clear cutting. The upcoming achievement of zero population growth became additional generations as my females became unavailable.
A neophyte Forest Service law enforcement officer came into the district and demanded I immediately remove all my cats and infrastructure (bowls/food shelters/shelters distributed over 1.2 miles and 61 acres) or he would remove them himself and have animal control kill my animals. “These cats are breaking the law” he said. (I'm not kidding!) Prior to his demands, I had contacted the Forest Service, Department of Fish and Game, Shasta County Sheriff, California Highway Patrol and, the Shasta
County District Attorneys office. Need you guess the response?
The adjacent freeway continued to take my cats (about 25 to date). Last Christmas I arrived to find one of my oldest and cherished boys Rug, shot dead. He had survived the lion attacks and 2 surgeries for a painful autoimmune gum disease. He had stayed in my bedroom many nights and earned the name Rug Groaner for his distinct sleep-destroying nighttime meow. Two weeks ago a woman brought 3 pit bulls and they killed 5 kittens and 1 adult. I was too furious to speak to the woman. I returned the next day to find she let them kill 6 more kittens after I left.
My sole income is early Social Security, $1039/month. Other financial resources ran out months ago. I started cutting/selling firewood, selling household possessions and, most recently collecting recyclables out of the trash. It is unlikely I will obtain gainful employment in this town of about 110,000. I did not renew my PA license.
My ex-girlfriend allows me to live in her house on two acres rent free temporarily. She has stated repeatedly I could have the house! However, you cannot give someone a mortgage. I attempted obtaining a mortgage about a year ago without success.
The cats (lake and home) consume about 35 pounds of dry food daily. I am able to feed my cats about 2 weeks of the month with my SSI. After that point I have to get creative.
At one point I attempted panhandling for cat food in front of Petsmart. The response was inspiring. People would buy me as much as 100 lbs of food on the spot. However, Redding Police Department had other ideas. I received a citation and was arraigned and put on trial for this heinous act. The officer did not show and it was dismissed. I also made a few contacts in the animal rescue community. They encouraged me to form a 501c (CA) nonprofit entity. Apparently some grants are available with this designation and people are able to legally claim deductions for contributions to my cause.
So far I still have not missed a single day of feeding. Sterilization and further habitat construction are on hold for now.
People have been suggesting Gofundme.com for over a year but, I have been procrastinating. Asking for help is difficult for me. I'm ambivalent about revealing the location of my colony. Last week I met a woman named Dawn from Victorville at the lake. She noticed my cat feeding activities gave me some money and again suggested Gofundme.com. Coincidentally my friend Dave Turner, also from Victorville, has been helping me in this regard. My lack of an Internet service provider (I'm rural) and the geographic distance from my would-be campaign organizer has impeded any progress. He also has a phone disorder. I am now attempting to be my own organizer.
My cats (about 40 at the lake, 20 at home) are the most important thing in my life. It may appear that I do cat rescue. I think with the events of the past few years the cats are doing John rescue. I call them Mancats because of the degree of risk they face constantly.
My most urgent concern (next to food) is my lake cats safety. They are at great risk every day. I made a commitment to my cats to take them off the mountain and give them good food and a safe life. This sounds ridiculous to most people. I am counseled by almost everyone to 'let go' of the cats. I could have a PA career if I left the area. I stay here only for them. They are twice abandoned and are constantly being killed. I cannot walk away from these guys and keep any degree of self-respect. Each death is for me a guilt-ridden reminder that I continue to fail in my commitment. Each day’s drive to the lake starts with the anxiety that I will have to shovel someone off the road again or another face will go missing. I have considered moving them to a safer location (human free) many times. However, you only get one opportunity to permanent habitat.
I have no idea about what to expect from this effort. I have not read any Gofundme.com stories except one (Willie Ortiz – Meow! Willie!).
My tentative plan is to obtain support for food then address habitat, sterilization, and the nonprofit designation. The offer my ex has made is extremely generous. I cannot think of an easier or less costly solution to the problem of a safe habitat. If I can produce an acceptable down payment and find a lending organization that would consider my limited income I can get my kids off the mountain quickly. I welcome any ideas or suggestions in this regard. I know little about real estate or mortgages.
This is my plan:
-Get help with food. Upgrade from medium grade dry food and augment with wet food (Friskies $1.16/can, 6 cans/day, $6.96/day) if possible. Current consumption is at least 1050 pounds/month of dry food. That is equivalent to 35 30lb bags. At WalMart this costs $21.45/bag=$751. I am using Meow Mix Original. I would like to use Purina One.
-Get them off the mountain and make them safe as soon as possible. Obtain an acceptable down payment and a new mortgage to provide habitat. The property was appraised at about $300,000 a year ago, the current mortgage balance is $147,000.
-restart sterilization and address any medical issues. Sterilization, shots and, post-op pain meds cost about $200 for females; less for males. That
price is from private veterinarians. I have not used the preeminent non-profit shelter because they are a kill shelter. I am going to approach private veterinarians for a discount.
-start habitat construction and improvement. Main priority is perimeter fencing to protect and contain the colony. Chain link fabric alone costs
about $3.06/ft. To fence the perimeter (approx. 1200ft) is $3672. I am looking into the use of used fishing net.
-obtain a 501c designation. I'm told this does not cost anything.
Thank you for reading my story. I am creating a Facebook page to place additional information, photos and, videos (I have about 500GB) of all my cats.
I bring a background that includes a degree (BS) in microbiology, several years practice as a physician assistant and, extensive trade experience, to my care of my cats and creation of habitat. I am working on a degree in string.
Please note: I don't have a home internet connection because of cost and availability (I live in a rural area. I live in a valley. The satellite beams are at capacity last time I inquired).