Kitty built for stray felines
Clearview City residents concerned for complex’s abandoned cats
Abandoned cats, both tame and feral, have roamed Clearview City since Jo Sullenger moved in to the southwestern De Soto apartment complex 10 years ago.
They fight, they multiply and they may even spread diseases to residents' pets. But Sullenger doesn't want to get rid of the strays, just to help them.
Sullenger and a few other residents began a fund-raising effort last week. By setting up variety sales each evening by the Clearview City pool, the group hopes to raise money to have the cats spayed and neutered, vaccinated and treated for illness or wounds from fighting.
Nine-year-old Caitlin Marte, who helps Sullenger run the sales, said she thought the effort was important for the cats.
"They're just abandoned, and they're probably going to die, a lot of them," Caitlin said. "And they're just like human beings -- they should be taken care of."
Aryel Dotson and Melissa Morales, both 12, said the cats and their problems were commonplace at Clearview City.
"There's a bunch of them by our house," Aryel said.
"The other day, they were fighting," Melissa added.
Melissa explained that most of the cats took shelter in houses where no one lived, pointing to one abandoned unit down the lane as an example.
Sullenger said she the landlord tried to keep unoccupied units closed but that they were sometimes vandalized. Teens throwing bricks were the culprits of broken-out windows that allowed cats to get in, she and other inhabitants said.
Like many other residents, Sullenger doesn't take in strays but does feed them outside. She guessed about 10 cats currently took advantage of her stoop service.
"I don't call the pound," Sullenger said. "Whoever comes to my back porch gets fed and watered."
Residents speculate cats are abandoned for a number of reasons.
"I think a lot of people move out, and they can't take their pets with them," Sullenger said. "They just leave them behind."
Others thought people turned out their cats because they don't want to pay the complex's pet fees.
"We also get animals from town dumped here," added Gail Bennett, another resident helping with the fund-raising effort.
While taking cats to the pound for adoption may sound like a good option, the closest place would be the Lawrence Humane Society, which rarely has room after all the Lawrence animals are taken in, Bennett said. When the Humane Society is full, it is forced to euthanize animals.
Both Sullenger and Bennett have spent substantial amounts of their own money helping Clearview City's cats, but that can only go so far, they said.
Sullenger said she spent $200 to take one cat to the vet to have its leg treated after the cat was injured in a fight.
She and Bennett took another sick cat to a vet for treatment but were told it had feline leukemia and needed to be put to sleep. The women pooled resources to have the cat, who they called Marvin, cremated.
Many of the cats are tame enough to handle, Sullenger said. However, the group has a live trap to use if needed to capture feral cats.
Several feline diseases, including leukemia and rabies, are transmitted through saliva and blood, said veterinarian Matt VanderVelde of De Soto Veterinary Clinic, 802 Lexington Ave. He said with strays roaming where they pleased, including to various back patios for food, fights could be expected.
"Usually a tomcat's the main instigator of most fights," VanderVelde said. "Just like wild felines, he rules a certain area."
Excessive fleas and sometimes ticks also are problems for abandoned cats, VanderVelde said.
Trinkets for sale
Caitlin's own cat, Peaches, joined her by the pool Saturday evening. As she manned the cash box, Caitlin imagined turning Peaches into a mascot for Clearview City's less fortunate cats.
"It'd be cute to have a little jersey that says 'Save our cats,'" she said.
Sullenger said setting up by the pool was strategic, because most everyone's out there between 5 and 8 at night.
For sale are snacks, trinkets, jewelry, books, sunscreen and even a few purses and pairs of shoes. Sullenger once owned a variety store, and many of the items are from her own stash. Some are donated by others.
"One of our hottest items -- get this," Sullenger said, pulling a tiny plastic packet from a full cardboard box. "Garlic and cheese croutons for a dime a package, for the kids at the pool."
On Saturday, after just four days of setting up, Sullenger said the sales had raised about $25 each day, enough money to take one tomcat to the vet for shots and neutering.
Bennett said she was frustrated by owners who weren't responsible for their pets contributing to Clearview City's problem. Even though many find the price high, getting an animal fixed is a one-time expense, and an important one, she said.
VanderVelde, too, stressed the importance of spaying and neutering cats to keep the population of unwanted and neglected animals to a minimum.
He said the De Soto clinic spayed or neutered and found homes for 80 stray animals last year. Because people don't want to adopt feral cats, it's especially important to prevent them from reproducing, the vet said.
VanderVelde said the De Soto Veterinary Clinic offered discounts for people who bring in feral animals to be fixed. He recommended calling the clinic at 585-1115 for more information and prices.