Feline frustration: Cat colonies in Cocalico maintained, albeit in near secrecy

By on January 18, 2017

Abandoned cat of Cocalico

I can’t say I’m a “cat lady,” I don’t have any cat knick-knacks, but I do have one cat. She hates me, but we find a way to live together.

Recently, a woman who wishes to remain anonymous informed me of a cat colony in the Cocalico area. The colony feeds up to 200 cats. A helper lost count after spreading cream cheese around the rims of multiple bowls and counted from a distance.

I was given contact information for a woman who organizes feeding and taking care of cats. She also wishes to remain anonymous. I asked a few “cat” friends if they were aware of the colony, and they were not but told me of other colonies. You guessed it ­ they don’t want to be identified either.

Wonderful people are secretly helping cats, and a CIA (Cat Intelligence Agency) is happening unsuspectedly. There are various reasons for the secret operations:

* “I don’t want the owners of the complex coming after me.”

* “Many business owners have problems with other business owners who feed or try to help cats.”

* “I’d rather remain anonymous. I just do this as a quiet volunteer, and I don’t want anything legal to happen to me.”

* “It’s word of mouth.”

Part of the reason for the secrecy is law enforcement allegedly threatening to fine or arrest people who feed stray cats.

“Some of the businesses are calling her for help. I do not want my name used. I trapped at the Pancake Farm in Ephrata and other places in the borough,” said one cat lover. “They were being told by the police that if they didn’t have them spayed and neutered and have all their records and shots, that they would be fined or arrested for feeding cats at their properties.”

The State Store in Denver has its share of “cat problems,” but this colony is not near it.

“Because it’s a state rented building, we’re not allowed to discuss anything,” said an official there. “We’re not even allowed to feed them, it could raise a big stink. There are customers that comes in and are very loyal to the cats. They bring food. One man built a home for them which sits outside. Other business owners are not happy with the cat situation here.”

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The cat helper was asked if stray cats should not be fed.

“No, that’s horrible not to feed them, but they’ve got to realize the other part is it to be responsible for them and get them spayed and neutered,” said the individual. “I’m not a business. I just have a couple of friends and we’ve been doing this.”

I do not want to expose to the public the location of this cat colony in Cocalico. People will dump off their own cats, kill, torture the cats, tear up their homes. Some will have a negative feeling toward any businesses that may be near it. Police might try to eradicate the colony.

When I approached the colony, the temperature was in the single digits.

In a matter of two seconds, the cats disappeared except for two. The two cats kept their distance, but followed me with their eyes. They seemed unafraid as if they had been with people in their past. They were on the heavy side, but I did see a few who were a bit scrawny. There were areas tucked away where groups of cats live. Word must have spread fast, because when I reached the other areas, not one cat was seen or ran away.

“Sometimes we find they are very friendly and that perhaps got dumped,” said a cat feeder. “The feral cats are not friendly.

“These cats seem well-taken care of. It’s the cats who are rejected by the other cats from the colony that I mostly feel bad for. I don’t know how they will eat, but I’ve heard that if they are an outcast, the other cats will kill it.

“There are so many cats that are out there with no food, it’s terrible. The kittens are sickly and dying.”

Lancaster is known for having a very bad problem with “unwanted cats.”

Trapping/neutering/spaying/returning cats is one of the main concerns for the helpers.

“No vet does it for free, and the problem is places in Lancaster County are more expensive,” said a volunteer. “That’s why there’s such a big problem in Lancaster County. I understand the Humane League is back to doing services, but I don’t know if it’s as low as $30.”

One cat helper lives in the Millersville area and often helps in Cocalico.

“I have trapped for over 20 years for spay/neuter program,” said the helper. “I help with transportation to Camp Hill to Nobody’s Cats which has a low-cost spay/neuter.

“There’s also Pet Pantry in Lancaster that has a spay/neuter program, but they only do one or two days a week.”

She described how the cats are trapped.

“They are not injured,” she said. “They walk in the whole way and step on a plate and then the door shuts behind them.”

“There is a program called Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) out of Harrisburg. Through that, we assist people with buying cat’s dry food at their houses.

“So many people are feeding tons of cats, but they don’t understand if you don’t get them spayed and neutered, you’re going to be feeding twice as much in the fall and four times as much in the spring. They’re all going to have kittens.

“It’s a lot to drive from Lancaster to Camp Hill twice a day, providing post-op care, feeding.”

Feral cats with one ear clipped is a sign that they have been spayed, and if they are trapped, the helpers know to let this cat go.

How a person, country, or municipality take care of their lowly, oppressed and innocents is an indicator of their character. One helper describes a better-case scenario for better helping cats.

“With all the boroughs I have helped, up in Middletown, I think that’s called Londonderry Township, they actually have a voucher system that if you trap the cats for spay/neuter, you go over to their municipal building and say, ‘I caught these two, they’re going for surgery tomorrow at Nobody’s Cats’,” said the volunteer. “They give you a voucher and they pay for the whole amount. I would like to see other municipalities to pay for at least half of the spay/neuter surgery to help people whether it’s on their farm, backyard or business. Maybe more people would get involved in fixing the problem. They can’t reproduce anymore and the males aren’t fighting anymore, they settle down.”

A few cat helpers talked about Amish and Mennonite farms, some of which try to control the cats.

“I’ve even helped at some Amish and Mennonite farms around Lititz that see people stopping and throwing out animals on their farms,” said the volunteer. “They try to run out and get their license plate. They think they’ll take care of it because it’s an Amish farm.

“I’m at a house right now in Reinholds where they have 20 right now, friendly ones that just showed up. They see cars stopping and dumping animals out because they know they feed cats outside and just drop them off.

“On my way to helping one farm, I pass another that has 10 cats in the front yard.

“It’s illegal to abandon an animal. If you move out of an apartment and leave it there, that’s illegal, too.”

The cat helper suggests a way to help.

“SNAP relies on fundraisers and donations,” said the volunteer. “If people don’t give, they can’t help people that are financially strained to get the cats spayed or neutered.”

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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