Seeking to save feral cats

Debi Ries drives onto campus every day in her red car and the cats start running. At the sound of her engine the furry feral cats by the cross at the entrance to campus emerge from their hiding places and seek her attention.

The cats are usually extremely elusive, yet are fearless in the face of her red car. Ries is the Assistant to Vice President for External Relations at PLNU and has taken it upon herself to see that the feral cats on campus are treated properly.

Several weeks ago Ries was walking with a friend and saw a kitten sleeping in the bushes which piqued her interest.

“I came back the next day, and I’ve come back every day since for 5 weeks to care for them,” she said.

Ries explained her love for animals and that her original interest in caring for them came out of a sense of compassion. It wasn’t until her husband showed her an article printed in U-T San Diego that things changed.

“It (the article) opened my eyes to what a big problem feral cats are in San Diego County,” said Ries.

According to the Feral Cat Coalition, a pair of breeding cats, which can have two or more litters per year, “can exponentially produce 420,000 offspring over a seven-year period.”

Ries has drafted a proposal and is waiting to hear back from the Physical Plant department on campus. The proposal would put her in charge of seeing that these feral cats are taken care of in the most humane way possible.

“I want to make sure that they are not killed, but I also want to make sure that they are not reproducing,” said Ries.

Her plan is to get the cats spayed and neutered and give them shots.

“I found this non-profit called the Feral Cat Coalition (FCC), and I have an appointment with them for November 17. They will spay and neuter, and inoculate them against rabies,” she said.

The FCC will de-flea and clean the cat’s ears as well, all for free. “My proposal is that I’ll be the crazy cat lady, if you will, and on my own time, [not work time] I am willing to set up the traps that the FCC loans [me] for free, and help try and get the population under control,” said Ries.

Another group on campus, the Association of Environmental Professionals at Point Loma (AEPPL) is also attempting to take care of the cats on campus, but through a different organization.

Senior Environmental Science Major Lindsay Powell, the club president, says they are going to help control the campus’s cats through the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which is a partner of the Humane Society. The club wants to set up live traps to help catch the cats and spay and neuter them. They would be doing this as a part of the club’s volunteer hours.

Ries has not received conformation from PLNU’s Physical Plant yet and they have declined to comment to the Point Weekly. The AEPPL club has also tried contacting Physical Plant regarding their plans and have yet to hear any response.

While the plan to control feral cats on campus is being sorted out between the school, the physical plant, and cat lovers alike, Ries encourages all students to avoid the cats.

“Do not try to pick them up, they are wild animals. You run the risk of being bitten, and then you may have to get rabies shots,” she said.