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Group trying to contain cat population at Hart Park

KBAK/KBFX photo

For the past 25 years, Hart Memorial Park has been overrun by cats, and a local group is working to keep the population down.

"When the group started in 1990s, there was over 400 cats sick and dying cats at Hart Park," said Barbara Hays, president of The Cat People. "The organization started with the goal of bringing the healthy ones in, finding forever homes, (trapping, neutering and releasing) the feral cats so that they wouldn't continue breeding."

Hays said since they started, they have taken in more than 1,500 cats. They spend more than $50,000 a year, with some of that coming from memberships, donations, fundraisers and even out of their own wallet.

Seven days a week, they go out and feed the cats, going through more than 40 pounds of dry food and 48 cans of wet food each day.

"These cats are always going to be there. There will always be abandoned cats, as there are every place in Bakersfield, so the goal is we are out there every week, we are trapping, neutering and releasing the unfriendly ones, and the ones we have no homes for because you can't keep bringing them into the county and euthanizing them. I mean, that's a no-win for everyone, especially the animals," said Hays.

The group has taken it into their hands to adopt a lot of the Hart Park cats, but, due to limited space in their homes, they needed something bigger and are working to construct a cat sanctuary.

"What people don't understand is if they get involved and they're willing to alter, it's going to be better for everybody, and that's our goal," said Hays.

Hays said the group invested in signs that tell people abandoning animals is a felony, and she said more of these at public parks will help spread awareness about the problem. She also said more spay-and-neuter programs will help bring the population down.

"The more of these cats that we can get altered, the less likely we are going to find them at Hart Park, because those are the unwanted ones," said Hays.

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