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August 22, 2012

The Healing Ground: 39 Lives

Formerly feral cats of San Nicolas Island want for nothing at the Wildlife Center

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • Ray Eubanks/The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center

by Michael Sharp

There aren’t many pens at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in which caretaker Stacey Parker could pull this off—kneeling by a food bowl, petting a couple of the four-legged inhabitants.

But the large outdoor enclosure near the front of the property represents a totally different project for the center: It’s home to 39 formerly feral cats, rescued in 2009 from a planned extermination on California’s San Nicolas Island. In the three years since, staff members have worked to gain their trust, with the hopes of readying some for adoption.

“Three months ago, I could not touch Milo like this at all,” says Parker, who is typically greeted by some two dozen cats when she walks in with their afternoon meal—a moment she’ll usually take to put her bucket down and interact with as many as possible.

The enclosure is divided into four sections, replete with bushes and trees, logs for climbing, plastic igloos for afternoon naps, and foraging bowls that encourage the cats to paw dry food out through holes. Today, all 39 cats are nestled into the last section as workers lay concrete under where their kitty litter is typically kept—a project to keep the area more sanitary and easier to clean.

The construction has left them a bit reserved, and most remain lying on a raised wooden platform, soaking in speckles of afternoon sun, one eye on their visitors. Sahara climbs a tree log. Red lies with his head on a rock.

There are a few who never disappoint, though, especially when volunteer Sara Presley Scott walks in with treats. Nick, the charmer of the bunch, is soon on his hind legs, reaching for a snack. “We provide every comfort we possibly can for them,” Presley Scott says. “… It’s very rewarding. A lot different than your standard day-to-day job; I consider it kind of therapy coming here.”

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