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August 2, 2011 at 12:03 am #599985
Pamela Staeheli — known as “FCAT” on the Blog — lives in Burien and has been helping feral cats around Seattle for about 12 years.
In 2008, she founded Feral Cat Assistance and Trapping (FCAT) to reduce unrestrained breeding by semi-wild urban cats. When Staeheli learns of a feral cat colony (usually from neighbors or animal welfare groups) she secures the property owner’s permission and sets out live-traps. Upon capturing a cat, she takes it to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and given other medical assistance as needed. After letting the cat recuperate in her home for a few days, Staeheli releases it back at the site where it was trapped.
FCAT operates primarily in Seattle, but Staeheli cooperates with similar groups around the state, and Staeheli herself has traveled as far east as Yakima and as far south as Vancouver to trap. She estimates that in a typical year the group will catch and release some twelve hundred cats.
DP: First, the obvious question. How did you get into this kind of work with feral cats?
PS: About 12 years ago, I was driving down an alleyway and there was a homeless guy feeding some ferals. Well for me it was common sense that they needed to be fixed; nobody had to tell me to take action. One of the cats at that site was very sick. It was ultimately put to sleep to due to an inner ear infection. As of today there are only one or two ferals remaining at that site, so I feel like I made a difference, at least at that spot.
On a recent morning in West Seattle Pamela Staeheli demonstrated how to set a feral cat trap.
The traps are baited with (anybody? anybody?) . . .
— Cat food!
DP: How many feral cats don’t exist today because of your work? A thousand? A million? A billion? Would there be, like 50 cats pooping in my dahlias, instead of the 10 that are pooping there now?
PS: You know, I average about a thousand cats per year. For kittens, three hundred or so. Do I think it is working? Yes, until another human feels it is cute for a mom cat to have babies, or abandons the cat, unaltered, to have babies. Therein lies the problem. Humans.
DP: Yeah, but don’t you think kittens are adorable? How could there possibly be too many of them?
PS: Sure, kittens are cute. But God, they climb on me (with or without my pants on) and scratch my gorgeous legs. But seriously, there’s a problem finding homes for kittens. Some it’s not hard to adopt out, but others . . . Here is what happens at an adopt-a-thon: Say you’ve got a couple of Siameses or a really pretty silver tabby up for grabs. And one black kitten. Well everyone’s eye goes to the Siameses or the silver tabby. And then there is the superstition thing . . .
DP: Do you believe this is your destiny or something, to trap and fix feral cats?
PS: Seriously, whether you believe in a higher power or not, you have to think you are here for something, right? This is what I am supposed to do. There is a chapter in The Purpose Driven Life that talks about God’s purpose for us, and this is God’s purpose for mine.
DP: Indoor/outdoor cat issue. Do you have an opinion?
PS: I personally have both indoor and outdoor cats. I have to keep the outdoor one outdoors because he sprays. He’s guarded my front door when it’s been left wide open to prevent my indoor kittens going out, so I guess I will keep him around. Anyway, because I have outdoor cats, I can’t tell other people NOT to have them. But I do tell them, If you have outdoor cats, just be prepared to take the consequences. Some people say they don’t have the money or the time to keep their cats indoors. And I say, Oh, well do you have fifteen hundred dollars to fix a broken leg? And do you have the time to scrape a dead body off the road? I have seen cats killed by cars and coyotes, cats with their legs amputated. People say to me ALL the time, But these are not my cats. I tell them I understand, but NOT doing anything doesn’t solve the problem either. It will only get worse.
DP: What do veterinarians think about what you do?
PS: The ones I deal with support it by helping me out with reasonable vet fees. Unfortunately, other than South Seattle Vet, no other vets in the local area have reasonable spay/neuter charges for dogs or cats.
DP: What’s your all-time weirdest experience with FCAT?
PS: One time a lady had called me for help with her ferals, so I came over to her house and knocked on the door. When she answered she was standing there in an open bathrobe, with nothing on but an adult diaper and a gun in her hand. I didn’t know whether to laugh my ass off or be scared sh#tless. Seriously. This happened.
DP: Is it true that you’ve gotten other people involved in this? Why would someone be interested in running with your gang?
PS: Oh yeah I have gotten some of other people into the gig. Why would someone want to help out? Well, that is easy. Think of all the fun we get to have, driving all hours of the day and night looking for cats, cleaning nasty cat carriers in the rain, talking on the phone so much that we have to have the teenage girl phone plan, eating, drinking, and talking about cats, kittens, balls [testicles], pus, and of course, diarrhea. With all that who wouldn’t want to volunteer? Duh.
DP: I see you’ve got some tatts. Talk about those.
PS: My tatts mean the world to me. One of them is the paw prints from my dogs, Belle and Maddy. One says “Dominion is not abuse or neglect.” Another says “Compassion is not convenient.”
One is a Bible quote: “We all have breath, so man has no preeminence above an animal, for all is vanity.” –Ecclesiastes 3:19
Another is Ute memorian animale habitolia. That’s Latin, but I can’t read it backwards on myself, so check with me before this goes to print so you get it right. It means “May the memory of the animals be held.”
DP: That’s a word you use a lot: dominion. It’s on your truck as the FCAT motto. It’s on your skin. What’s that about?
PS: It’s from the Bible. Geneses 1:28. [“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” -ed.] The word dominion means to have power. But just because we have power over the animals does NOT mean we have the right to abuse it or neglect them.
DP: When you were setting traps the other day in the Fauntleroy area, you told me that West Seattle was in denial about the feral cat problem. But what did you mean by that?
PS: I’m not singling out West Seattle; it’s just that even in some areas that are more well-off than others, there are still feral cats. The biggest issue is that no one wants to do anything about it. Well not doing anything doesn’t solve the problem. It just makes more kittens. That is all I meant.
DP: When you meet someone socially, how long do you wait to tell him that you trap cats? Or do you prefer to keep this in the closet?
PS: Usually within the first 15 minutes. Sometimes I just don’t have anything else to talk about, other than my cleaning business. (There’s not that much to say about cleaning a toilet.) Actually, when I meet someone, I bring it up right away. I ask if they have pets and then I ask if those pets are fixed.
DP: Ever lose friends over what you do?
PS: The friends I have support and get what I do. That is all that needs to be said.
DP: I don’t believe in astrology, but some people do. So . . . what’s your sign?
PS: Is there a sign for crazy b****? —Can you print that? If you can’t, then it’s Aries. Fits me to a tee.
DP: If you had the chance to say just one thing to the President of the United States, what would it be?
PS: It is not your fault.
DP: OK, cue the “Rocky” theme music now.
DA da-da-da de da da da
DA da-da-da de DA da da
DA DA DA – DA DA DA DAAAAAAA
(Um. That’s as much of the Rocky theme as I know. Sorry.)
Pamela Staeheli will be featured in an episode of Seattle Channel’s “City Stream” news magazine, airing in September, 2011.
FCAT is a registered Washington state charity that depends on the support a local veterinarian (South Seattle Vet) to provide low-cost spay/neutering and basic medical treatment. A typical vet bill for a single cat is between $200 and $500.00. Please go to http://www.feraltrapping.com if you’d like more info on FCAT or if you’d like to make a donation. Thank you.
DP Author Disclosure:
As your irreverent correspondent, I make no pretenses to objectivity. I like Pam Staeheli and the work she does with cats, and that fact is reflected in the questions I asked her.
Now I invite you, the readers of West Seattle Blog, to make comments or ask Ms. Staeheli questions of your own via this thread. Having said my piece, I will now butt out.August 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm #730799
pee, poop, and pus – yeah, there’s that, lol. But it’s also incredibly cool to see a cat or kitten arrive in rough shape and leave happy & healthy with their new family! Well worth it in my book. Good stuff :)August 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm #730800
The Velvet BulldogParticipant
Thanks for this DP. We’ve gotten to know the work that Pamela does, but it’s nice to know about Pamela as a person too. Thanks for your work Pamela. As a lifetime cat person I really appreciate your efforts in helping these beasties.August 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm #730801
So you seem to have two fulltime jobs, one paying and one not. What do you like to do in your few hours of free time each week Pamela? Come on, tell us the truth!August 2, 2011 at 10:26 pm #730802
I really enjoyed this post and look forward to seeing Pamela on the Seattle Channel.
DP – are you planning more of these? I hope so.August 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm #730803
Anyone who has a candidate for an irreverent interview, let me know.
—Prospective interviewee must be a West Seattlite.
—You must know the prospective interviewee personally and must have obtained their permission to contact me.
DP_Editor at Comcussed dot netAugust 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm #730804
Warning: graphic animal photo (below).
Additional info per Pamela Staeheli:
This cat was trapped in Burien by a concerned person who then brought it in to FCAT. It was obvious that the cat needed to be put to sleep; he had NO teeth and NO eyes, and a horrible upper-respiratory infection.
I know this is a gruesome photo, but I think it’s important for people to see what FCAT volunteers have to deal with. This is what FCAT is about: helping animals that truly need to be helped.August 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm #730805
Oh, God, poor kitty. What’s the rational behind re-releasing feral cats? Why not euthanize them? I had to have EIGHT of them euthanized at my own expense when I moved into my house. They were living in my yard and driving my [indoor] cats and dog crazy, fighting loudly at night, all of which I would have lived with, but I was sick of finding dead birds (neotropical migrants – yellow-rumped warbler, Townsend’s warbler, purple finch, a hermit thrush :( … I can’t remember what else]. When someone hit one right in front of me and sped off while I watched it writhing in the street (I still get physically ill remembering it), that was the last straw.
Do release-supporters think it’s more humane? Or is it an all-creatures-have-a-right-to-life thing? I don’t get it. To me, going peacefully was far more humane. They even get an initial shot to make them fall asleep so they are not conscious for the shots that stop their heart.
[Before anyone starts screaming at me, know that I brought all the cats to Paws (I’m pretty sure it was Paws, can’t remember though) who all they could offer was euthanization. I volunteered to cover expenses and they gratefully agreed.]August 4, 2011 at 10:22 pm #730806
lucky chick- I have to ask, did you have those eight cats spayed and neutered? Did you consider taking them with you to your new home or finding a barn home? Pet cats kill birds, get hit by cars, and rile up indoor pets too. FCAT had the feral in the photo euthanized because he had NO EYES, no teeth, and a severe upper respiratory infection. You had eight cats euthanized because they were an inconvience to you.August 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm #730807
Wrong. Read my post. I had 8 cats euthanized because of what I saw happen both to them and to the birds, and because it was agreed by others at (PAWS – I think!) that it was the best option. FYI, I have 2 feral cats in my house for the past 5 years. And further FYI, each of the cats was in terrible shape. I did not take a comfy life from them, I saved them from the fate I witnessed of one.
Accuse me if you need to, but I feel that subjecting a cat (and wildlife) to the feral lives I’ve witnessed is CRUEL. Euthansia is humane. I’ve not heard any reasonable evidence or argument to the contrary, which was all I was asking for.August 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm #730808
acaweb.alleycat.org/large_docs/vacuum%20effect%20tc-f2.pdfAugust 4, 2011 at 10:57 pm #730809
I was looking for an answer to my question regarding people’s motivations. I have seen all these types of websites in the course of my studies and work. Some in my organization are willing to work on educating the public regarding feral domestics, but I am not. So,
Over-and-outAugust 5, 2011 at 12:53 am #730810
I suspect mehud7 answered the motivation question with the links and I concur. For anyone truly willing to understand, here is another great place to start
(a local effort, and many additional tabs to explore on the web site).
I’m sorry that euthanasia was the only option you saw, lucky chick. I think the point is that, while every situation is unique, there were probably other options for those unlucky cats whose lives were deemed somehow less worthy. I’m thankful we have ways to keep healthy feral cats from reproducing, to help the mildly ill cats get healthy, and to compassionately allow all to live their lives. And yes, to humanely end suffering for the very sick. West Seattle, you have someone to call! That isn’t the case everywhere.
Back to the interview? DP, you are the best, and I hope you do consider doing more of these…I love SIWS too :)
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