ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Catty Corner: The Queen of Cat Rescue

One of the cats at the Greenway colony being managed by The Crowned Cat. Midge Raymond photo
March 17, 2024

Adrienne Reynolds of The Crowned Cat works to ease kitten season

By Midge Raymond

It’s a chilly morning, with temperatures in the mid-40s, but the sun is beginning to break through the clouds and warm the air. It’s a good day for trapping cats.

Adrienne Reynolds, founder of the nonprofit rescue The Crowned Cat, parks behind Crater Lake Ford to begin her day’s work near where Bear Creek and the Bear Creek Greenway emerge on the east side of Interstate 5 on the north side of Medford. About 500 feet behind the dealership and a former urban campground is a colony of feral cats that Reynolds first trapped, sterilized, and released two years ago.

Then, she says, “I happened to drive by a month ago and realize that about 500 feet behind that colony is another colony that has blossomed.”

She has counted, so far, 32 new cats. “A lot of them looked like they were dumped,” she says, “and I think a lot of them were dumped unsterilized and had litters of kittens out there because a lot of them are feral and shy. But they’re not mean. So now we have to get that colony under control.”

Trap-neuter-release (TNR) involves trapping feral cats, sterilizing and vaccinating them, and, if they are not adoptable, returning them to their original location. TNR is widely seen as the most humane and effective long-term way to control feral cat populations. In addition to controlling the number of cats, spay/neuter makes them less likely to roam and fight, keeping the cat community safer.

Earlier in the week, Reynolds trapped four cats — who reside at The Crowned Cat as they await surgery — and she needs to trap six more to fill her spay/neuter appointment slot at the SNYP spay/neuter clinic in Talent.

She has less than a week. 

Reynolds believes many of these new cats were dumped because they’re friendly and in good condition, “but they are in survival mode, so I can’t get too close to them, other them trapping them and getting them sterilized.”

The best outcome for these cats, of course, is adoption — but even friendly house cats who get abandoned are often unable to be adopted out. They simply never recover from the trauma. “It’s hard enough to get friendly cats and kittens adopted,” Reynolds says, and when cats are too frightened and timid to trust humans again, the best choice for them is to be released back into their colony.

“Every cat I trap is assessed for friendliness and adoptability. If they’re friendly or adoptable, they’re not going back out there — but sadly, the ferals will be re-released.”

A Greenway colony cat has a snack, provided by a human who feeds the cats daily. Midge Raymond photo

Reynolds sets up four traps on the bike path near the colony. Cats peek out from the blackberry bushes, curious but unwilling to come closer. Some are orange tabbies, many of them less than a year old. There are also black cats, black-and-white tuxedo cats, a fluffy calico, a long-haired gray tabby. They look healthy — there’s an established feeder at this colony, Reynolds says, who feeds the cats every day. And Reynolds has provided eight cat shelters (made of Styrofoam and filled with straw) so the cats have places to get out of the rain and snow and stay warm. 

Today, Reynolds has her eye on a certain rotund cat she hopes to trap. She suspects the cat is a pregnant female. If she can trap the cat before she has her babies, the kittens can be socialized and adopted out. If the cat has her babies on the Greenway, this means there will be up to another half-dozen ferals that need to be fed, trapped, and fixed before the cycle continues. 

The traps are set with canned cat food, which is a treat compared to the kibble their regular feeder provides. Yet many of the cats are smart — they go around to the back of the trap to inspect the food but don’t enter through the front, as if they know they’ll get stuck. 

Not all cats are as trap-savvy, however — within the first 30 minutes, two cats have succumbed to temptation.

Adrienne Reynolds, founder of The Crowned Cat, successfully traps two feral cats on the Greenway in Medford. Midge Raymond photo

Reynolds takes the two traps back to her car, where, with the car closed up so no one can escape, she gently wrangles the two cats into carriers. Then, she takes the empty traps back to the Greenway with the hope of trapping two more.

She recognizes a cat she trapped two years earlier — gray-and-white, with a stubby tail and a tipped ear. Community cats who have been sterilized and released all receive an ear-tip — the surgical removal a small portion of one of the cat’s ears during anesthesia — which signals to rescuers that the cat has already been fixed.

This cat stands about 20 yards away, watching but not coming closer. “These cats aren’t afraid of humans because they know humans mean food,” Reynolds says. Yet taking a few steps closer will send them scurrying back under the blackberry brambles. 

These cats’ life spans are short — they only live five or six years, as opposed to the 18 to 20-plus years of a house cat. In addition to predators, Reynolds says, cats often get shot at or poisoned; she has encountered many dying, dead, and sick cats during her years of rescue work.

The Crowned Cat, a 501(c)(3) founded in 2021, is one of several local rescues providing vital support for cats. With Jackson County Animal Services no longer accepting cats at the shelter, there are now fewer options for stray cats as well as for humans who are unable to keep or re-home their pets — and local cat rescuers are working harder than ever to pick up the slack.

“Get your cats sterilized,” Reynolds says. “That would help every rescue. Get your cats sterilized and microchipped, if you do nothing else. Whenever you come upon a cat — if you feed it, fix it. That is the most integral part.”

Out on the Greenway, another hour passes by. Cats come out from their hiding places to roll on the bike path and bask in the sun’s warmth — often, frustratingly, right in front of the traps Reynolds is hoping they’ll go into. At last, another 30 minutes later, another cat takes the bait. After two hours, three cats is a pretty good result — the longest Reynolds has waited is five hours. 

The Crowned Cat founder Adrienne Reynolds puts fresh straw in a shelter for feral cats on the Greenway in Medford. Midge Raymond photo

This cat looks as though he may have a tipped ear, and Reynolds inspects him as best she can. Because many ferals fight or otherwise manage to injure their ears, sometimes it’s hard to tell on sight whether they’ve been sterilized. Many spay-neuter clinics, including SNYP, add a small tattoo to a cat’s belly, which helps to avoid unnecessary surgery in case an ear-tip isn’t conclusive. 

In this case, the ear is definitely clipped, but not by much; it could just be an injury. Reynolds decides to be safe rather than sorry and to take him in. It would be far worse to let him bring more kittens into the community. 

With no one else taking the bait, Reynolds decides to return later, at dusk, with sardines or fried chicken, which are likely to sweeten the deal for the stubborn ones. For now, she’ll take these three back to The Crowned Cat, where they’ll be reunited with other members of their colony as they await surgery. 

Adoptable cats will appear on The Crowned Cat’s Facebook page, as well as at upcoming Friends of the Animals adoption events at the Rogue Valley Mall. And this is the part that makes all the hard work and tough decisions worthwhile. “It’s amazing to educate people about the wonderful world of cats,” Reynolds says. “And by pairing cats with people who wish to adopt them, so much happiness is spread. I relish in spreading the love and fulfillment that being owned by a cat brings.” 

Ashland resident Midge Raymond is co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and author of the novel “My Last Continent.” Email suggestions and questions for Catty Corner to her at CattyCornerAshland@gmail.com.

March 21: Updated to replace hay with straw.

Picture of Midge Raymond

Midge Raymond


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