Outdoor Cat Population in L.A. Is the Focus of an Awareness Program

09/15/2014 02:11 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

Over 1 million outdoor cats roam Los Angeles -- a statistic not known to most people because feral or stray cats are good at finding places to tuck themselves away so the public never senses the magnitude of the problem.

In New York, one woman has been running a program to help heighten awareness of the homeless cat population there, so Karn Myers, co-found and executive director of FixNation, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization in Los Angeles, invited Leslie Farrell, founder of Architects for Animals, to introduce her program here.

Architects for Animals began in 2010, and since that time some of New York's most prestigious architectural designers have donated imaginative shelters intended to provide the outdoor cat population with a refuge from the cold.

"I was surprised and delighted to be called, and immediately started researching and calling Los Angeles design firms," says Farrell, who was in Los Angeles for the FixNation fundraiser where the designs were presented.

Fourteen interesting, inventive shelter designs were introduced to the public at an event held at the Herman Miller Showroom in Culver City on September 10. The affair raised funds for FixNation. Both Architects for Animals and FixNation ultimately support what is known as a a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) policy for a more specific "fix" than simply sheltering homeless cats. (See below for more about TNR.)


Shelter Designs

Though the shelters designed for New York cats needed to take into account cold weather, the homes designed for L.A.'s cat population were able to be more open while still providing cozy nooks within a structure for cats to tuck away for a peaceful nap.

The designs on display included a habitat called Habicat; another that consisted of a set of brightly painted, slatted platforms that provided space where numerous cats could perch or nap; there were several tunnel-like structures made of various materials so that cats climb in and hide out. Another structure used turf to carpet cubbyholes to provide durable comfortable padding, and one featured the letters MEOW, with the letters carved in such a way that each letter offered shelter for a feline. (To see photos of some of the shelters, click here.)

"There are so many cat lovers here in Los Angeles who are not aware of the stray cat problem," says Karn Myers. "With heightened awareness, I think we will gain people to help. Animal activists want to reduce the number of animals that are taken to our shelters and euthanized -- a sad system of control that actually costs taxpayers a lot of money, between animal control services and housing them in shelters.

"Here and in other communities, we've found that the Trap/Neuter and Release system works."

How Trap/Neuter/Release Works
If someone does notice there are stray cats near their office or their home, FixNation maintains a good supply of humane traps to lend out at no charge.

"If people will place a trap, they can then bring the animal to us and we neuter at no charge. The cat is kept here for a couple of days to recover and then it is released back to the neighborhood where it was found," says Myers.

Neutered cats are better behaved (no yowling, fighting or any of the issues that go along with competition for mating) and when a community has a feral cat population -- preferably a neutered one -- they have a nontoxic form of rodent control.

What You Can Do
FixNation maintains a mailing list, so if you would like to be kept informed about how you can help outdoor cats, sign up here.

Also talk to others about the issue. If more people know that there is a humane way to reduce the number of stray cats in L.A., they will be more likely to help.

In addition, donations to FixNation make a big difference. Currently FixNation maintains one full-time clinic where veterinarians and staff spay and see to the after-care and release of about one hundred cats per day. The more veterinarians and staff that FixNation can add, the more quickly the feral cat population can be controlled.

Kate Kelly features many true stories of American dogs on her website, and she has also featured one cat story---a cat who serves as mayor of a town in Colorado. For these stories, visit www.americacomesalive.com.