Great save!

The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP) reports that the six largest public and private animal shelters in the Portland/Vancouver Metro area have saved 91 percent of all cats and dogs that arrived through their doors in 2013, an unprecedented number that’s nearly double the national average.  Since forming in 2006, participating ASAP shelters have decreased euthanasia rates by 76 percent, thanks mostly to the community of dedicated veterinarians, rescue groups, volunteers, donors and of course, adopters.  ASAP has also decreased the number of cats going into area shelters by 35 percent, due primarily to the highly successful “Spay and Save” program that has altered more than 41,000 feral, stray and privately-homed cats. 

“The people of the Portland Metro area take great pride in being green.  They should equally take credit for creating and working on sustaining one of the safest community for pets in the United States.” says Debbie Wood, Manager of the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter/Washington County Animal Services.  “Our residents are working on solutions with the shelters — be it getting behavior training or advice to keep pets in the family, getting their animals sterilized to avoid adding to the shelter population, and supporting their shelters through adoption, fostering, volunteering or donating money.”  Learn more at

Animal lovers create new rescue

Ute Luppertz has long been “all about the animals.”  As the proprietor of Pet’s Point of View and Shiva’s Hope House, Luppertz’s services offer a variety of ways to help people form a deeper connection with the animals they love.  Her programs include Animal Communication, TTouch, and an Animal Hospice Support Group.  Luppertz has also been a strong advocate for homeless animals, frequently highlighting those in need of a home or medical support on her Facebook page.  

Last fall, Luppertz teamed with fellow animal lover, cat behaviorist and coach Dee Dee Remington, and created The Delicious Mickey Grrrl Fund, a grassroots effort to help orphaned and feral cats and kittens find shelter, food and medical attention, including spay/neuter.  The group is named after a “street kitten” named Mickey Grrrl found as a stray, pregnant, and with a broken rib.  She was restored to health and nurtured for 18 years until she crossed the Rainbow Bridge last year.  The Delicious Mickey Grrrl Fund was created shortly after her passing as “A memory to this wise, spunky girl cat . . . to help the forgotten, tossed away cats and kittens.  Mickey Grrrl always acted in a way that life was delicious and to be enjoyed.  We want all cats and kittens to know a delicious life.”  Find the rescue on Facebook or at

2014: A Spay Odyssey 500 Cats to be Altered In One Week to Help Low-Income Residents

Portland, OR:  In honor of World Spay Day on February 23, and to prevent unwanted litters of kittens from being born this spring, the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP) offers 500 free spay/neuter surgeries for one week in February in five locations around the Portland/Vancouver metro area.

World Spay Day is an annual event that aims to highlight spay/neuter as a proven means of ending pet overpopulation and is part of a global, united effort to end the euthanasia and suffering of companion animals. Qualifying cat owners can have their unsterilized cats or kittens spayed or neutered for free during February 24 - 28. Caretakers of stray or feral cats can take advantage of this offer as well. Surgeries are performed by licensed veterinarians and subsidized through charitable donations.

"In an average week, the Spay & Save program helps 200 cats. Adding more surgery slots than usual and offering the surgeries for free this week will help us reach even more cats during this crucial time of year," says Joyce Briggs, President of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, and a volunteer with the ASAP Spay & Save Program. "In wintertime cats go into season, and many are pregnant by March. Preventing those kittens is the reason for this event. With nearly 22,000 cats entering our area shelters
annually, we need to focus on finding good homes for them, without a flood of kittens this spring. There are not enough homes for all of them."

What: Over 500 free cat spay/neuter surgery spots will be available the week of February 24 - 28.

How to Qualify: Qualified cat owners must live in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington, or Clark Counties AND receive government assistance, such as Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Section 8/Public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants and
Children (WIC), Oregon Health Plan and Subsidized Lunch Program funding.

Where: Services provided by licensed veterinarians and caring surgical teams at the locations below. Transportation assistance may be available for those unable to take advantage of this offer because of travel issues.

Cat Adoption Team - Sherwood

Oregon Humane Society - NE Portland

Multnomah County Animal Services - Troutdale 

Humane Society of SW Washington - Vancouver

Feral Cat Coalition - for strays or feral cats

How to Participate: Call 1-800-345-SPAY for a cat you own; or 503-797-2606 for feral cats. Free spay/neuter appointments will be scheduled for February 24 - 28, 2014 only.

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The free spay/neuter surgeries are being offered through the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland's Spay & Save program. ASAP is a coalition of the greater Portland area's leading animal welfare organizations and the veterinary community. The Spay & Save program is working to reduce the number of cats and kittens that are coming into our shelters every year-over 17,000 in 2012 alone. This vital program is funded through private donations as well as grant monies. Special thanks to PetSmart CharitiesR for their grant support. See<> for details about qualifying for an appointment, addresses of surgery locations and more.  In the past 6 years, ASAP has reduced euthanasia in Portland's shelters by 65% and now saves 85% of cats and dogs - making our community one of the safest for pets in the nation!

Calling All Catios!

Do you or someone you know have a backyard outdoor enclosure for cats (also called a “catio”) and would like to show it off?  The Feral Cat Coalition wants you to be a part of its upcoming catio tour! 

The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (FCCO) is hosting a backyard outdoor cat enclosure (also called a "catio") tour in late summer and are looking for Portland's coolest catios to feature. From fancy to frugal, all submissions are encouraged.

The catio tour will be held for four hours on a Saturday or Sunday in late summer. The tour is being hosted in partnership with the Audubon Society of Portland. The goal of this unique event is to educate the public how outdoor cat enclosures can keep birds and other wildlife safe from feline predators.  Meanwhile, catios offer pet cats a safe way to grab some sunshine and exercise while protecting them from cars, predators, posisons and other outdoor hazards.  They also hope to inspire others to build one for their own cats!

How to submit a catio

To have a catio considered for the tour, send an email with the following information by June 30 to

1. Name of catio owner
2. Phone number and address of catio owner
3. A brief description of the catio
5. Attach 1-3 photos of the catio

Visit for more information.


Take a SPAYcation and Fix Every Cat in Your Home for Free

Summer vacations are a family tradition. This June, you can take all your cats and kittens on a SPAYcation. The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP) is offering free spay & neuter surgeries for cats and kittens this June. Caretakers of stray or feral cats can take advantage of this offer as well.

Qualified cat owners are eligible for free surgeries June 17 - June 21.

Kittens need to be at least eight weeks old and weigh 2.5 pounds. Surgeries are performed by licensed veterinarians, and costs are subsidized through charitable donations. Over 500 spay/neuter surgery spots will be available the week of June 17 - 21 as part of this campaign.

"As the days get longer, the cats start to reproduce at a much higher rate. Two cats can become 100 cats in a matter of months," said Dr. Kris Otteman, OHS Director of Shelter Medicine. "With 17,000 cats entering our area shelters annually, we need to focus on finding good homes for them, without a flood of kittens adding to the overpopulation."

This feline overpopulation is exactly what the ASAP member shelters are working to reduce through the Spay & Save program and special offers like SPAYcation.

What:  Over 500 free cat spay/neuter surgery spots will be available the week of June 17 - 21. Spay/neuter surgeries for cats and kittens (8 weeks or older; 2.5 pounds; and healthy)
When:  June 17 through June 21, 2013
How to Qualify: Qualified cat owners must live in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington, or Clark Counties AND receive government assistance, such as Medicaid, food stamps,  Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Section 8/Public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Oregon Health plan and Subsidized Lunch Program funding.
Where: Services provided by licensed veterinarians and caring surgical teams at the locations below. Transportation assistance may be available for those unable to take advantage of this offer because of travel issues.

Cat Adoption Team - Sherwood
Oregon Humane Society - NE Portland
Multnomah County Animal Services - Troutdale
Humane Society of SW Washington - Vancouver
Feral Cat Coalition - for strays or feral cats

How to Participate: Call 1-800-345-SPAY for a cat you own; or 503-797-2606 for feral cats. Free spay/neuter appointments will be scheduled for June 17 - June 21, 2013 only.

Volunteers needed for new feline spay/neuter program


The Apartment Cat Team (ACT) is seeking volunteers to be part of an innovative effort to reduce feral cat populations in Multnomah County.  ACT is a collaborative partnership between the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon and Multnomah County Animal Services that works with managers and tenants of low-income and subsidized apartment complexes and mobile home parks.  ACT offers free or low-cost spay/neuter services to cats in these homes, as well as stray and feral cats in the neighborhoods.

Volunteers are needed to trap cats on location and transport them to and from surgery, and also to help socialize young feral kittens so they can find forever, loving homes.  Ann Potter, program specialist at MCAS, says that new volunteers have been inspired by the groundbreaking aspects of the work.  “People are getting charged up,” she says.  “If you want to get in there, get physical and get a little dirty, this is that opportunity.”  Potter points out that flexibility is required, as feral cats don’t keep a schedule.  “We’ve had trappers out at 9:00 at night because that’s when cats are feeding.”  Sound like fun?  Contact for more information.

Universal Cycles to donate $10K to FCCO

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Universal Cycles, a Portland-based bicycle retail company, has pledged to donate $10,000 to the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon if the rescue can raise $20,000 by the end of the year.  FCCO’s mission is to improve the welfare of feral and stray cats through spay/neuter programs and education.  To date, the coalition has helped nearly 60,000 cats by encouraging communities to trap feral cat colonies for spaying and neutering.  To learn more about the campaign or helping FCCO directly, visit

Whose cat is that in my yard?


Sitting out on the deck enjoying a warm summer evening, I spy a cat trotting through our yard.  Is that cat a stray, feral, or free-roaming owned pet? 

First let’s define those terms.  I overhear a lot of cat lovers erroneously use the term “feral” to describe a friendly stray or scared cat at a shelter so I know there is confusion.

For the best definitions I asked the Feral Cat Coalition:  a true feral cat, is an untamed domestic cat.  Generally they fear and avoid humans, and have little/ contact with them.  Adult ferals cannot be tamed.  A stray cat, on the other hand, is an unowned (or lost) domestic cat who may be friendly toward people.  Strays are less frightened and can be socialized and re-homed.  A free-roaming cat is any cat who is not confined at home.  Often these are pets.

With fully two-thirds of an estimated 90 million pet cats in the US allowed outdoors, according to the Humane Society of the US and others, chances are good the cat in my yard is a neighbor’s pet out for a romp.  Because many pet owners still won’t collar their pet cats, it’s a good idea to walk around the neighborhood to determine who has cats.  Meeting my neighbors revealed that the tabby and the black cat who amble through from time to time are indeed pet cats.

Just a quick reminder that cats and wildlife live longer if pet cats birdwatch from the windowsill, inside.  In today’s world, a pet cat needn’t go outside to get exercise or keep up on hunting skills.

Do you know your feline visitors?

Once you determine the birdwatching cat in your yard is not owned, what do you do?  If you go down the path of trying to trap and re-home the cat, you will need to commit to the task 100 percent.  Take time to gain the cat’s trust, learn how to properly set up a humane trap, and have a plan in place to make sure the cat is not an owned cat after you trap him/her or to have the cat fixed.

Shelters in Portland are bursting at the seams with cats in spring and summer and may not be able to take the cat from you.  However, there are re-homing tips at or

Step-by-step instructions on humane traps can be found at (scroll to “humane trap”).  This site also has great tips on how to find a lost cat. 

With the cat in the humane trap, now what?  How about a trip to your vet to have the cat scanned for a microchip.  Hopefully there is a chip and you can return the cat to his/her family.  If not, are you going to keep the cat as your own?  Re-home?  Are you willing to pay for the cat to be fixed? 

A lot to think about as you watch that cat roll on your grass or grooming itself atop your fence.

Roman Heroes . . . and their Cats

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The Evolution of the Oldest Feral Cat Colony in the World

Thousands of tourists visit La Torre Argentina in Rome every year, but for the most part, they don’t go to see the Roman ruin where Marcus Junius Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar in 44BC.  Mostly, they go to see the cats.

Visitors from Europe, Asia and the Mid-East peer over an opaque guardrail into a full city block of rubble 40 feet below.  Chipped marble columns and half-tumbled buildings jut from a yawning pit, and earthy clay smells commingle with exhaust and street smells.

On any given day one might see archeologists sitting in a trench, picking at the ancient walls and polishing found artifacts.  A cat lounges nearby on a 2200-year-old marble slab, and a few more saunter past, tails swishing.  For them this is not a historical site — it is home.

The start of La Torre Argentina’s excavation and the cats’ arrival happened about the same time, in 1929.  Perhaps the cats were drawn to or dumped in the semi-sheltered ditches below the street.

La Torre Argentina cats on ruins.jpg

While Romans have a reputation for discarding cats like inanimate objects, the city is also known for its gattare, a once-derogatory term meaning “cat ladies.”  From the early 1930s through World War II and into the ‘90s, a loose network of cat ladies tended the felines at the archeological dig under the banner of La Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary.

In 1993 two self-proclaimed gattare, retired opera singer Silvia Viviani and retired cruise ship doctor Lia Dequel, began helping another woman care for the 90 Torre Argentina cats.  Dequel and Viviani quickly realized the job was overwhelming, so they enlisted the aid of the Anglo-Italian Society for the Protection of Animals, which, among other means of support, helped the organization receive nonprofit status.  AISPCA agreed to mentor the fledgling nonprofit, teaching the women British and US models of feral cat care, emphasizing spay/neuter.   

Daniele Petrucci, a vet tech and the sanctuary’s sole employee, was excited to learn about Spot Magazine and that it was based in Oregon.  He showed this writer his collection of live traps, which he sends home with people each day.  “Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon!  We would love to have one of those trucks,” he said, referring to FCCO’s apparently world-famous mobile spay/neuter clinic. 

Petrucci organizes two weekly spay days in Torre Argentina’s unofficial surgical room, and gives gattare and other low-income cat owners vouchers honored at seven local veterinary clinics affiliated with the sanctuary.

La Torre Argentina from above best.jpg

The seven vets have been a godsend, according to lead volunteer Karen Cortese, who has Dutch, Italian and US citizenship, but resides in Rome.  She notes that La Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary started “very hesitantly” in 1993, and only got electricity, running water, a heating/cooling system, and a linoleum floor in the last 10 years.  Before that, Dequel, Viviani, Petrucci, and their international volunteer crew worked in a veritable cave, complete with dirt floors, cockroaches and kerosene lamps.  “We’re still squatters on a national Archeological Department site,” laments Cortese, adding that the sanctuary is not yet attached to the city sewer so has no bathroom.  “We go to the bar across the street [to use the toilet],” she laughs.

While far from high-tech, the 21st Century improvements have allowed the group to work miracles.  Volunteers run a nursery where disabled cats are provided lifelong indoor protection and medical help.  A sweet black cat with a neurological illness lurches around the room and into his private cage.  He looks up plaintively with big yellow eyes and flops down with a “humph.”  Cortese cuddles another kitty who has a rare form of diabetes.  She points out a few FIV and FIP cats, saying the group adopts young FELV cats to indoor, one-cat homes.  “We do euthanize the older, sicker ones,” she admits.

Eleven years ago the organization got a computer, on which volunteer Andy De Paoli created an open-source database — today 7,000 cats and 10,000 donors strong.  On the feline side, the database tracks cat sterilizations, medical issues, adoptions, and a unique “adopt at a distance” sponsorship program for cats who cannot be sent home or returned to a colony.  On the human side it tracks donors, adopters, volunteers, and foster homes for kittens.

La Torre Argentina cat and columns.jpg

De Paoli, who immigrated to Pittsburg at age three but later returned to his birthplace, stresses the group’s commitment to early sterilization.  “We sterilize at three months but that is not a wide practice here,” he says.  In fact, many Italians — even devoted gattare — haven’t yet joined the spay-neuter bandwagon.  Those who have, to De Paoli’s frustration, only fix females.  “If you only sterilize the females, the males leave the colony, fight with males in other colonies, or get killed,” says De Paoli.  Torre Argentina estimates that 75% of the unneutered male cat population in Rome is FIV+.

At the same time, Petrucci, a man in his 30s who has worked for Torre Argentina since 1997, speaks to a rising consciousness among Romans.  The group’s veterinary partners have seen they can profit from sterilization, and they’re telling colleagues.  The gattare are slowly coming around too, and Petrucci estimates he fixes 30 cats a week.  In 2001the sanctuary altered or paid for spay/neuter vouchers for 850 cats.  In 2010, Torre Argentina fixed or had altered more than three thousand.  Most were returned to their colonies, but several stayed in the shelter and 145 lucky cats were adopted to pre-screened, indoor-only homes.

Cortese stresses that La Torre Argentina is not a shelter, though it does provide shelter services.  It is a quasi-protected feral cat colony, where the 114 current feline residents live among the ruins.  “The cats are mostly outside,” she says, “and they are not 100% safe.”  Like every other feral cat worker, she longs the day when her life’s work becomes obsolete.

Though spay/neuter and pet responsibility movements have not reached critical mass in Italy, Petrucci is optimistic.  “You used to hear PSAs on radio or TV that said ‘don’t abandon your pet.’  Now we hear, ‘don’t abandon your pet — and have it fixed,’” he says.

La Torre Argentina cat and girl.jpg

As Italian animal welfare inches forward, the cats of Torre Argentina appear to be doing well, with ample food, vet care, a temperate climate, and a city block of nooks and crannies to roam.

Back at street level a big silver cat suns himself on the guardrail, effectively snubbing the little German girl who would like to pet him (but is held back by her mother).  Behind him, three columns rise from the cavern below, quite possibly the very place Caesar was murdered.  It seems right that the cat should be here, guarding the history, secrets, and conscience of a lost empire. 

All photos by Meryl Lipman

We’ll take Famous Felines for $100


The Feral Cat Coalition presents Trivia For Cats, at the Radio Room in NE Portland on June 11.  The fundraiser invites people to gather their friends and factoids for an evening of brain-busting entertainment.  Each round culminates in fabulous prizes for the winning team, and a chance to win the grand prize at the end of the evening.  Proceeds will continue to support the spaying and neutering of feral cats in Oregon and Washington.  Details