Working cats find furever barns, families

Special Reports

Volunteers trap and fix feral cats, deliver to local barns

GASTON, Ore. (KOIN) — A goat farm near Gaston has some new family members. But instead of saying “baaa,” they say “meow.”

The Willamette Valley-based nonprofit Meow Village delivered three previously feral cats to Hawks Mountain Ranch on a rainy morning in December. It’s part of their barn cat delivery program.

“They’re gonna be … keeping the mice out of the barn for us,” owner Lisa Roskopf said. “So they are a working animal too.”

There are between 30 and 40 million feral and stray cats in the United States, according to the Humane Society, which also estimates that only 2% of those cats have been spayed or neutered. The Humane Society advocates for a non-lethal method of controlling cat populations: Trap-Neuter-Return.

Meow Village, though, doesn’t return the feral cats to their original location. After getting the cats fixed and giving them all their vaccinations, volunteers take them to barns for a fee of $30 per cat.

“We’re taking them from where they’re not wanted to someplace where they can work and help and do a good job and are appreciated,” board member Leann Garrison said.

Garrison estimates they deliver between 400 and 500 barn cats each year. The cats are kept in a large enclosure for about a month to help acclimate them to their new home.

Meow Village board member Leann Garrison pets a goat at Lisa Roskopf’s (right) ranch near Gaston (Hannah Ray Lambert)

“Because they’re cats, it’s never 100 percent,” volunteer Teresa Moritz said. “So we’ve had them where they’ll take off for … weeks and then come back and we don’t know where they go.”

Some shelters, including Willamette Humane Society and Multnomah County Animal Services also offer barn cats. Many rescue organizations, though, are reluctant to adopt out cats to people who intend to let them outside.

“I did try to look at getting rescue cats before, but when they heard they were going to be outside cats, I couldn’t get any,” Roskopf said.

Danger from other animals is one of the main reasons. However, since they primarily work with “unsocial” cats, the volunteers at Meow Village are more tolerant.

“Coyotes are everywhere and we just want people to be aware and take measures to keep the cats safe,” Garrison said.

Roskopf found out about Meow Village on social media, where the organization actively works to get the word out. They also post pictures of some of their adoptable kittens, born from feral cats before they can be spayed and rehomed.

The group is made up of about 50 volunteers, scattered around the Portland metro area and as far south as Detroit Lake. Since they cover such a large geographic area, Garrison said they are always looking for more veterinarians to partner with.

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