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Welcome to Rio Linda, home to legacy acreage, vintage and abandoned poultry ranch barns, vehicle junkyards, homeless communities, and cats. Lots and lots of cats. Feral cats. Abandoned cats. Pregnant cats.

Rescued by Sara on 22nd street less than 24 hours ago. Many of their litter-mates did not survive.

The cats that you see in and around our fields, alleys, apartments, junkyards, and even industrial areas are cats who have been abandoned. You may think cats can survive on their own. Actually, they face hazards from overpopulation, starvation, predators, disease and injury.

Many cats are pregnant or not spayed or neutered before they were abandoned. Soon, those female cats will have kittens — and their kittens will have kittens.

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These second, third, and fourth-generation cats become wild and are known as “ferals” and often cannot be domesticated.

The sad reality is that in just seven years, one female cat, her mate and all of their kittens can produce nearly a half-million offspring.

Rio Linda’s Sara Williams likes cats. I mean, she REALLY likes cats, more than what might be expected for a reasonable adult human being. More than that, she understands the risks that feral kittens face as they come into the world and try to survive with no vaccinations, no veterinary care, no home. She understands that the primary killer of cats in California is overpopulation; Approximately 25,000 healthy cats die in shelters each day awaiting the adoption that never comes.

What Sara does to help prevent this is known as “Trap-Neuter-Return”.

Feral cats get trapped where they live, be it farms, storage yards, or apartments. They are then taken to a veterinarian, such as the Sacramento SPCA (when they have funding) or Elevation Animal Rescue (when they have funding).

Sara says “I love Elevation and I want to send as many as I can to her.”

As I write this today, she has checked in on Facebook at the Veterinary Medical Center of Folsom with an injured adult cat who was found in a storm drain with some broken bones. She definitely gets around.

Once the adult cats are spayed or neutered, they are returned to their colonies, where they won’t be able to reproduce any longer.

Any kittens must be 2 months old and weigh 2 pounds before they can be neutered. Once the kittens are neutered, they can then be adopted. This is important, because more often than we’d like to know, those kittens grow up and escape, get lost, run away, or, usually, are dumped by their owners.

Many of those cats make their way to Ground Zero, the largely abandoned former Rio Linda sewage treatment plant property, just south of Elkhorn Blvd, between the west fork of Dry Creek and roughly Cherry Lane. It’s here that homeless people live, mostly out of sight, far back behind the berms of the former sewage treatment pits and among the valley oaks and sycamore and along the banks of the creek. It’s here that many cats also find their way looking for food and shelter.

Dr. Athea Pagano says “We try to do kittens when they are old enough so they can get placed in homes, already spayed and neutered,”

Sara interjects “…and not being thrown out into Ground Zero and continuing the cycle over and over again. There are A LOT of cats at Ground Zero.”

As we were talking at the Elevation Animal Rescue mobile unit (currently parked and operating at the Rio Linda Historical Society’s Dry Creek Ranch House), a person dropped off a bushel of tiny, recently-born kittens, that she had found on her business property. A plan to trap the mother cat (which was probably living on the Adessa vehicle auction property) was quickly hatched.

Sara also took in four litters of kittens in the previous 24 hours. A week ago, her team trapped 45 cats and took in 30 kittens, including six that were born in the trap.

Last year when COVID fell on our heads and all the spay and neuter clinics were closed for a period of time, They could have been spaying and neutering the cats that are about 10 months old right now. These cats who didn’t get fixed then are being trapped now and they are all pregnant. An entire generation of kittens were missed. Those kittens will also breed, adding thousands of kittens in the area. If the uncontrolled breeding of cats was an epidemic before, it is now a crisis.

Sara loans traps to people who need them. She has about 50 traps at home, but she’s not fast and loose with who she loans them to.

“I interview everyone before they take a trap so I know that they know what they are doing, make sure they’re not going to go do evil with my traps, and I make sure they have a plan because the biggest part of trapping is planning. If you don’t have a plan for that cat, you’re screwed.”

“So many people trap cats and then they go on Facebook and they say ‘Hey! I have a cat in my trap, what do I do?’ and all the trappers say you should have had a plan before you trapped it!” Dr. Pagano adds.

Sara’s organization, the “Rio Linda Feral Help Group”, has just recently received its 501(c)3 non-profit determination from the Internal Revenue Service. This will allow them to do some tax-deductible fundraising.

“We’re legit! I’m so excited!”

Sara does most of the fundraising to fund the program. There are some programs, and there are some generous individuals, but more often than not, Sara pays from her own pocket.

“Right now we’re trying to get TEAM, which is Brashaw’s fundraising portion to fund 100 cats or more, I think FluffBuddies Rescue is going to fund a bunch of cats. The County hasn’t helped out as much as they could have.”

Sara’s costs for April have been about $200 per week. She’s been funding that from the online auctions that she posts.

“That helps, but it only goes so far. What I really need is an incubator for the little ones. They run between $300 and $500 dollars.”

The Elevation Animal Rescue Mobile Clinic will be in Rio Linda at the Dry Creek Ranch House until the end of May.

Elevation takes appointments from the general public also. If you need to have your dog or cat spayed or neutered, pricing is very affordable. Dogs begin at $130. Female cats are $85 and Males are $55. They also offer vaccines, microchipping, other services, and appointments ARE available now. Visit their website at https://elevationanimalrescues.com/ or call – (279) 999-2447.

They will be leaving Rio Linda at the end of May so act NOW to get your animals cared for before they leave for the summer.

You can support Sara and her Rio Linda Feral Help Organization by participating in her auctions at https://www.facebook.com/groups/779742936172392/ or donating at Venmo or Paypal.

Venmo: @srlferalgroup

Paypal: riolindaferalhelp@gmail.com

They also have an Amazon wish list at https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1IPDQ9PNI66RD?ref_=wl_share&fbclid=IwAR1H6FaVwbpf4Uiq_VJ0i_pkcp7H87HTglljJNO8rz2y_Epi-Qu7lLzEerw

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