WeHo Community Cats program saves 15 kittens at Anawalt Lumber

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During the final week of October, an impromptu team of 10-plus humans came to the rescue of 15-plus community cats hiding out in little nooks and crannies in and around Anawalt Lumber in West Hollywood.

“Our mission is to encourage trap, neuter, return (known as TNR) of our 4-legged residents, stopping the multiplying of our community cats, and allowing them to live healthier lives” says Mary Jo Godges, who along with her wife Renee Sotile led the effort at Anawalt.

After the surgery male cats are less aggressive and stop fighting and female cats stop reproducing every 3 to 4 months which is the #1 reason shelters and rescues are constantly overwhelmed. Fixing one cat equals preventing potentially thousands of unwanted kittens.

Godges and Sotile had long advocated the West Hollywood City Council and Officials to establish local services after a Calico cat appeared at their residence with her 5 kittens over 10 years ago.

It was a turning point when the City Council approved the “West Hollywood Community Cats Program” that assists in humanely controlling the number of homeless cats and kittens that live in the city.

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The West Hollywood Community Cats Program established in May 2023, offers permits, traps, and FREE and LOCAL spay/neuter performed at the Amanda Foundation.

“This is a big deal,” said Sotile. “Before the program, residents would have to dedicate hours picking up traps and traveling far to the limited animal hospitals equipped to fix stray cats which often discouraged follow-through. Our motivation is to make TNR accessible for our residents to easily help our vulnerable population of cats abandoned or born into the wild.”

Mission was accomplished at Anawalt Lumber, says the store manager, Basil Alexander.

“Five months ago, there were only 2 or 3 cats here in the yard” Alexander said, but by the time WeHo resident Andrew Harland notified Renee and Mj last week, that number had grown to 10 and counting. “Our staff feeds them first thing in the morning and just before closing. They’ve become our family.”

It all started at 5:30AM last Tuesday morning. The day before, the team at Anawalt had gotten the memo: Do not feed the cats. By the following morning the cats were plenty hungry and readily walked into the humane traps set with food.

By Thursday, all the cats had been spayed or neutered, treated for fleas, fully vaccinated and ear tipped – the universal sign the cat is fixed. After they recovered from surgery, the adult cats were returned to their nook-and-cranny “homes” at Anawalt, much to the delight of employees, who had grown attached.

Renee noted that during the very early dark morning, before the sun rose, she watched longtime Anawalt employee Armando Moradel kneel down to the kittens and pray in Spanish, ending with “you’re off to a better life.” Wiping tears from his eyes he carried the final 2 kitten carriers to the awaiting car where 6 more lumberyard employees joined him to say goodbye to the babies.

“I love the white one,” one man said peeking in.

Before the trappings, Renee & Mj sought out advice from Luxe Paws on the kittens. Founder Jacquie Navratil assured them the kittens were old enough to be separated from Mom. Welcome news given the bulldozers making their way closer and closer to the kittens’ hideaway. Some kittens from the previous litter had been killed at the active construction site, which is why resident involvement is so important.

TNR takes community involvement. Renee & Mj are gathering a list of Cat Crusaders willing to help, be it feeding, picking up traps at WeHo City Hall or driving cats to and from the Amanda Foundation to complete the TNR.

“I can’t think of a better way to donate my time than to ensure innocent animals have access to a simple spay or neuter,” Navratil said. It offers the greatest impact on the cats and the community.”

Cats who were never rescued when they were tiny kittens and were never socialized with humans are fearful and mainly appear in the dark from sundown to sun up, wandering around, searching for food and shelter. They benefit the community by keeping the rodent population under control, without the need for toxic chemicals that put other animals and wildlife at risk.

“It’s fascinating to think that so many cats live among us,” says Chi-Hong Teng, a WeHo resident whose TNR’d cat Sly lives contentedly in and around his home. “It feels so good to know that we can help them live safer and better lives. We’re all in this village called Earth together.”

The kittens are being fostered by GeeKitties Kitten Rescue and will be ready for adoption in the coming weeks.

To adopt, email: [email protected]

Email contact to join our helper list: [email protected] and join West Hollywood Community Cats on Facebook.

“Together we can ‘FIX’ this.”

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About Renee Sotile & Mj Godges
2 EMMY Wins/Doc Filmmakers/News Crew/Activist Citizens @LGBTHollywood

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Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
5 months ago

MJ and Renee are true community heroes in all senses of the word and honor. Their passion, diligence, and fortitude are inspiring and noble. They both deserve a place of respect in the history of West Hollywood! Kate and Duc join me in expressing joy and gratitude for their hard work and devotion.

CHLOE ROSS
5 months ago

There is an age of great sadness that comes when you realize you cannot, with a clear conscience, rescue a kitt that the kitten is a baby just starting its own. I sort of imagined it would dawn on me, but when I see an article like this, it is more than a dawning. The two grown up babies we have may last us all of our life times. But these are the last two. The loveliest, the sweetest – and it works both ways; a joy and gift. They are indoor cats who do not like each other after… Read more »

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Renee Sotile
Renee Sotile
5 months ago

Grateful to WeHo residents who helped us in this mission!

angry gay pope
5 months ago

I find it DISGUSTING that so many feral animals could be in one area. Blame narcissistic cat owners (is there any other kind if you are under 50?) who don’t spay/neuter. These cats destroy the environment and kill any songbirds they find. They lead sad short lives just because shallow humans love having them around. And now the human “pussies” at this cat shelter are letting them roam around again instead of humanely killing them. What a sad group of people they are to put cats above native birds and treat cats like people. Weird!

Mjallday
Mjallday
5 months ago
Reply to  angry gay pope

City of Los Angeles EIR shows TNR in fact improves bird and other wildlife populations. Neglectful pet owners, not so much.

CHLOE ROSS
5 months ago
Reply to  Mjallday

And your comment is overflowing with care and compassion. Thank you.

wlm
wlm
5 months ago
Reply to  angry gay pope

Pope: I couldn’t agree with you more. We should also have a law in this city outlawing the very concept of “outdoor” cats as well. Owners need to keep their pets inside, or else on a leash.

CHLOE ROSS
5 months ago
Reply to  wlm

In your perfect world-I suspect there would be no pets at all

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