Cats become homeless for a variety of reasons.
Some are abandoned when their owners move away and leave them behind. "They just drive off with the contents of their house, and the cat sits in the driveway and watches his family leave," says Gail Churchill, a volunteer with Island Cat Resources and Adoption, which rescues homeless kitties in Alameda, Oakland and San Leandro.
Some are simply dumped on the street, where they scrounge for food and have multiple litters because their former owner couldn't be bothered with spaying or neutering their cat.
Some kittens fall into sidewalk storm drains, where ICRA volunteers find ways to lift the manhole covers and climb in to retrieve these babies.
In the case of my two cats, Pepe and Sally, they were rescued in a rough part of West Oakland by an ICRA volunteer named Ronald Spann, who spotted some kids throwing rocks at something in the bushes. That "something" turned out to be Pepe and Sally.
ICRA operates on a shoestring budget, which means it doesn't have a shelter.
But, paradoxically, that turns out to be a good thing because the cats never see the inside of a cage. Instead, they're put in foster homes, where they're socialized until they're totally people-friendly.
Pepe and Sally were fostered in a home with a dog, so if ever I want to adopt a dog, I won't have to worry about it freaking them out. Other ICRA foster families have kids, so their cats will fit right in with homes with children.
ICRA was founded 20 years ago by four or five people in Alameda. It didn't take them long to figure out that the real answer to the out-of-control feral cat population was an aggressive spay/neuter policy.
So they help people humanely trap feral cats and whisk them to local vets for spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations.
Those that are too wild to be adopted are returned to their feral colonies, where they are fed and monitored by volunteers for the rest of their lives.
But most of the rescues, like my girls, are young enough to be socialized and placed in new "forever" homes, where they live happily ever after.
If you're interested in a new cat – or, better yet, two cats, so they can keep each other company – visit ICRA's website at icraeastbay.org. You'll see some adorable cats and kittens, including 13 that were being fostered by a longtime ICRA volunteer named Lynne Fone until she died from a sudden stroke a few weeks ago.
"She was totally invested in each little life she saved and wanted to make sure it got the best home possible," says Churchill.
ICRA's big fundraiser is an annual silent auction at the Alameda Elks Lodge, 2255 Santa Clara Avenue. This year's auction will be June 7 from 7-10 p.m.; and it's always a great party featuring wine, champagne, live music and vegetarian munchies. Suggested donation is $35, or $20 with a new bag of cat food or a case of canned food.
And if you can't make it to the party, you can still donate to this very worthy cause at icraeastbay.org.
Happy birthday, ICRA. And happy birthday to Sally and Pepe, who are celebrating their second birthday today. How time flies! But it's been fun.