Cat trapper in race with time

Bonnie Edstrom makes it her mission to catch and relocate wild cats from area trailer parks

January 7, 2006

Bonnie Edstrom has spent a lot of cold winter days combing through the debris at an abandoned trailer park to find feral cats.

The Hood River resident believes that she has caught all but seven of the starving felines on the Country Club Road property. But time is running out to trap the wild cats since the site must be cleared of all structures by the end of the month.

“They are getting pretty frantic because their homes are being torn down one by one,” said Edstrom.

She doesn’t spend much time wondering what Wal-Mart plans to do with the bare ground it owns. All she knows is that the tenants are gone and the mobile homes they have left behind are being demolished or sold. And that takes away the places that wild cats, and those left behind, used to escape from the biting wind and rain.

Edstrom said Sebastin Curiel, a former resident, adopted seven of the animals before moving with them to Mosier last year. And she has managed to lure nine adult cats and three kittens into kennels with servings of broasted chicken.

“I start out with tuna and I use sardines or whatever else it takes,” said Edstrom. “These cats need to be taken out of here or they will starve to death.”

All of the cats trapped by Edstrom have been transported to CatLink, a no-kill shelter in The Dalles. She is eternally thankful that Carmen Marquez, the director of that facility, opened her doors to so many new strays.

“I called Carmen because I was desperate. I already have 18 cats at home and I have no place to put these, myself,” said Edstrom.

She said the kittens taken out of the trailer park had an upper respiratory illness but are now ready for adoption. She said four of the young adult cats have previously been handled by people and will be easier to tame than the four remaining wild animals.

“You can tell by their colors and looks that they have been inter-breeding,” she said. “Basically a lot of cats have been living here generation after generation and people have been feeding them.”

Edstrom said with a lot of patience and pair of thick gloves, it is possible to gentle even a feral cat. She said the process is slow — between four and six months — and fraught with the risk of being scratched or bitten, but the end result can be a loving pet.

She urges anyone interested in giving one of the Country Club Road cats a home to call CatLink at (541) 298-8253. Meanwhile, Edstrom will continue to spend three to six-hour days trying to trap the remaining felines.

Three years ago, she took on the mission of feeding and finding homes for abandoned and feral cats in trailer parks and other congregate areas. She uses food donations from Wal-Mart, Little Bit Ranch Supply and Rosauers to keep the animals alive while they are on the loose. And then she patiently waits for the opportunity to get them into a kennel and off to a new home.

During 2005, Edstrom took 80 cats off the streets and that has given her a strong sense of satisfaction. She said they were unlikely to live more than six months — just long enough to leave behind an unwanted litter of kittens.

Somewhere along the way, Edstrom has added three wild cats to her own furry herd of 11 felines.

“I got attached to them and they got attached to me and I guess they are staying,” she said.

In addition, she has taken on the task of taming seven other cats with the goal to eventually adopt them out. Each day, Edstrom patiently dons a glove and reaches into the large dog kennel to give the hissing and spitting animals food and water, or change their litter box.

Eventually, when the cats accept the presence of the glove, she will be permitted to touch them. And one day the glove will come off as they finally accept that a human presence brings good things.

“These cats don’t like humans and it is a lot of work to change that. But it is worth it,” said Edstrom.

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