There’s a safe haven for some lucky feral cats in a most unlikely place in Cottage Grove, OR. Over the past 18 years, Brad Cohen and his staff at Brad’s Chevrolet have made a real difference in the lives of many feral cats. In the beginning, cats were appearing in numbers at the car dealership. Without food or shelter, Brad knew those abandoned cats would soon become sick and/or starve. Being a great animal lover, he extended his hand to help the cats who were abandoned or feral. He has been quietly providing them with food, shelter and medical attention ever since.
Currently, there are about 25 cats living on the premises, with two distinct feral colonies. Brad understands how fast a cat colony can grow and makes sure there are no more unwanted feline friends. Cats are trapped, given medical checkups, and are spayed or neutered before being released again. This practice of trapping, neutering and releasing (TNR) feral cats is currently the standard for animal shelters managing large feral cat colonies. Providing medical attention ensures the cats won’t transmit contagious diseases such as feline leukemia or rabies. With some assistance with food, feral cats can live out their lives without increasing their population.
Cohen believes that “stray cats live as long as there is a generous hand for them.” They go the extra mile by feeding high-quality cat food to avoid urinary tract infections. Twenty-five cats and a few hungry birds devour 16 pounds of cat food daily. That translates roughly to a food bill of $500 per month. Every evening, rain or shine, rows of pie tins are filled and the cats come out from hiding to enjoy their feast. There is a calm, orderly procession at feeding time; thanks to plenty of food there is no need to fight. These cats have learned to live together peacefully.
In an empty lot behind the rows of new autos and trucks are several “kitty condos,” each with apartments that provide shelter from rain and wind. Sheds with fresh water are on each end of the lot. Brad has them painted each year to ensure they stay in good shape and look nice. There is also a large patch of grass, trees and shrubs the cats can hide in during the day, which is especially nice for them during the summer months.
Of course, a couple of cats have found their way into the car dealership and are welcomed to roam where they wish. They delight both staff and customers and add a touch of home to the business office.
Adoption matches are made for some lucky kitties who are more friendly than feral. Some have been adopted by employees. Others have gone home with customers who said their car purchase was contingent upon adopting a cat! The cats go home with their new owners spayed or neutered and with medical expenses paid for a year. If it doesn’t work out, Brad welcomes them home again. Cohen and his staff caring for these abandoned and feral cats is an invaluable contribution to this community. Janetta Overholser of the Humane Society of Cottage Grove said, “If everyone did half as much as he did, there would not be a cat over population problem!”
You can avoid cat overpopulation in your area by keeping an eye out for new cats or kittens. If you find a cat and are unsure if it is abandoned, post fliers in your neighborhood. Take the cat to the veterinarian to be scanned for a microchip; many vets will do it for free.
If you have a feral cat colony in your neighborhood, check with your neighbors to see if they will work together to help defray the costs of spaying and neutering them. You can get assistance/loaner traps from animal shelters and the Humane Society. Animal shelters with TNR programs also offer low-cost spay/neuter services, and your veterinarian may know of others. Also, set up a feeding station to help maintain healthy cats.
Brad CohenCohen’s care and concern for cats is exemplary, but you may be surprised how much of a difference you can make, even with limited resources. First, help control cat over-population by spaying or neutering your own cats. If you don’t have one, you can adopt a cat or a kitten from a rescue group or animal shelter in your area. Even if you choose not to have a pet, you can support your local animal shelter or Humane Society by participating in fundraising events, volunteering, donating pet items, or donating to community spay/neuter organizations such as WAG in Eugene, and Oregon Spay/Neuter Fund, which serves the region.
We can all make a difference. And thankfully there are great hero’s like Cohen and his crew who show us the way.
Rachel Cunningham-Kyle is the founder of North Star for Rescued Animals in Cottage Grove, OR. She works with lost and found pets and helps make adoption matches. “Helping pets find their way home.”