The Cat Lady of Conejo 7

Trapping Ferals, Placing Kittens

Perhaps you have heard of her. She is Carol Olson, Conejo Valley’s very own “Cat Lady.” However, far from the stereotype, Carol does not live isolated and alone with the company of 20 or more mangy cats. She chooses to live in the heart of her community with her husband and four cats and plays a vital role in helping to keep the local feral cat populations in check, as well as placing dozens of feral kittens in loving homes every year. Beloved by hundreds of happy families who have adopted kittens through her, including my own, Carol has earned her affectionate moniker for her tireless animal welfare work helping our feline friends.

“My work with cats began roughly 20 years ago,” Carol explains. A fierce animal lover, she was disturbed by the number of impounded animals in shelters and resolved to do something that could make a real difference. Being particularly fond of cats, she focused her efforts on taking action that would reduce the feral cat population. A feral cat is basically the offspring of a lost or abandoned domestic cat that has not been altered (spayed or neutered).

“A feral cat gets pregnant, has a litter and that litter never has the opportunity to be socialized,” says Carol. “The kittens grow up wild and try to survive, continuing to have more feral kittens. And the cycle continues.” One humane way to counter expanding feral populations is to increase spaying and neutering efforts.

To that end, Carol became a feral cat trapper.

Today, she is a skilled cat-trapping volunteer who works with donation-
supported nonprofits, Valley Vet Non-Profit Spay and Neuter Clinic in Simi Valley and the Spay/Neuter Animal Network thrift store in Ventura, to support her mission. When the clinic receives a call about a stray or feral cat—or perhaps a feral cat colony, where a group of feral cats live, they reach out to Carol for help. Using a humane trap, she will collect a cat and bring it to the Simi Valley clinic to be spayed or neutered by licensed veterinarians at no charge. Once the cat has recovered, she returns it to where it was originally trapped.

The Trap-Neuter-Return practice is widely embraced by animal welfare advocates as an effective way to reduce the number of euthanized animals in shelters. Animal regulation departments acknowledge spay and neuter clinics as playing an effective role in reducing the number of impounded animals. With roughly 10,000 pets surrendered to Ventura County shelters annually, shelters and volunteers like Carol provide a vital animal welfare and community service.

“Each year, I trap roughly a couple hundred cats for spaying and neutering. It makes an impact,” Carol says.

Feral kittens are a challenge too. Carol also humanely collects and places feral kitten litters. “People call me and say things like, ‘I’ve been feeding this kitty for six months and oh my goodness, I just found kittens under my garden shed!’” In California’s temperate climate, unaltered female cats can be in heat year round. Residents make a difference by being proactive.

“If you see a stray or feral cat, ask for help immediately,” urges Carol. “Don’t wait until a litter of kittens are on the ground. Call our local spay and neuter clinics. Our volunteers do not judge or ask questions—and the cats are never harmed.”

Of course, kittens are fun! Carol’s home has a dedicated room specifically for the feral kittens she rescues. A feline Disneyland of sorts, it’s loaded with interactive toys and cat towers—and a changing group of adorable, spritely balls of fur. Socializing the wild kittens is her number one priority, and it requires hours and hours of play and hands-on interaction.

“I typically spend 15 minutes with the kittens every hour or so. The frequent and consistent handling builds their confidence. They learn humans are their caretakers and safe to snuggle and be with,” Carol explains. As soon as the kittens are old enough, they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then placed in loving homes.

While adoption is not a good idea for anyone with allergies or without the resources and stability to support a cat for its life expectancy of 15-20 years, for most families, adopting a kitten or cat is a win-win situation. Not only is a cat’s life saved, but pet owners also receive the benefits of bonding with a special animal.

“Cats add to the quality of people’s lives. I love their antics! Watching them play or sleep peacefully brings joy and serenity. Cat owners find comfort in the companionship and the enjoyment of petting their soft fur and hearing their gentle purr,” Carol explains.

From firsthand experience, I can say that this is true. My family adopted an adorable, two-month-old, black hair domestic kitten from Carol in 2014. We call her “Bear.” My teenage daughter has found such comfort from their special bond.

Thank you, Carol, our Conejo Valley “Cat Lady.”

For more information about cat adoption, fostering or volunteering, please contact Carol at the Valley Vet Non-Profit Spay and Neuter Clinic: 805.584.3823.