The Cat People


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By Karen Harrison Binette

This week’s Cat(s) of the Week here at Life with Cats are the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: Fendi, Diesel, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, and Chanel.
These adorable kittens were dumped in front of a vet’s office and then saved by The Cat People, a wonderful rescue organization from Bakersfield California.

Cat People volunteer Courtney Clerico fostered and bottle fed the litter from the time they were 2 weeks old. Presently, only Chanel is still available for adoption .

Who are The Cat People? They are a rescue organization founded in 1990 to help the stray, feral, unwanted and forgotten cats of Bakersfield and Kern county, California. More than an organization, they are passionate cat lovers who do their best to help cats in need.

The Cat People and their dedicated network of volunteers and foster care givers have taken it upon themselves to do something about the deplorable state of affairs for many local cats  and to help those cats to have good and safe lives.

We’ve discovered that in some cases Kern County can be a bad place to be a cat or dog. According to a 2004 report from KERO TV, thousands of local cats and dogs are treated with callous disregard, ranging from irresponsible breeding and care to actually dumping family pets and leaving them to die. While we will spare the reader the details of the report, we note that The Cat People and Alpha Canine were mentioned as local champions and saviors for those unfortunate animals.

With a bit of knowledge on local conditions we can well understand the state of mind that must have compelled the organization’s founders to take action.

Available for adoption: Hello! My name is Candice, and I am a beautiful gray girl. I am calm and loving. I got my name in honor of my rescuer, and I am awaiting a permanent loving home after being dumped in a remote area. I am mellow and affectionate.

Cat People’s stated mission is to compassionately manage feral cat colonies, while working to reduce stray and feral overpopulation through spay and neutering. They also have a foster care network, which they know saves many lives that would have been lost at shelters or on the streets, and they place cats in good homes through an active adoption program. The Cat People provide food and supplies to those who need them in addition to offering help with low cost spay and neuter to families for their pets.

The group has a gift shop, Pawsitively Cats, plus a cookbook and Zazzle store, which help raise funds to carry out their programs in supplement to the usual means of fundraising.

Available for adoption: I’m beautiful and I know it. My name is Millie and I am a spayed adult female. I was found at the park with my kittens and the Cat People took me in. I would love to meet you! I am loving and I would make a great furrrever friend.

Cat People President Barbara Hays has provided us with this updated note on the group’s history and plans for the future:

In 1990, The Cat People began with a few ladies who were horrified at the treatment of community and feral cats in Bakersfield, including the 400 abandoned-turned feral cats residing in Hart Park, a 370 acre park eight miles northeast of Bakersfield.

Efforts and finances went into rescue, rehabilitation and adoption when possible and assisting low-income cat owners with the cost of altering their pets.As our community grew, so did the needs of the organization if we were to actively help the hundreds domestic, feral and community cats.

Approximately 10 years ago, we embarked on a unique collaboration with Kern County Parks and Recreation division to manage over 15 colonies in the park. . Thanks to a team of devoted volunteers over 100 cats are now monitored and fed daily. In addition to this, we continuously trap, alter and release the more feral cats. When finances and foster care is available, the tame, abandoned cats are brought in for adoption.

Hart Park, like so many other wilderness type area of town, remains a large dump-off area. We have rescued, fostered and adopted over 500 cats at a cost of $25,000 a year. Small grants help with the cost of this program, and we continuously fundraise in order to purchase the supplies needed and cover veterinary costs.

Every cat rescued, either from the park or from other horrific conditions, goes into our limited foster care after a complete medical exam and altering if old enough. From there, the cats /kittens are taken to Petco , pictures put on our site as well as Pet finder. Unfortunately, Petco only has space for 5 cats who become cage stressed due to barking dogs and children sticking their fingers in the cages.

Over a year ago our board members agreed that in order to better help our rescues we must develop plans for a sanctuary. This would provide a home for the 250 cats currently in our foster care. We would designate a certain amount of space for cats whose owners make provisions in the event of illness of death. Currently, there are no options when family members will or cannot take in the deceased owners’ cats. Most of these cats now end up at our county shelter, contributing to the 70% euthanasia rate. We have $106,000 toward our dream of 3-4 acre property.

Plans are underway toward a much-needed sanctuary/adoption center to care for and adopt over the 250 rescues currently in foster care. We hope to offer a safe place for cats whose owners, by bequest, know that their precious felines will have a safe and loving environment when the owner is incapacitated. A unique adoption center would provide a showcase for our many rescues and a happy environment for the community to interact with our felines.

Please visit their website and their Bakersfield Cat People Facebook page for more information.

Here are a few individual stories from The Cat People’s rescues.

“The Best Cat Ever”, Ernie Haberdasher was The Cat People’s mascot from 1990-2001, and could be found purrsoning the sales desk at Pawsitively Cats, the organization’s gift shop. Rescued from a empty house which had been locked for a month, Ernie made a full recovery from near-starvation and, amazingly, loved people to the end of his days.

Burger Kitty, rescued from a Burger King drive-through where she actually asked visitors to order fishburgers for her, lived happily with Jim and Amy St. Amour in Bakersfield for eight years until her death.


Johnny Handsome, a purebred Shaded Silver Persian was found abandoned: ill, matted, filthy, and starving. He was adopted by Cat People President Linda Wright and was the group’s first mascot.


Ophelia, just a cat, was rescued after being shot in a Bakersfield alley. Martha Gilleland and Linda Wright adopted her and loved their fierce, independent little alley cat until kidney disease took her life at age 16 (or so).


Marty, with Santa, shortly before his adoption.

We send our thanks to this dedicated group of rescuers taking care of their own little corner of the world.

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6 thoughts on “The Cat People”

  1. I hope you can help my company, bmc INDUSTRIES, find a home for 5 small kittens. bmc is located at N. Chester Ext. north of the Speedway Raceway and we are a “dump site” for many cats and dogs. Many of us have taken these strays home, adopted them into our families, but no one has room for these kittens at this time. Is there someway you can help us place these kittens into a safe and loving home? Please contact me via my e-mail address or at 800-282-9822 ext.118. bmc is a machine shop and definitely not a safe, good environment for these kittens.

    Thanking you in advance for any help you can give.

  2. HELP! I’m a senior citizen and I have a colony of feral cats. I struggle to keep them fed. My neighborhood is over run with these cats. My own cats have been fixed, but to fix all the feral cats I have would be costly. There are cats of all ages, everyday there seems to be a new litter. Please if you could direct me to an organization,that can help me with my growing colony, it’s out of control.. it’s not fair to all these cats to live afraid of people and not get the proper care they need.. to feed them all has become costly, takes a chunk out of my monthly budget. Thanks for your help.

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