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There's a new driving force in the battle against pet overpopulation: Arizona's new "pet-friendly" license plates are now available.
 
New buyers find dozens of cats are part of the purchase
By Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona
1/13/2006 12:00:00 AM
By Kimberly Matas

Daria Hobbs got more than she bargained for when she and her business partners took over a historic guest ranch east of Tucson in late November. Amid the rustic buildings and huge boulders in the foothills of the Dragoon Mountains 60 miles from Tucson were at least 100 cats roaming the 84-year-old Triangle T Guest Ranch.

Though most of the cats now have homes, Hobbs said she's exhausted her resources, and the remaining 30 or so cats - though that's a conservative estimate - still need to be placed. No more shelters are willing to take them, and the homes of friends, family and acquaintances are full.

The ranch's previous owners, who lived there for 15 years, let the cats multiply unchecked, said Hobbs. "For whatever reason, they let it get out of control."

A female cat can have several litters of four to six kittens each year, said Jill Wohlfeil, spokeswoman for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. "The warmer the weather is, the more likely the litters are to survive," she said. "One female and her offspring, if left to breed for seven years, will produce 420,000 cats. That's why it's important to spay and neuter."

When Hobbs, her husband, Doug, and another couple, Linda and Mike Kelly, took over the ranch, Hobbs started finding homes for the cats, some of which needed veterinary care. "We've paid out of our own pockets as much as we can, but it's overwhelming," Hobbs said. Hobbs and a friend, Debbie Austin, have placed about 70 cats - 10 with the Humane Society, five with The Oasis Sanctuary for birds near Benson and others with friends and family.

Two Tucson-based animal rescue organizations, Baby Animal Rescue Koalition and Spay and Neuter Solutions, are paying to have the remaining 30 or so cats sterilized, but Hobbs and Austin still need to find homes for them.

"Most of these guys are pretty social," Austin said. "All the guys I've taken to my home, they're all scared, but they let me pet them and now they are all social. One little guy I've had three weeks and he was really scared, but now he follows me around the house."

Some of the cats still prowling the ranch have long, fluffy black and gray hair. Others are short-haired tiger stripes, and there are a few with short white and gray hair, Austin said. Five of the Triangle T cats are still awaiting adoption at the Humane Society, said Wohlfeil. The shelter has two orange tabbies, a blue tabby, a tortoiseshell tabby and a black cat. And there may be more cats lying low.

"If you see 20 cats, there are probably 10 more you don't see," said Wohlfeil, of the Humane Society. Though the cats Hobbs and Austin have caught seem fairly well socialized, there could be feral cats that stay in hiding.

"You're probably not going to see a cat that's truly feral, that has never had any human contact and is scared to death of people and probably won't come out until night," said Lori Poppa, director of The Hermitage Cat Shelter.

If Hobbs can find homes for the last 30 or so cats, she said, it will make it easier to spay and neuter any new ones that show up, and keep the population under control.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at 807-8431 or at kmatas@azstarnet.com.