San Diego

Lone Trapper Scratches Away at Stray Kitten Population in Local Shelters

Sherri Penaloza is devoted to curbing what's known as "stray kitten season" in San Diego

In the heat of what San Diego County Animal Services is calling “stray kitten season," one San Diego woman is doing all she can to help reduce the kitten population in local shelters.

One humane trap at a time, Sherri Penaloza catches stray cats and brings them to the animal shelter so that they can be spayed and neutered. Once the felines are “fixed” she releases them back into the wild-- a strategy that is completely legal and encouraged by local shelters.

This year, San Diego’s three shelters have taken in more than 550 kittens under two months old, compared to just 158 at this time last year. Nearly 200 of those taken in this year have come in during the month of May alone.

In total last ast year, 2,400 kittens were processed in area shelters.

Animal Services Lt. Mitchell Levy says it’s hard to keep up with stray cats’ propagation rate.

“Ten cats this year could be 100 cats next year, and then 1,000 cats,” Lt. Levy said.

Penaloza’s method of slowing the exponential growth is pretty simple. She leaves a trail of tasty cat food leading to the back of a lever-action trap, and hopes the cat’s hunger gets the best of them.

In the last six months, she’s brought in 25 cats.

“The kitty smells the food and little by little they’ll lick it up and eat it all the way up to the end,” Penaloza said. “When you go to a new colony and they don’t know what it is, you catch them really fast.”

A volunteer at the San Diego Humane Society for the past four years, Penaloza has been a leader in the rescuing of stray kittens for about two years.

Lately, she said she has found many stray cats in the Linda Vista area. She recently also found a stray in North Park, at the edge of City Heights near Interstate 805.

She dubbed that kitten "Bro Cat" because, in her words, "He was such a cool little cat." That particular kitten is still waiting to be adopted.

Penaloza said she posts often on the neighborhood networking app, NextDoor, offering to help scoop up stray kittens in communities around San Diego.

Levy says “stray kitten” season started about a month ago and it will continue all the way through the summer.

On Thursday, NBC 7 spoke with one local, Maggie Havens, who had brought four stray kittens to the Humane Society. The kittens were discovered hiding underneath some wood pallets outside of Havens' workplace, the Sprouts grocery store in Point Loma.

The kittens' mother was nowhere to be found. Havens took charge of the kittens and brought them to the shelter.

"They didn't want to come out. They were not happy," said Havens. “They fit in the palm of my hand; they were adorable."

Since local shelters can’t legally put the kittens up for adoption until they’re eight months old, they rely heavily on their volunteer foster network.

Foster parents take the young cats in and nurture them, giving the care and attention they need as babies, and bring them back when they come of age.

To try and alleviate the dense kitten population in area shelters, County Animal Services has put the cats on sale.

You can take a kitten home for just $58, which includes spay and neuter, micro chipping, deworming, flee treatment and vaccination.

“For $58, it’s the best deal in town,” Lt. Levy said. “It’ll buy you 15 years of love and happiness. Where else can you buy 15 years of love -- unconditional love?”

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