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KITTY ACTIVISTS: ‘Community cat’ volunteers plan mass trapping event April 11

Photos by Lynne Deliman

Kennedy resident Alexa Parish has been capturing and releasing feral cats in the McKees Rocks and Stowe area for some time now.

By Jamie Wiggan

Staff Writer


Alexa Parrish grew up in a home without pets. Now she has a garage full of adopted cats and spends her free hours patrolling the streets of Stowe and McKees Rocks searching for animals in need of food, veterinary care or — most commonly — "fixing."

“If you drive around here at night, it’s just cats everywhere,” she said. “I didn’t know how bad was this problem until I got into rescue.”

Parrish, a Kennedy resident, is part of a growing movement of volunteers working to control feral or ‘community cat’ populations in the area. Quick breeders that can survive well outdoors, cat populations — known as colonies — multiply rapidly once a small number escape or are abandoned by their owners.

While Parrish has dealt with large colonies in suburban

A newly neutered feral cat

awaits impatiently its release

on March 16.

Robinson and even rural Beaver County, she spends most of her time in the intermingled communities of McKees Rocks and Stowe, where she said there’s a particularly high concentration.

Another local volunteer, Michelle DeFade, believes this area is home to at least 400 community cats.

The volunteers follow a practice known as TNVR (trap, neuter, vaccinate, release) and they rely on a handful of non-profit organizations that provide these procedures at low-cost.

Most are first drawn into the community cat world via the internet. TNVR enthusiasts have dedicated social media groups, where they share new sightings, information on animals in need and even trade “slots” for limited spaying and neutering appointments.

From there it soon morphs into the offline world.

“When people see you’re into cat stuff, they reach out for help,” Parrish said.

Parrish now depends on a network of “feeders,” who play into an intricate communication web connecting ordinary residents, volunteers and non-profit organizations, each with their unique specializations and resources.

Kim Dix is one important feeder in Parrish’s network.

A homeless cat cautiously

looks down on Parrish.

Dix has about five or six treated cats she feeds daily in the Norwood area of Stowe where she lives, but she also reports to Parrish and others on sightings of kittens, untreated adults or animals of any variety in need of care.

“There’s a couple of people who reach out to me [with animal information],” Dix said.

“Then I reach out to a certain other group of people if I see kittens or one that needs medical attention. I know who to contact in each situation.”