The Lake Hefner goats have some odd company. No, it's not another donkey.
Last week, The Oklahoman's hipster-in-residence, Graham Lee Brewer, authored a piece about a woman who voluntarily maintains a fledgling colony of feral cats at Lake Hefner. He apparently stumbled across the cat lady during the fall
while foraging for wild berries with those guys from MGMT.
On a windy Oklahoma afternoon at Lake Hefner, Jay Cook performs the same routine she does every day, rain or shine. She parks her pickup, its bed loaded to the brim with food and water, next to several colonies of small shelters made of burlap sacks dipped in concrete, and feeds the hundreds of wild cats that cautiously reveal themselves as she approaches.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty,” she calls as she pours dry cat food into small, wooden troughs and cracks open cans of moist, meaty food she lays across the tops of many of the handmade shelters.
The feral cats, who scatter and dash behind trees or inside their little homes at the sign of a stranger in their midst, this time a reporter from
The Oklahoman, aren’t fazed by Cook’s presence. In fact, they seem quite comfortable with her. Some rub their wild, matted fur against her legs as she scratches behind their ears, all the while talking to them by names like Eve, TJ, and Sweet Kitty.
For the past 10 years, after leaving her two day jobs Cook has visited the cats every day to feed and care for them. One year, she said, when the snow was waist high and the gates to enter the lake were closed she had to put their food on a sled and drag it through the woods to reach them.
Cook, who runs the nonprofit Kitty Wranglers, said the cats often are abandoned by people who no longer want to care for them. In years past their numbers soared into the several hundreds. Thanks to a new approach from the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter, which traps, neuters and releases the cats back at the lake, those numbers have dropped significantly.
“People want to complain about them, but they didn’t bring themselves out here,” she said.
Heh, no wonder Lake Hefner sometimes smells like my seventh grade English teacher. I like how environmentalists get all upset and cause a ruckus when a company tries to frack by the lake's shores, but you don't hear a thing from them about 200 hundred cats using the lake as their own mobile home park. Do you want toxic chemicals in your drinking water or hairballs, cat piss and dead birds? It's a pick-your-poison type of deal.
Some idiots are not taking too kindly to the animals:
Cook estimates about 200 cats still live amongst the trees around the lake. However, she said the recent eradication of invasive cedar trees by the city parks department has left the cats vulnerable not only to the elements but to people who would seek to harm them.
“We had people shooting them with .22 (rifles) at night,” Cook said. “They wouldn’t kill them, just wound them so they could only drag themselves by their front feet.”
She said it’s rare a cat wounded by a rifle shot survives more than a few hours. Many are left with severed spines. In the summer, she said people often tip over their water dishes or set their dogs loose on the cats to harm them and eat their food.
“They’re like sitting ducks to anyone who wants to be mean to them,” she said.
What the hell? What type of lunatic goes to the lake to shoot and torture cats? That's almost as crazy as dedicating 10 years of your life to feeding and maintaining a cat colony.
Seriously, I find most cats to bipolar passive-aggressive divas, but that doesn't mean they should all be shot. They're still animals. Plus, you don't want to accidentally hit a gay cruiser, model airplane pilot or hipster food forager. That would get you in trouble.