PENDLETON - Cindy Spies carefully opened one end of a long rectangular cage and placed a blue can of Special Kitty-brand cat food inside. She shut the door and moved to the other end of the cage, where she opened a trap door and secured two O-shaped rings on either side.

"As soon as the O-rings go down, the minute they're a half inch down, they're done," Spies said. "These they can't push back up."

The rings are set to drop when a cat enters the cage and steps on a small platform in front of the Special Kitty food. When they do, the rings drop and the door closes. The rings secure the door, keeping the cat from escaping.

Spies is using these cage traps to capture feral and stray cats near the Umatilla River. Once caught, Spies and other volunteers transport the cats to Milton-Freewater where they are spayed or neutered. After about a day of recovery, Spies releases the cats back where she captured them. When the cats are returned, they are marked with a tattoo on the ear to show they have been "fixed."

When she sets the traps, Spies only leaves them for an hour or so. She tries to place them at times when cats will be feeding, usually in the evenings.

Setting these traps is part of what Spies calls the "Riverfront Project." She is working to trap and sterilize cats and, eventually, solve the feral cat problem in Pendleton. She hopes over a few years' time, she can stop the cats from breeding and having more litters. Then the remaining cats will eventually die of natural causes.

She has chosen to do this now because of the new city ordnance that requires owners to sterilize their cats after they are 5 months old.

"I hope it will be taken seriously," Spies said.

She hopes owners will take responsibility.

"We don't want people to start dumping their animals in the fear of being fined," Spies said.

Fines for not following the ordinance range from $25-$125 for the first offense, $50-$250 for the second offense and $50-$500 for the third offense.

Spaying a female cat can cost between $95 and $105 and neutering a male cat costs around $67, Spies said. She doesn't want the costs of the operations to discourage people. If an owner is worried about the costs, Spies said her organization, Pet Utopia, is willing to help out financially.

Another concern people have had since the new ordinance went into affect are strays. Some people may not own cats, but will feed them if they see some in need. Spies doesn't want those people to be afraid of helping the cats either.

"What we're hoping is they'll contact us to get the cats sterilized," she said.

At the same time, she hopes those who feed cats may be able to help have it sterilized.

"If you care enough about the animal to feed it take the next step to get it fixed," she said. "Please, take that extra step."

While setting her trap, Spies notices a small kitten hiding under the pallet on the pavement. She carefully extracted the black and white fuzzball and placed it inside a cat carrier she had brought with her. The kitten, like many other Spies tries to rescue, may be made ready for adoption at a later time.

If some of the cats Spies catches can be rehabilitated, she will rehabilitate and prepare them for adoption.

With all the work involved in setting traps, transporting cats and preparing cats and kittens for adoption, she is also looking for volunteers.

If people wish to volunteer, would like help sterilizing pets or know of cats which may need to be trapped, Spies is available at Pet Utopia, 278-1253.

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