By Leah Weissman
Pilot staff writer
Because the Curry County Animal Shelter doesn't accept cats due to space and limited resources, a few dedicated Gold Beach residents have created their own cat haven on the north jetty adjacent to the Port of Gold Beach, called the "North Jetty Cats Plus Sanctuary."
About 10 miniature, hand-made houses, big enough to comfortably fit anywhere from one to four felines, cluster along the bank of the jetty with the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge in the background. The wooden structures mimic cottages, castles, fortresses and modern homes all intended as shelter and safe places to eat for the feral cats that are living among the rocks in the jetty.
Ursula Elliot, known by many as The Cat Lady, drives to the sanctuary almost every day to feed her family of wild cats, and to check if there are new additions. If any of the cats are tame, she scoops them up and takes them to her home where she tries to adopt them out.
Currently, her home is owned by 20 cats strutting their stuff across her carpet, furniture and counters.
"I've been feeding the jetty cats since I moved here in 1989, and then started rescuing them about three years later," she said. "It never occurred to me to stop saving them, because people would resort to dumping their unwanted pets some other place."
Elliot and her jetty cat group of about six volunteers maintain the little homes, and through donations and out of their own pockets, try to neuter and spay cats they are able to catch.
Rather than ask for money, Elliot simply sends out a newsletter letting residents and tourists she meets on the jetty know how the cats are doing. Those who want to, send donations to help Elliot pay the vet bills.
"It's setting an example for other communities as well," she said. "I've gotten calls from Eureka from people who want to set up their own village. I had a woman tell me she was going to take some feral cats to the vet to be euthanized, but instead she is going to build them a house. And that's what's most important to me making a difference in the lives of these unwanted cats."
Every Saturday, jetty cat volunteers take the tame cats from Elliot's home and display them for adoption at the Curry County Animal Shelter. Even though it's only one day a week, Elliot said adopting out just one cat is enough.
"I can only do my very best," she said. "I feed them, spay them, treat them and love them. But I can't let them break my heart. I have to save the next cat that comes along. So far, I've rescued about 2,000."
For more information, call Elliot at (541) 247-6747.