Members of Real House Cats of Scripps Ranch at a fundraiser to help Harley and her kittens (courtesy photo)
Operation Harley: Helping a stray cat
Scripps Ranch is home to a myriad of unique personalities: authors, tycoons, mom-and-pop shops, trail blazing entrepreneurs and a cat named Harley.
Harley, a feral female feline, united an entire community that banned together to do what animal lovers do best, which is to take care of their four-legged friends when they need help.
Harley had no idea she was going to cause such a fuss, or that her adventurous nature would make her the talk of the town and an Internet sensation.
It all started when this sneaky cat snuck into JL Nuss’s backyard searching for a snack.
“One day we saw a very skinny cat eating some cake crumbs we left in our yard for the birds,” J.L. Nuss said. “We named her Harley for Harlequin and began feeding her. She very quickly put on a lot of weight.”
Harley’s weight wasn’t due to a high-carb diet; she was preparing to deliver a litter of little Harleys. Six weeks later the Nuss clan had a handful of newborn kittens running around in their backyard.
“On March 17, Harley delivered her second litter in my backyard, then carried them to my neighbor Sharon’s yard,” Nuss said. “Harley would come and go at-will to visit her kittens, leaving my family in charge of feeding and caring for them.”
The Nuss family wanted to trap Harley and put an end to her wild ways but she was a sly kitty and avoided capture with ease.
“My mother-in-law … asked the Feral Cat Coalition in El Cajon for help,” Nuss said. “They offered us traps but we had to set them up, capture the cats and cart them to El Cajon ourselves. We had no clue how to set a trap.”
Trying to wrangle a mob of curious cats and a very street-smart momma cat was not an easy task. To make matters worse, Harley showed up with another tummy full of fun that she again deposited in Nuss’s backyard.
With a brood of six new baby kittens to deal with, the cat-friendly Nuss family was in way over their heads and needed help. Sometimes help can be just around the corner, or in this case, a grocery store checkout line.
While shopping, Nuss’s mother-in-law dropped a case of water. Customers Mitzi and Keith Reel came to her assistance. Mitzi, a cat person, noticed the woman was wearing a scarf adorned with kittens. A conversation ensued about Harley that resulted in the Reels jumping on the Harley bandwagon. They were members of the Real House Cats of Scripps Ranch Facebook page, and with a few strokes of the keyboard, Operation Harley was born.
“Once Mitzi and Keith got our story on the Real House Cats (page) things began to snowball,” Nuss said. “The entire community of the Real House Cats in Scripps stepped forward. Total strangers began dropping off donations of money, cat food, litter, formula, cat toys, cat beds and blankets.”
Nuss also needed someone to be foster parents for the kittens. In little time, Jennifer Ott-Rol and family volunteered to take on the task.
“Jennifer and her husband took all five cats and fostered them for two months … we got them all adopted except for the two they kept,” Nuss said. “We also got The Kitten Lady (a TV Personality) involved. She got us in touch with Val from the Rescue House.”
The Rescue House began setting up traps, and although it took time, Harley was eventually caught and fixed so her days of having kittens were put to an end.
Harley and her adopted kittens continue to be celebrities thanks to daily posts on the Real House Cats of Scripps Ranch Facebook page.
Harley’s story could have been a catastrophe. But thanks to J.L. and her animal friendly neighbors, it all ended purrrrrrfectly.