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There are, if you will, the “cat ladies” of Manteca-Lathrop.
Karen Duke and Melanie Parker of Happy Pet Owners have been taking care of feral cats in nearly 50 colonies in the two communities for more than 15 years. It’s a commitment that gets the volunteers out of bed by 3 o’clock in the morning some days.
They not only feed the feral cats but they go a step further. Upwards of 430 cats are neutered or spayed in Manteca-Lathrop each year to prevent them from reproducing. And, if the kittens or cats are young enough, they work to find loving homes. As of July 1, some 64 cats that would have ended up living on the streets were adopted out to willing homes.
It’s a mission of love that has a strong dose of pragmatism. A feral cat population left unchecked isn’t only a nuisance but it can be ugly for cats that are often forced to scrounge for food,
The contributions the two make not just to cats but to the community as a whole can’t be understated. A typical feral feline can give birth to three litters of kittens a year with an average of four kittens per litter. An independent feral cat typically lives for about two years while feral cats in a colony average about five years. That compares to 15 plus years for a cat with proper care provided by humans. That means every cat they fix given they search out feral colonies means upwards of 60 unwanted kittens aren’t born. Multiple it by 400 cats a year  and the impact of the two women can’t be overstated.
They work with veterinarians that do the surgeries at significantly reduced costs. Even so, it takes money for the surgeries as well as to help buy food.
The group has yard sales to help defray costs. Donations to their non-profit organization though help them tremendously in their efforts to keep the feral cat populations in Manteca and Lathrop in check.
For more information on Happy Pet Owners contact Melanie Parker at 898.6553 or Karen Duke at 858.2124. They also can be reached on Instagram at @happypetowners_501_3c.