South Ogden woman, ‘just an animal lover,’ puts focus on aiding feral cats
SOUTH OGDEN — Karol Johnson has a soft spot for cats, particularly homeless, feral cats.
“Just an animal lover,” she said.
But her affection goes beyond exhortations of how cute felines are. For 10 years or so, she’s taken on a role as a protector of cats, assisting others around Weber County and beyond while contending with abandoned cats and feral cat colonies.
It’s not about adopting the cats, though plenty have passed through her South Ogden home as she’s sought to place those socialized to human contact. Rather, she focuses on spaying and neutering the cats that are more wild and untamed to keep their populations in check, aiming to fend off those who might otherwise euthanize the critters.
“My main focus is just the ones that are out on the street and they don’t have homes,” she said. “I just help people get them fixed.”
It’s not just a passing hobby– more of a passion or calling. She figures she’s aided “thousands” of cats over the years, networking with area veterinarians for help and support when possible and also reaching into her own pocket when needed.
“I could probably have another house if it weren’t for the cats. It really is very expensive,” said Johnson, a mortgage broker when not aiding the animals.
Indeed, she’s become a go-to person for people not sure what to do with feral cats in their midst. She’s helped with colonies outside an auto parts store, a beauty salon and much, much more. “People just know this is what I do and they reach out for help,” she said.
The Weber County Animal Shelter, apart from temporarily housing and helping place socialized cats in permanent homes, will provide vouchers to spay and neuter up to 10 feral cats a week. The shelter, though, can’t house feral cats given their unsocialized nature. “It’s very limited what we can do,” said Amparo Gutierrez, the shelter supervisor.
There are also groups like Best Friends, a nonprofit that operates animal sanctuaries, provides spaying and neutering services and more. Johnson touts the organization and its offerings, but the need for help always seems to outpace what the animal shelter, Best Friends and other groups can offer.
Kristan Kap of Ogden, for one, sought Johnson’s help. The backyard of her stepmother’s Ogden home, little by little, has become home to a feral cat colony and Kap needed help keeping control of the expanding number of felines.
“We kept getting more cats and more cats and more cats because they weren’t fixed. I couldn’t get anybody to help me,” Kap said.
Kap’s veterinarian referred her to Johnson and Johnson came to the rescue, helping find homes for the kittens and arranging for the older cats, a dozen or so, to get fixed.
“I think she is amazing,” Kap said. “What she did, what she’s willing to do — it’s all about the cats for her.”
Johnson prescribes to the trap-neuter-return approach in dealing with feral cats. She’ll trap them, find a veterinarian who can fix them and then return the animals to where they were living. They won’t reproduce and eventually their numbers will dwindle as the animals naturally die off.
It’s more humane, Johnson maintains, and the cats — though some may regard them as a nuisance — serve a purpose. They keep other animals like raccoons and skunks out of neighborhoods and help control mice. “The cats are good thing… They actually do have a function in the community,” Johnson said.
For Kap, it’s about the critters themselves.
“They’re just innocent animals,” she said. Kap helped build a shelter outside her stepmom’s home for the feral cats, where they sleep at night. She also visits each day to set out food for the animals, though skittish of humans she has built a rapport with some of them.
All in all, it can be daunting work. Johnson also steps in to help when she hears of abused cats, like a kitten recently discovered in a convenience store dumpster, alive but severely injured after apparently being used as bait by someone training their dog to be aggressive.
“I get burned out and I can’t do it anymore,” she said. “Then people reach out with these stories and I can’t say no.”
Thus, she keeps at it, aiming to help the feral cat community one colony at a time. In fact, not long after she helped Kap, someone else reached out, seeking assistance with a colony of approximately 50 to 75 feral cats.
“I just do my own thing,” Johnson said.