Cat haven, or cat nuisance? You decide

One of the 22 cats in Kathy Perket's backyard enclosure. »Play Video
One of the 22 cats in Kathy Perket's backyard enclosure.

LONGVIEW, Wash. – It's not what you would expect in someone's backyard... It looks like something you would see at a zoo yet it's just off of a Longview woman's home.

Behind the two doors of an air-locked gate is the cat enclosure Kathy Perket and her son built in 2008. Inside is 22 fenced-in felines, all living in a hand-made reserve.

Some neighbors, though, say it's a nuisance. Since Humane Society workers say there is no city code limiting the number of cats someone can own, those neighbors are trying to get city laws changed.

"This was a big family when we rescued them from my son's property - when he had to leave because of health reasons," Perket said, "and I could not break up the family."

The cats roam through tall grass, weave through a maze of driftwood and pounce on a jungle-gym-like playground before heading to their kitty bunk beds.

Inside "there's food and water; there's a heat lamp for the winter time and a fan and windows for the summer," Perket said. Outside "the cats climb and have fun and play."

Under a canopy of shade and chicken wiring there is even security from raccoons.

"I hung the bells here thinking when [raccoons] get on here it'll start ringing," she said. That way, the bells will frighten away the cat's food predators.

Covered below are rows of litter boxes, which Perket says she cleans daily.

However, her Longview neighbors say the smell seeps out.

"My vegetable garden has gone to the weeds because I can't work out there," says Emilew Boe. She and other neighbors told us off camera that some of the cats are causing other problems.

"I'm going out every morning with my rake, cleaning up the feces," Boe claims.

So they complained. However, they soon learned there are no laws in Longview limiting the number of cats someone owns.

With "the lack of the law right now," Boe said, "she could have 150 cats over there."

One neighbor told me she doesn't want the cats removed necessarily, she just wants an ordinance. That's why they have asked city councilors to adopt an ordinance, requiring owners of 10 or more dogs or cats to get a kennel license.

That would mean inspections and regulations on how close kennels can be built from neighboring properties. That's something that would likely change what Perket has spent three summers building.

"It's my life's work; it's my life's passion," Perket said. "It's what I've chosen to do with the money I have and life I have left. It belongs to the cats."

A number of neighbors wouldn't talk on camera but they all said this is a nuisance.

An inspector did visit Perket's enclosure after the neighbors went to the city council meeting. However, the cats are clean, vaccinated, spayed and neutered.

If this ordinance passes, Perket said she would welcome any future inspections.

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