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Catastrophe Is Avoided With a Home for Felines

April 11, 1998|LIZ SEYMOUR

Stevie was born without eyes. Peace's ears were amputated after a bout of skin cancer. Charlie was burned with cigarettes and Ruthie lost all her teeth because she has mouth ulcers.

To ease their various maladies, they are residing in a convalescent home of sorts at 450 Glenneyre St., in a building formerly used as a nursing home. The only difference is that the nursing home was for people; Stevie, Peace, Charlie and Ruthie are cats.

They live with 76 other felines with special needs, and are cared for through the Blue Bell Foundation for Cats.

The foundation's headquarters on Laguna Canyon Road was hit hard by the last El Nino-related storm Feb. 23, and the house was red-tagged as uninhabitable. A landslide destroyed part of the building, including a courtyard. The cats were separated and boarded at animal hospitals and shelters around the county.

As temporary housing, city officials offered the downtown building on Glenneyre, which has been vacant for five years and is slated to be renovated into affordable apartments. The cats and the foundation's staff of four moved in March 21 and will stay about a year.

The move has drawn support from neighbors, who complained to the city that the vacant nursing home was being vandalized by transients. When the cats moved in, staff members found needles, syringes and beer bottles on the property, they said.

"We welcomed them because we knew it would keep the homeless out," said Renae Randle, a resident of the Park Avenue cottages around the corner from the Blue Bell.

The foundation was started by Bertha Yergat, a retired teacher from New Jersey who moved to Laguna Beach in 1960. She began taking in abandoned and ill cats, which once numbered 200. By the time she died in 1989, Yergat's foundation was established so the cats would always receive care. The foundation can care for about 150 cats at a time.

Denette Bass, the director, said the cats have adjusted well to their new surroundings, considering their harrowing escape from the storm. But on Friday, the new place was experiencing some flooding and Bass was determined to fix the problem in a hurry.

"The last thing these cats need to see is more water," Bass said.

To send donations to the Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, call (714) 494-1586.

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