by Patricia Saik
If you are feeding a feral cat or a colony of ferals, Jen Aiken is the person to contact for help. Jen, a 4th Ward resident who lives on Ballentine Street, volunteers her services and knowledge to 4th Ward neighbors with help in stabilizing a colony of feral cats.
Jen, along with women like Yvonne Segrave and Katherine Wilson, all members of Friends of the Animal Shelter, are committed volunteers in helping to improve the lives of cats who live in the wild. FRIENDS is a local nonprofit organization with a mission not only to support the Waveland Shelter, but to encourage spay and neuter of dogs and cats. For Jen’s help, call FRIENDS at 228.216.PETS (7387), and calls will be referred to her.
Jen is a storehouse of knowledge and can provide helpful information to caring folks who don’t know what to do when stray or feral cats live nearby their home . With feral cats, a major problem is created when breeding can continue and the colony grows and grows and grows. The answer to this problem is a program called “Trap, Neuter, Return.” Using “Have a Heart” traps, wild cats are trapped, taken to a vet for spay or neuter, and then returned to the place where the cat lives. Over time, as more and more cats go through this process, the colony stabilizes or even grows smaller. The only thing now needed is a kind neighbor or neighbors willing to feed the cats on a daily basis.
If a feral cat has kittens, the kittens are taken into the shelter or a foster home to be cared for and socialized until the kittens are old enough for adoption. A difficult but satisfying experience, very young kittens require around the clock attention. Jen often fosters litters of kittens that need this kind of care until the kittens have gotten out of the danger zone. Not only Jen, but FRIENDS members Prima Luke and Mickey Evans know the ropes when it comes to being a foster parent.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Jen found Bay Saint Louis in the summer of 2004, when she relocated from Canada to accept a position at Stennis. Jen works as a cartographer or oceanographer, charting near-shore waters for the United States Army and Navy and identifying areas of wetland for governmental, national and international organizations.
Looking for a place to live in Bay Saint Louis, Jen found herself attracted to the Depot District and surrounding neighborhood, the section many in Bay Saint Louis know as “Back of Town.” She liked the feel of the neighborhood, declaring it “a good place to turn 40.”
Having never been exposed to the threat of hurricanes until she moved to Bay Saint Louis, she said it took her awhile to figure out what was going on when Hurricane Ivan threatened destruction in 2004 and she heard people asking each other, “And where are you going to evacuate?”
The next year brought Hurricane Katrina. In the process of slamming widely and deeply all along the coast, Katrina destroyed Jen’s home on Ballentine Street and so many homes of her neighbors and friends. Undaunted, Jen wanted to stay “because of the people. I love this place. I couldn’t imagine abandoning this community after the storm.”
Others in the neighborhood stayed too, managing those dark days after Katrina by helping each other. The comradeship helped make life bearable. One friend had a working shower where Jen and other women of the storm could clean up after a hot day of backbreaking work. The friend with the shower, who had a family home located outside the destruction, said with deadpan wit that after the storm “I would have gone to my family’s home but my family is there.”
Since Katrina, Jen has rebuilt her home, happy to have remained in a community she cares about.