By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Last month, millions of people were amazed when they learned that a California tabby named Tara selflessly rescued her owners” 4-year-old by chasing away the dog that was attacking him. Lisa Padula, a veterinary technician, wasn's surprised at all.
“All cats can be very territorial and protective of their families,” she said.
Padula's love of cats and knowledge of feline behavior has not only enriched her life, but the lives of others as well – both two- and four-legged.
Padula, who lives in Marlborough with her husband Paul and their six originally feral cats, has loved felines since she was a child. For most of her life, this love has inspired her to study the behavior of both feral and domesticated cats.
“Most likely, I could tally up years of what I call field knowledge,” she said. “Just sitting in the woods, and having a passion to understand them. Also helps to have a can of tuna or sardines handy!”
A member, along with Paul, of the Feline Conservation Federation for more than 25 years, Padula's fascination with cats has led to a number of opportunities. When she started volunteering at Compassion Veterinary Clinic in Marlborough in 1998, she had no idea that her work with animals would be so successful that she would be offered a job three months later.
Known for her insights into cat behavior, she's been working there ever since. Padula has also written articles concerning wildcat husbandry, and has worked with Jungle Encounters, an organization involved with wildcat conservation and education.
“It is a rewarding experience to do what one loves, and enjoy doing it,” Padula said. “Healing animals, emotionally and physically, has a profound impact on one's life. It is also rewarding to help clients to have a better understanding and relationship with their animal companions.”
For those interested in adopting a feral, semi-feral or stray cat, Padula wants them to know the difference between each one. While all are domestic cats, strays were born and raised in households, but are now lost or abandoned. Semi-feral cats are lost or abandoned felines that lived in households once, but have learned to survive outdoors. Like strays, they “can usually be socialized to live with people they trust,” Padula said. Feral cats, however, were born in the wild, generally avoid people, and stay out of sight during the day. Padula advises “adopting a well-socialized feral kitten from local cat rescue groups is helpful. Adult feral cat behaviors can be quite intense, and difficult for most to tolerate.”
In the future, Padula dreams of running her own cat sanctuary.
“It would be wonderful to have a facility with a natural setting for small exotic cats, too old to be on exhibit or be used for educational purposes any longer,” she explained. “A quiet safe place where they can live out their lives with grace and dignity. They would be lovingly cared for by veterinary professionals and students who wish to learn more about small exotic cats.”
Meanwhile, Padula continues doing what she loves – helping cats. For this, many pet parents and their furry friends are very grateful.