In Paris, cast-off felines haunt Les Halles rubble

Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:03am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - In the early hours of the morning, shadowy figures crouch behind the concrete blocks, bulldozers and rubble of one of the biggest building sites in central Paris to set their traps.

The lights from the nearby St. Eustache church cast a yellow glow over the ravaged landscape as the silent trappers place tuna and raw beef inside the wire cages and then step away to wait for the stealthy approach of their prey: feral black cats.

An 800 million euro ($1.01 billion) building project to modernize the ancient Paris market-turned subterranean shopping mall Les Halles has become a breeding colony for unwanted cats, spurring some Parisians into a humane effort to rescue them.

Since 2007, Valerie Massia, founder of the group Chadhal (an abbreviation of "Cats of Les Halles"), has humanely trapped over 100 abandoned and feral cats who prowl behind the overturned earth and "keep out" signs of the project.

Most Parisians don't realize pets are dumped in their city, where the unsterilized continue to breed, and most have no concept of the work involved in rescuing them, said Massia, 49.

A local politician once exclaimed to her that it was "scandalous" that kittens could be found at Les Halles.

"But I told him, it's not me who had the kittens! It's not me who got knocked up by a big black cat!" said Massia, frustrated by those who assume she is a public service.

"But if there's no help coming from the city, when the cats are roaming, they're taken to the pound, and if the benevolent groups don't take them..." she said, her voice trailing off.   Continued...

<p>A view shows heavy construction equipment working at the destruction of the "Forum des Halles" complex near Saint Eustache church in Paris March 17, 2011. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen</p>