Humans aren’t the only population of homeless in need of help in the local area. Feral Cat Caretaker’s Coalition is trying to raise awareness and funding to take on the burgeoning population of homeless felines with a five-mile walk-a-thon fundraiser in Venice.

“Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” a walk-a-thon benefiting homeless cats and kittens, begins registration at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, October 23rd, at Venice Beach, Rose Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, Venice.

At 10:30 a.m., a five-mile walk will begin from the meeting point and will proceed down Ocean Front Walk to the Santa Monica Pier and back.

There is no charge to participate in the walk, but participants are asked to raise pledges in advance.

The walk is in honor of National Feral Cat Day.

The funds raised go to the Feral Cat Caretakers Coalition, a group started in 2000 that provides ongoing education and workshops to train people to humanely care for colonies of homeless cats and kittens in local neighborhoods.

The group teaches the TNR (trap, neuter and return) method of helping to control the ballooning feral cat population.

There are an estimated one million to two million feral cats in the Los Angeles area, says Lauren Laster, vice-president of the Feral Cat Caretaker’s Alliance.

According to the Feral Cat Caretakers Coalition, 90 percent of all kittens are born to feral/ stray mother cats, with a mortality rate of 50 percent. These cats often suffer malnutrition, abuse and neglect. Thousands die from accidents, disease, starvation or euthanasia in shelters.

Left uncared for, feral cats are susceptible to viral infections like FIV (the feline equivalent of HIV), they often contract mange (mites that eat away at the skin), and many become road kill on the busy urban streets, says Laster.

Oftentimes tomcats will fight with each other, resulting in untreated, infected wounds that will eventually result in death.

Feral Cat Caretakers Coalition is also an advocate for the rights of caretakers when confronted by angry neighbors, says Laster.

“Many times, caretakers encounter neighbors who don’t like the fact that they are feeding stray cats. Some go as far as to bait and lure the cats to their lawn, trap the cats and send the cats off to be euthanized by local animal control,” says Laster.

Being a volunteer caretaker for feral cats is no easy task and often people’s desire to help exceeds their time and ability to care for the cats. Some would-be caretakers become overwhelmed, says Laster. Usually, the costs of caring for feral cats is unsubsidized and paid for solely by the volunteer caretaker. Costs include spaying/neutering, vaccinations and food.

Laster cites the nonprofit Best Friends Catnippers as a good resource for assistance in caring for feral cats, and they provide coupons and vouchers to caretakers.

Laster says she has set up a shelter in an alleyway and has maintained a managed colony of cats for about the last seven years.

Caring for feral cats is a daily commitment, and caretakers can run into various obstacles.

“Once I found a homeless person sleeping in the shelter,” Laster says. “I left him $10 in an envelope and asked him to please find somewhere else to stay.”

Many times the food left out for the cats is shared with other wild nocturnal dwellers — but not rats, for they wouldn’t dare roam anywhere near the cats — but opossums are common, says Laster.

Some caretakers make indoor cats of the feral cats, which takes a length of time before trust is established and the cats become more approachable and domesticate.

What drives people to spend so much time and money on the strays? “We’re just trying to do what any kind person would do,” says Laster.

Information, (310) 820-4122.