Feral cats are friends, not pests.

That is the message Anita Peakes and friends are trying to get out. For years, Peakes has been feeding stray cats. It may seem like a bad idea, after all cats may breed more when they are better fed, but Peakes says she sees it in their eyes that she just needs to help.

"They look at me and I can just tell by their eyes which ones need it real bad," Peakes said. "It just makes me feel good that they are at least getting one good meal. There are some signs that say not to feed the animals, but I've got it on higher authority that I'm supposed to. Everywhere I go I seem to attract the animals. I just like taking care of them."

Peakes has a few spots across the Valley she goes to each night to provide the stray cats with dinner. She estimates that there are about 40 cats that show up to be fed.

"Sometimes I feel like the Pied Piper when my car comes in," Peakes said. "They come out from all corners of the parking lot to get some food. There are some regulars that I can pet, but there are some that are too feral that I can't help."

Peakes has thought about trying to capture some and have them spayed or neutered, but because she only goes around once at night it's a big risk to leave a cat in a cage all day long. Instead, she takes care of the ones she can and just feeds the rest.

Recently, one cat was captured that Peakes is determined to find a good home for. She first spotted Ace in the parking garage of Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. Peakes carries cat food in her car so she fed him and he returned the next day, hoping to be fed again.

Eventually, Peakes gained his trust enough to take him home but she quickly learned that though he was lovable with humans, Ace did not trust other cats. So Ace went back to the casino.

One day, as she went to feed him, Peakes heard Ace meowing, but she couldn't spot him. She discovered the sound was coming from a storage space and thought Ace must be trapped under something.

He was trapped, but the casino had done it on purpose after getting a complaint of Ace getting into someone's car. They planned to take him to the pound, but Peakes took him instead.

Because he doesn't get along with other cats Ace has been living at Golden Bird Coins and Jewelry, 3875 W. Ray Road, Suite 11. The owner of the shop, Jay Kristofferson, says he enjoys having Ace around, but he's forced to lock him up at night so he won't set off the alarm at the shop.

"His life is better than what it was," Kristofferson said, "but it's not what it could be."

To take a look at Ace you can visit the antique shop.

Peakes says the biggest way people can help her take care of cats is by taking care of their own, and spaying or neutering to help control the population.

"People move and they just toss them out sometimes and it's so sad," Peakes said. "The average life span of a feral cat is two to three years, where in home they live 10 to 15 years. These cats usually die of disease, or hunger, or getting hit by cars. It's just really hard on them. They're not dangerous. There's no reason to throw things at them or try to hit them with cars. We need to value life."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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