Lynn Chadwick, a volunteer with Second Chance Pet Adoptions, puts food out for cats at several locations in Huntington Beach. (SCOTT SMELTZER / February 1, 2013)

Orange County Animal Care director Ryan Drabek supports the practice, and said the county used to have a voucher program run through the Orange County Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in which just under 400 cats were spayed or neutered and in the first year there were 1,000 fewer cats brought to the county shelter.

"It is vital as a program to reduce the stray cat and feral cat population," Drabek said.

But the program ended in 2009 after a year. He said he knows the practice still exists through volunteers and the help of some vets but hopes to reestablish a program at the county — especially for the benefit of the wilder bunch and the unwanted litter of kittens.

"We receive feral cats all year and because we can't adopt them out they are all euthanized," he said.

Sometimes these feeders and trappers find a cat that isn't feral, just stray, and that's when the kitty really gets a second chance. After the trip to the vet, they get a chip put in them and the search for a new home begins.

Many of these people are part of rescue groups like Second Chance Pet Adoptions or Bark and Meow, both based in Huntington Beach. These groups foster cats, place them at area pet stores for adoption and hold weekend adoption events.

The adoptable cats are mostly brought to PetCo and PetSmart and are held in the back of the stores until the adoption weekends. They are adopted out usually for around a $100 to $150 fee.

Chadwick works with Second Chance Adoptions and said a lot of people call her because they get her name from different websites and from Second Chance.

"I used to be able to find homes for most of the adoptable cats but that was before the economy tanked," she said.

She said in the past four or five years she has seen more cats being dumped and it has been harder to find forever homes.

"It was more under control before," she said.

These volunteers often try to care for cats and small dogs in another way as well by sending out warnings to anyone who will listen to keep their small pets safe from the coyotes roaming the streets.

Chadwick puts up signs to warn of the wild animals and stops people in the street or knocks on doors at houses with a cat roaming free. She warns that though it hardly looks like the great outdoors, the coyotes find their way to the residential neighborhoods and snatch cats left outside.

She focuses on the area around Delaware Street and Utica Avenue. As she drives up the neighborhood streets she can point out the many places where the cats used to live and when she found out they had gone missing.

The city considered an ordinance to trap and kill the coyotes at its Nov. 20 meeting, but voted instead to educate the public about the dangers. A pamphlet was mailed out with residents' water bills at the end of last year.

Huntington Beach resident Susan Lipman feeds the cats and worries about the coyotes. She said the pamphlet was fine, but will not take care of the problem.

"The coyotes are becoming more and more aggressive and pretty soon even hazing isn't going to deter them," she said in an email.

"I can name person after person whose indoor cat got out accidentally and then was found torn to shreds — people out walking  their dogs who have been approached by packs of five coyotes. Nowadays, I cannot attend any social function or volunteer event where someone isn't talking about the coyote problem in H.B.," Lipman said.

Lipman said the trap, neuter, return practice would be good for decreasing the coyote population too.

"If nothing is done, five years from now it will be so out of control that they will be walking the streets downtown," she said.