SUSSEX-Thanks to the efforts of a local couple and the cat adoption group they founded in April, over three dozen former strays now have found "purr"-fect new homes. The group known as C.L.A.W.S., or Cat Lovers Adopt Wantage-Sussex, recently held their first public adoption day at Farmside Supply in Sussex. More than a few shoppers left the store on Saturday with new cats in addition to their pet supply purchases. By mid-day on Saturday, the C.L.A.W.S. volunteers had placed two adult cats and six kittens with local families. All cats offered for adoption had been vaccinated, tested for feline diseases, and socialized by volunteers. Adoptive families must have the cat spayed or neutered and provide proof to finalize the adoption. The adoption effort is the "pet" project of Sussex residents Laurie and Stan Walsh of Clove Avenue. The couple were concerned with what they called, "a dramatic increase in the feral cat population," in the Sussex area. They were also angered by some horrific acts of animal cruelty directed at the strays. Their efforts began informally, when the couple began feeding a few strays in downtown Sussex. They then began trapping the cats and taking them to a veterinarian, who would vaccinate the cats, spay or neuter them and address any medical needs. "We thought this was great and would solve the problem of them populating," Laurie Walsh said. "The sick or injured would have a chance to survive. "Although it did help those ones, the number of cats started to increase," Walsh said. "I guess the word got out in the cat population that there was free food for all. We had a couple show up pregnant, and we were able to obtain the mothers, have them spayed, adopt out a couple of kittens, and keep a few in their home." After the Walsh's Clove Lake home had absorbed eleven house cats, the couple decided a better solution had to be created. Thus C.L.A.W.S. was launched. The response from the public and business community was instant and extensive, Laurie Walsh said. "The response has been great," she said, noting that following a previous article in The Advertiser-News, "our driveway was filled with food, litter, towels, and other items," all dropped off by caring local residents. That article also led several new volunteers to the group. Walsh said that the group also had a huge response in terms of "surrenders." The group now has a waiting list for people who are hoping to turn in stray or unwanted pets. In addition, the group is now working with the Wantage Township Pound to take in cats that are slated for euthanasia. So far, they have saved eleven shelter cats. The group is also working on a "barn cat" program through which strays that are not be suited to being house cats are adopted by local farms in need of mousers. Like all the cats offered for adoption by C.L.A.W.S, the barn cats are vaccinated, neutered, and tested for feline FIV-FLV viruses. Walsh said the group is always in need of food, litter, paper towels, and other basic supplies and also needs financial contributions to pay medical expenses. Volunteers are also needed and welcomed, Walsh said. To contact C.L.A.W.S., call Laurie Walsh at (973) 875-8540.