I have been a cat lover for as long as I can remember. My mom told me that as a little girl, I preferred playing with cats to dolls. Our family pet Sammy was usually found riding around on my shoulders. As anyone who has been owned by a cat (as the feline sees it!) knows, they have a delightfully persuasive way of making a home in our hearts.
Cats often come to us, and not the other way around. Boo Kitty came to my husband and me after we had been pet sitting for a friend who had her and another cat, but couldn’t take both on the road. A big orange tabby girl, Boo Kitty thought she had it made when she remained with us in Chicago, as she could be a homebody and the sole owner of her people. Boo Kitty was a barely tolerant big sister when Samo first joined our family. And, she was not entirely thrilled for our migration to the east and new home in Brooklyn.
Samo was the first of our black cats. I have a soft spot for black cats as they are often overlooked for adoption. Samo loved to be outside, mixing it up in the neighborhood with the ferals, sometimes getting into scrapes. Sister Boo mostly preferred to be indoors, but on one memorable occasion, went out to defend her little brother against a neighborhood bully.
Today, our hearts are filled by two beautiful black cats, Omar and Julian. While they may be similar in color, in personality, they could not be more different…
This introduction to my own cats serves as preamble to the story I want to share about “my” neighborhood cats. Did you know that there are as many cats living in New York City’s streets as there are in apartments and homes?
In our backyard and the neighboring alley lives a feral colony of 9 cats. They all have names and stories. My neighbor Helen and I maintain outdoor shelters for them, and actively provide for them in any way we can. They, in turn, entertain us with their wild tales (and tails!). When COVID kept us home, the cats were pleased to have our undivided attention.
Helen’s husband Steven produced a documentary called, “The Cat Rescuers.” The film highlights the stories of a few of New York City’s hundreds of volunteers who care for the tens of thousands of feral cats that roam the streets.
In January, a woman named Carrie in Brooklyn reached out to Helen and Steven about a mother cat and five kittens in her back yard. The kittens were six months old -- too old for adoption. It was cold and they didn’t have shelters. One of them was sick. She was looking for help.
As we were all working from home at that time, I was in the right place to lend a hand. Helen let Carrie know that I would come over with some shelters and food.
I went to the house with supplies and found that Carrie and her children had been socializing the kittens without even realizing it. All of their love and attention had helped them adjust and they were much more friendly than typical ferals their age. But, they were struggling with health issues and the weather was deteriorating. We had to figure out how to trap the mom and babies in order to save them.
With help from Helen, we started by trapping Simon (aka Gandalf). He was so sick, he couldn't balance himself walking along a fence in the yard. With coaxing, he walked into the house, and after sitting and talking to him on the floor for about 20 minutes, he curled up in my lap.
For Simon's care, Helen introduced us to Tara Green of Brooklyn Animal Action -- this is an entirely volunteer group of people (kitty heroes!) who help manage feral colonies, find homes for adoptable animals, and engage in advocacy and education for the community. Tara sent us to Brooklyn Veterinary Group, a practice that voluntarily treats street cats at a 50% discount. They had Simon fixed up in no time, healing an upper respiratory infection with antibiotics. Without them, he wouldn't have made it.
Next up, we caught Lou. Faithful Friends neutered Simon and Lou on the same day, and we took them into our home to recover and foster. Typically, feral cats at this age and older are treated as “TNR” (Trap, Neuter, Release). Brooklyn Animal Action facilitates TNRs. We wanted to get these kittens and their mama adopted, but we would need even more help.
Enter yet another hero in this story, Amanda Barstow at Bookstore Cats. Amanda does TNRs and rescues, finding homes for so many beautiful cats with impossibly cute photos and expressive posts that showcase their unique personalities. She stepped up to trap the other cats.
Amanda found homes for Simon and Lou’s brother Emerald, who at first was a little freaked out by the whole experience of moving from back yard, to vet to convalescing with Helen, to brief reunion with his siblings before finding his forever home. JD and Ally were adopted as a bonded pair. And their mom Annie was a “foster fail” -- her fosters fell in love and kept her.
What of Simon and Lou? We had several conversations with Omar and Julian about keeping them -- my husband and I loved them dearly! The happy day for them (and many tears from me) came a few weeks ago, when they were adopted as a bonded pair.
KAL RIEMAN’s "Cashmere for Cats" campaigns have raised funds for Infinite Hope, For Animals Inc., and other local cat rescues for years. But through my experience working with and learning from all of the volunteer rescuers in the last few months, my eyes have been opened to the dire needs of feral cats -- they serve as an essential part of our urban ecosystem. We need to take care of them, so they can take care of us.
In 2020, we donated $12,706 to animal welfare. This year we are aiming for $30,000! When you buy KAL RIEMAN cashmere, essential bottoms and other collections, you will be helping us reach this goal. We thank you for your support!