Photo: Susan Richard

How I spent my summer vacation: rescuing the cat on my block

Susan Richard
September 15, 2020 - 10:01 pm
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by Susan Richard

1010 WINS (New York) If truth be told, I haven’t taken an actual vacation since 2007. That was the year I visited my sister for a week in Paris. She lives there. It was fun. There was no carb left behind and I saw the Mona Lisa. The painting was a lot smaller than I expected. She is definitely smiling.

I generally take vacation in individual days, usually to work on a video for my AllForAnimalsTV blog or for an acting role. But this year I decided to take a whole week at once. Between the stress from stay-at-home pandemic life, my cat Louie dying suddenly from complications from lung cancer surgery, and frankly the news (which is enough to make any of us want to crawl under a rock), I needed a break.

It was in May, shortly after Louie died, that my super mentioned a cat he’d spotted outside my building. One of those mega tower apartment buildings is going up two doors down and the cat was seen hanging out at both the construction site and in a courtyard across the street. My super and the doormen next door were feeding the cat, and so I ran upstairs to bring them a case of food to contribute to the cause.  A few days later I saw the cat, a healthy-looking orange boy, and began feeding him daily myself.

Rescuing street cats is not easy. Community cats, as they’re called, can range from feral, to store mousers, to lost or abandoned housecats. Their degree of socialization and adoptability varies per cat.  Feral cats are completely unsocialized and want zero to do with humans.  “Rescuing” them beyond what’s known as TNR (trap-neuter-return) can end with them being euthanized in a shelter. Bodega cats and restaurant mousers can range from completely friendly to indifferent, if they’ve only superficial contact with people. Feral and store cats usually look good.  They’re either being fed by a caretaker or are used to hunting for their food. If you see cat on the street that’s dirty, skinny, and miserable looking, it’s likely a lost or abandoned house cat, who make terrible hunters. In addition, if a cat comes up to you directly seeking attention and meows at you, it’s not a feral.

The orange boy on my block was a mystery. He seemed to be in very good shape and wasn’t put off by humans, but he wasn’t letting anyone touch him. He never hissed and did vocalize, but it seemed to be more of a mating call common to unneutered males.  I named him Goose, after Captain Marvel’s orange cat. My super approved.

I was feeding Goose for about a month when there began to be talk amongst a couple of my neighbors about hatching a rescue plan. I was certainly willing to help but made it clear that I could not end up getting stuck with a feral cat. The block was too busy to TNR him in the same area. If he was feral, he’d need to be relocated, which takes a skilled community cat caretaker to accomplish. You can’t just dump a strange cat into an established colony. That’s a recipe for disaster for said cat.

On the flipside, if he was friendly, he’d need to get along with my three cats, and if not, a foster home or shelter would need to be lined up. There was also the fact that he’d first need to be humanely trapped, which is a project in itself. I wasn’t about to do this all alone.

So, the daily feeding continued.  I actually didn’t see him most days but could tell he’d been eating.

Cut to July, when my neighbor mentioned that there was a long thread about him on the website NextDoor.com. She also said someone had called the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. While I didn’t really want to join yet another social media site, I wanted to know what was going on.  Having blogged about the NYC animal rescue scene for eleven years, I know the folks at NYCFCI. In fact, earlier this year I posted an AllForAnimalsTV video about the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals having transitioned FCI to Bideawee.

I called Kathleen O’Malley, FCI’s Director of Community Cat Education. It turned out she had already driven down my block to assess whether the cat was in immediate danger and needed off the street ASAP.  She and I agreed that he was not. It was warm outside; he was being fed daily and the construction site provided shelter. We did agree, however, that him crossing the street posed a problem, and if he was feral, it would be better to relocate him to a safer area.

I mentioned that I would be off from work the week of August 10th through the 14th and if we could get a plan in place, I would do the trapping.  Both Kathleen and I started making calls. The Humane Society of New York agreed to do the neuter surgery, vaccinations, flea treatment, ear tip and other basic medical.  Kathleen lined up a place for him to stay where she could behavior assess him for several days following surgery. If he was determined to be unadoptable, Mayor’s Alliance President Jane Hoffman secured placement with Rescue Dogs/Rescue Soldiers, a dog rescue in upstate Cherry Valley, New York, which has a managed colony of barn cats on site.  If he was socialized, and it wasn’t a match with my cats, FCI would find a shelter or rescue group to put him up for adoption.

With all that in place, it was all systems go.

So…. What happened? Well, now you need to watch the video to find out! (Hint: Goose has his own website and Instagram.)

Special thanks to the neighborhood folks on NextDoor.com who donated to FCI and HSNY in Goose’s honor, to my neighbor Kim and her dog Izzy for helping trap Goose and to my super Bruce for being such a kind, cool guy.

To learn more about helping Community Cats in your neighborhood, please visit NYCFeralCat.org.