Monday, August 8, 2011
Haven for Feral Cats
That's not the case at the Morris-Jumel Community Garden in Washington Heights, where the welcome mat is always rolled out for the neighborhood's colony of free-roaming cats.
The bucolic garden, located on West 162nd Street across from the historic Morris-Jumel Mansion, boasts two dozen plots where members grow vegetables and flowers and host neighborhood parties around the barbecue pit.
It is also home base for Coco Bean, Betty and Grady Tate, three of the 11 feral cats that make up the Monte Calvario Colony, named for the church next door that allows them to be fed in its parking lot.
In winter, the cats take shelter in Styrofoam boxes that are filled with straw and hidden beneath a tarp in the back of the garden.
The cats earn their keep by steering the rats away.
"The greatest thing is that you can be a cat advocate and a people advocate at the same time," said Sheila Massey, a local resident and member of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative who has been managing the street’s cat colony for the past three years. "By spaying and neutering the cats, they become good citizens."
Under trap-neuter-return (TNR), rescuers can trap feral cats, have them spayed or neutered and return them to the same areas.
Once neutered, the cats protect the community against rats but no longer display nuisance behaviors such as fighting over mates, yowling in heat, rummaging through trash cans, spraying urine and producing multiple litters. Well fed, there is no need for them to scavenge for food.
For the first time, the city plans to issue regulations for TNR programs, which could help reduce the number of feral cats that roam the streets.
Read more: http://nydn.us/mUByzY
Written by Amy Sacks
Photo by Sheila Massey