Monday, August 8, 2011

Haven for Feral Cats

Though their presence is widespread, feral cats are largely unwelcome in New York City's gardens.

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.

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Written by Amy Sacks
Photo by Sheila Massey


  1. We hope the regulations show an understanding for the good that can come from helping these community cats. So many say "get rid of them" - which is easier said than done and not nearly as effective. Good for this community for standing up!!

  2. We read that! It's so cool that some are getting adopted. Linda says its best to return the cats so that another colony doesn't move it. She's spaying our strays this week.

  3. They're having issues here locally with the community cats in Monessen, PA. The local government wants to trap and euthanize the cats, but Alley Cat Allies is working to educate people on TNR.

  4. Thanks for posting about this issue and the compassionate solutions...