What Do You Do When You Inherit 18 Cats?
I’m not that crazy cat woman. Even if every cat in Queens says I am… I have (excuse me, had) two cats. Just enough to drain my pocket book, just too much for my asthma — just enough.
Until the horrible day in May 2009 when my mother, Dottie, passed away, and I inherited her falling down house and somewhere in the area of 18-22 cats: two indoor girls that my Aunt Betty thankfully took home with her,and +/-18 ferals in the yard that Mom had (reluctantly) inherited several years before from an elderly neighbor who passed.
With chronic cat-allergic asthma, a freelance artist’s income ($0), and the sands racing through the hourglass of my life (leaving ZERO time for the art which is my calling), I am the least suitable person on earth to inherit this menagerie. And the weight of the responsibility, on top of the crushing grief of my mother’s death, then my father’s death a few short months later, was asphyxiating.
Any sane person in my shoes would sell the house immediately, pocket the money and run away to the Caymans. But the only interest I would have gotten in that old pit would have been from developers who would tear it down. Which would have been fine with me. Except….
This Was My Mother’s Dying Wish
…. what about the cats? My mother’s dying wish was that they be taken care of. Her yard is their home. Most of them were born there. It’s the only place they know. They’ve eaten every meal of their lives on her back step. They’ve never had to fend for themselves. Some of them have never been out of the yard. Their “habitat,” if you can call it that, has already shrunk (on account of the encroaching development) from all the connecting backyards on our block a few years ago, to only five. The house directly next door to mine went to developers last year, and what was previously a single family home with a yard full of tulips is now a 4-story building that extends all the way to the back property line, cutting the continuous yard space in half.
A sale of my house (which is the heart and hearth of their turf) to anyone would cost these cats their way of life. Sale to a developer, and the bedlam of demolition, would drive them into the street where they would encounter…who knows what. A shattering ordeal at best, +/- 18 tragedies at worst.
Within a few disheartening phone calls I was completely disabused of any notions of cat relocation. Every agency you think would handle a feral cat relocation, doesn’t. Adoption is impossible. They’re feral. Or, more accurately, just feral enough to be unadoptable, just tame enough to be dependant. A very unfortunate combination for them.
I Can’t Turn My Back on Them
I see their sweet faces out there, the grass up to their noses on a summer day, or sprinting through the snow in January. I’m not that crazy cat lady. But neither am I the monster that’s going to turn their world upside down, toss them out to a cruel, unknown fate in the street.
I had a local TNR group come out and help me trap, neuter and spay all the cats (well, not all the cats – we can’t catch Bangs). And I bought them three insulated shelters for the harsh days of winter.
With the small amount of money Mom left, I did a minor renovation of the house. Until the miracle that rescues us, I am operating the house as a short-term vacation rental. Dottie Jane’s NYC Vacation Rental opened for business in June 2010. It is NYC’s first cat-centric vacation rental house. It’s mission: No Cat Left Behind. We’ve earned multiple five-star ratings on TripAdvisor.com and HomeAway.com, and I am routinely complimented on the stylish renovation and the heartfelt mission. The cats can be seen out back at any time of day, enjoying the sun, peeking out of their insulated shelters, having a snack, or chasing leaves.
But there are constant threats from the development next door. A few of our cats have gone missing. Garnet turned up with a broken leg. Little Cindy is always sick. I worry about them constantly. And I’m physically exhausted. I live on pills and puffers. And while the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons have been booked solid at the house, the Winters are consistently barren.
From November through March, I chew my nails to the quick and spin my wheels in an endless, sleepless loop of worry: Where is the money going to come from? How am I going to pay the mortgage? I should sell before I lose everything. Will I ever be able to work? What am I going to do with all these cats?
I can’t do this indefinitely. They need to be rescued. I need to be rescued. They need to be relocated to a sanctuary that’s safe for cats with kind people who can give them what I can’t. In the meantime, they need to eat. (There is a “chip-in” for the cats here)