Posted tagged ‘feral cats’

Feral Cats of Riverside Park

November 12, 2012

Feral cats live in urban parks throughout New York City.  Yesterday I went looking for Riverside Park’s small feral cat colony to see how they had weathered Hurricane Sandy and last week’s Nor’easter.

First I spotted evidence that the cats’ caretakers were still on the job.

Of course, Riverside Park is home to a few other animal species who may happily partake of whatever food and water is put out for the cats. The food bowl was empty, and the water bowl was spilled. Hmm. Could be the work of the local raccoon family, although I haven’t seen them around much lately.

But who’s that behind prison bars?

Let’s draw a little closer.

Beautiful.

After a couple of minutes, the tortoiseshell cat disappeared into the dark recesses behind it, and its amber stare was replaced by this pale green stare.

So as far as I can tell, the cats are fine.

Dealing with feral cat colonies is a complex ecological and moral issue. For more on NYC’s feral cats and the Trap-Neuter-Release program that sustains them, visit Lives of City Cats: The Working and the Feral.

Lives of City Cats: The Working and the Feral

February 13, 2012

Once upon a time, cats were common fixtures in NYC stores, greeting customers in the doorway of the fishmonger or lounging in a patch of sunlight among resoled boots in the display window of the shoe repair store. The corner deli, the candy store, and the Chinese laundry – Manhattan’s equivalent to the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker – each had a resident feline.

They weren’t pets, these cats. They were working animals, who paid for their room and board by working nights in rodent control, and days in customer development, allowing people like me to scratch their ears.

Several cats still work my stretch of Broadway. Most impressive is the fine, fat beast attached to Samad’s Gourmet between 111th and 112th Street. Friendly and self-assured, the cat loafs outside the store in fine weather, and has been seen trundling into neighboring shops, just to say hello.  On a mild January day, it helped out in the sales department of the neighborhood vintage record seller.

Would you buy a used record from the cat?

But not all neighborhood cats are living the good life of Samad’s cat.

Ten days ago, I encountered this black cat on the retaining wall of Riverside Park.

Maybe the cat is on the lam from a nearby apartment. Or maybe it’s a member of Riverside Park’s small feral cat colony, which shares an indoor space with the occasional homeless person.

Riverside Park cat colony. Photo from April 2010.

Volunteers have trapped each animal, and taken it to a veterinarian where it is neutered or spayed before being returned to the park. By preventing the cats from breeding, the proponents of the Trap-Neuter-Return program hope the colony will eventually die out.

Feral cat in Riverside Park, 2010.

Meanwhile the volunteers quietly provide food and water,

Who else eats at this buffet?

and advocate for the protection of the cats.

A hodgepodge of baskets and boxes

I don’t know how many cats are cared for in Riverside Park, although I have never seen more than three.

But surely, as the presence of the black cat on the wall indicates, there will always be a new recruit, whether an unwanted pet dumped in the park, or a runaway in search of greener pastures, finding its way to the easily accessible food and shelter.

Across the country, there is a dawning awareness that domestic cats, both feral and pet, are fierce and effective predators that can have a devastating affect on birds and other wildlife. A recent study cited by the American Bird Conservancy estimates that cats may be responsible for over half a billion bird deaths each year. Approximately half of that astonishing number is attributed to feral cats and the other half – that’s 250,000 dead birds – to pet cats that are allowed outside. Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute told the New York Times in 2011, “Cats are way up there in terms of threats to birds — they are a formidable force in driving out native species.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love cats.

Pudding (1999-2012), an indoor city cat, ponders what to read next.

But if cats are truly an invasive species causing potentially serious harm to the ecosystem, then free-roaming cats raise surprisingly complex and far-reaching questions, among them how to ethically and humanely manage feral cat colonies and even our own pet cats.

Feral cats are found all over New York City in parks, parking lots and alleys between buildings.

A small colony lives in Morningside Park. With its population of ground-nesting birds, its rough terrain and bushy undergrowth, Morningside is well-suited to the little feline predators.

White cat soaks up some rays on a mild January day in Morningside Park.

On Randall’s Island, in the shadow of the Triborough – er, I mean, the RFK – Bridge, a marmalade kitten stretches,

while its sibling, or friend, keeps pale green watch on passing humans.

Two grown cats groom and watch the world go by from an East Harlem lot,

while a few blocks away, on a rare grassy patch, two kittens hone their predatory skills with a game of hunter-and-prey.

Readers, I welcome your thoughts on cats, both feral and pet.

Cluster Walk in Riverside Park

October 6, 2010

 

Walking in Riverside Park, Esau and I sometimes see things in clusters.

Here, for example, is a fungi cluster:

Shroom Cluster

And here is an acorn cluster:

Squirrel's stash, exposed

And look out, Houston, here is the Mother of all Burrs:

Freaking scary cluster burr

Animals too come in clusters.

Cluster o' cats

These cats belong to Riverside Park’s tiny feral cat population. According to volunteers who care for them, they have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated.

Bowl cluster with cluster o' cats

The cats come and go freely through the bars that protect them from human intruders.  They share their shelter with a homeless woman.  I wonder if they share their food and water with Riverside’s raccoons.  (Yeah, let’s hope those pretty kitties got their rabies shots.)

Other species also gather in clusters, including sparrows …

Sparrows beneath Riverside Park bird feeders

squirrels

Members of large squirrel cluster

… and, up on Riverside Drive, humans.

A small cluster of street artists takes a break from their chalky labors.

Isaac Brune (above, in the red cap) and friends transformed a stretch of gray cobblestones into the Riverside Drive Sidewalk Gallery, where they displayed a cluster of chalk drawings:

Welcome by Isaac Brune

Chalk Faces

"Caution! might smell funny"

Caution: watch out for clusters.


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