Their SUVs prowl the streets in the most merciless neighborhoods, headlights challenging midnight’s shadows. With hardened non-chalance one of them points out police tape. “I trapped a cat here—2 days ago. 24 hours later a man was shot here—execution style.”
Her cell phone rings. “We have to meet Maria at the cemetery. That’s a bad place in a much worse neighborhood than this. I don’t know what she’s doing trapping there.” My companion, Alyssa pauses to laugh. “Oh yeah—there are cats there. I’m going to have to look at the map to figure out how to get there.”
These brave ladies trap cats and then bring them to Animal Rescue New Orleans. ARNO takes them to the vet to be vaccinated, tested, and fixed. If the cat is ill, ARNO keeps the cat until it is healthy. If there is any sign that the cat may be socialized, ARNO will keep it for that too. Otherwise, the cat is returned to its trapping location and a feeding station is established.
Are these women somehow blessed or granted immunity to the violence that pervades the neighborhoods where they trap?
A year ago in Los Angeles, a grey-haired woman set a trap behind a liquor store. When she returned to check the trap, she happened upon a drug deal. The men pointed their guns at her, enraged by her boldness. She calmly explained that she was helping the numerous cats and showed the men her cat-filled traps. Jovially, they put away the guns and helped carry the traps to her car.
On the other hand, at about the same time in Long Beach, a man was shot and killed after many venomous threats warning him to stop feeding the neighborhood ferals.
“Its been fine in New Orleans. People had been very supportive of our efforts on behalf of the cats,” says Susan, one of the volunteers that cruise desolate areas, looking for cats, setting up feeding stations, keeping them loaded with water and food, and alerting trappers for TNR.
“But the attitudes started changing a couple of months ago. People have started blaming us for the rats . They say the food is attracting them. One man screamed at us.”: Susan points to her feeding partner, Theresa, a cancer patient currently undergoing Chemo, who insists on helping the cats no matter how poorly she feels. “The man was in such a rage that we thought he was going to attack us—screaming about rats and his house and the cats and the state of the city. We just picked up our feeding trays and got out of there.”
As I visited trapping sites in East New Orleans with Alysa, we trespassed on one abandoned property after another. I am astounded that these places aren’t over run with rats. It must be the proliferation of cats that keeps the rodents in check. And there are a lot of cats.
We set this trap inside of an abandoned, gutted house, trying to catch a mother and her four kittens who are living under the house.
This is the outside view of that house. Driving through these neighborhoods, at first I didn't realize the houses were abandoned--but you'll note that the doors are missing, a 0 is spray painted on the exterior wall indicating that there were no dead found inside.
This house actually burnt down before the flooding. There are several cats living in the ruins. Neighbors put out cans of cat food (you can see the refuse) a 13 year old girl from the neighboorhood is helping Alyssa with the trapping.
This tuxedo Tom was trapped at the burnt out house. The night before Allysa had trapped his companion, a female. When she returned, he was standing guard by the cage. Both cats are sick and will be treated at ARNO.
This house hasn't changed much since the storm, still full of refuse. About 25 cats have taken up residence there. The neighbors are feeding them and helping with trapping and neutering efforts.
This orange tabby was caught by the neighbors at the house pictured above.
Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.