For two years, Opie the cat lived out a content feral life in an industrial lot in Queens, New York City. This bright and curious kitty would start every day by perching on the driver’s seat of a tractor parked in the complex, before hopping down to meet the elderly caretaker who came by to feed Opie and his colony pals. The cats picked up names like Jack Whiskers, Sonny, Ralph, Curly Q, and Google Earth. When the weather turned cold, Opie and his crew would take cozy sanctuary in the insulated shelters their human guardian had constructed for them.
Life on the lot was good — and it was all Opie and his crew knew.
That changed this fall when the lot’s managers decided that Opie’s clowder was no longer welcome. The shelters were thrown out, and a new rule banned the feeding of cats on the lot. Despite their caretaker attempting to sneak in meals, the coming winter weather meant the colony’s very existence was about to end in the cruelest fashion.
As the days passed by, the caretaker became increasingly worried that action might be taken against him if he continued to help out Opie, a situation exacerbated with his upcoming retirement. Thankfully, as he noticed the cats becoming visibly thinner, he decided to put in a call to Neighborhood Cats, a rescue organization that specializes in feral kitties and the trap-neuter-release (TNR) method.
Susan Richmond from Neighborhood Cats recalls Opie’s situation in bleak terms: “With their health deteriorating and winter not far off, the weakened cats faced the prospect of trying to survive freezing temperatures by huddling under the facility’s larger vehicles or heavy machinery.”
As Neighborhood Cats plotted a TNR mission to rescue Opie and his cohorts, it set up an online fundraiser in a bid to raise $5,000 to help out with costs.
On a practical level, Susan says the industrial environment of the lot made trapping the cats tricky. Listing some of the obstacles, she reels off “the presence of large moving vehicles and heavy machinery, spilled chemicals, off-limits areas, hostile personnel, and adjacent hazards — the complex is bordered by heavily trafficked roads and a waterway that floods when it rains.”
To that end, forward planning became key, and the group scheduled the trapping expedition for a weekend, a time when few workers were present on site. Saturday’s session was a success, with Susan adding that the “stragglers” were trapped early on Sunday.
“Within a span of about 36 hours, the entire colony had left the lot behind forever,” she says, before adding that Opie’s clique all received full examinations, spaying or neutering, and rabies vaccinations. (A couple of kitties with decaying teeth were also treated to dental visits.)
The rescue mission to move and rehouse an entire colony of cats was a success.
“Good food served up daily and warm beds are working wonders for Opie, Ralphie, Jack Whiskers, and the rest of the kitties,” confirms Susan. While she says that the cats’ safety and the privacy of their new caregivers means she cannot detail their new mailing address, she can confirm that they’re enjoying the bucolic life in a “country home a few hours from New York City,” where they have access to both outdoor space and warm shelter.
“Since the colony was able to stay together,” she says, “they also have the comfort of being with old friends as they start their happy, new lives.”
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