Earlier this year, my cartoonist friend Scott Bateman won big money and a cruise on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. When he and his wife Amy returned from wearing mouse ears while riding water slides or whatever it is you do on a Disney cruise, they treated a few of their poor, stressed-out friends to a weekend retreat. Four of us piled into a rental car in Queens on a Friday afternoon and headed upstate to the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, where dozens of sheep, turkeys, goats, and, yes, cats get to live out their lives in peace.
Upon our arrival at the sanctuary bed and breakfast, we were greeted by none other than a snaggletoothed tabby cat named Errol. He’s one of five of the luckiest kitties in New York State – well, seven, if you count mine, who don’t know how good they have it.
Inside the kitchen was a kitty door, with a note indirectly informing us that another cat was soon to come.
Sure enough, Leon came bounding in a few minutes later and hopped up on the kitchen counter to make my acquaintance. As my kitty Carbon will tell you, I’m a bit of a black cat magnet. Leon was not impressed with my kisses, however, and promptly licked them away.
Wandering the farm the next morning, I realized that there are three other cats living in the barns and visitors’ center: Miambi, Giambi, and Pogo. I asked sanctuary founder Jenny Brown to tell me everybody’s stories, and she happily obliged.
“Errol and Leon came from Brooklyn as little kittens after their mother was trapped, neutered, and fostered, along with her four babies,” Brown told me. “After living with my husband and me for a while, they went over to live at the B&B, where they enjoyed visiting frequently.”
Early on Brown decided to allow the cats outdoors to roam around the farm away from the road, since they had 23 acres and were on a quiet street. She said that’s where they “found their joy.”
Living at the B&B, they are trained to come in for dinner at dusk and are locked in, thanks to the “in-only” setting on the cat door. “B&B guests are often delighted to have them sleep on their beds if they leave the door open a crack,” she said. “The cats love the attention, they love each other and they love spending their days in the great outdoors — except in winter and on rainy days.”
As for Pogo, he’s been with them the longest. “He’s the handsome, friendly orange fella,” Brown said. “He came in 2007 from a stray cat colony that was forced to relocate.”
Pogo was scared and untouchable at first but not feral. “It took us awhile, but after several weeks he decided that ear skritches were pretty cool. He has a little nub tail that visitors always ask about, but we have no idea how he lost it, or even if he did lose it and was just born that way,” she said. “Regardless, he wiggles it around when he’s happy to see you.”
“Visitors adore him and some even return, they say, to see him specifically. He loves attention and seeks out loving hands.”
Mother-and-son Miambi and Giambi, however, came from a hoarding case and were completely feral. At first they set them up in a pen in the pig barn, surrounded by six-foot-high fencing. They stayed there a week to find their bearings and to learn that’s where their meals would be served.
“Giambi was less than a year old, so he wasn’t as terrified as his mom Miambi, who took off and hid for several weeks,” said Brown. “We looked everywhere for her and set out food and bedding in the farm’s equipment garage. We thought we lost her, but out of the blue, she returned. We were overjoyed, but that was short-lived. Soon after she returned, Giambi disappeared, but was found days later.”
She said that Giambi was the first to lose his fear of people, but it took Miambi some time. “Fast forward to today, however, and you’ll find them lounging in our visitors’ center or uninvited on your lap when you sit on the benches” she said. “They literally jump into people’s laps, sometimes kneading bare legs with sharp claws.”
Huge thanks to Jenny for creating such a warm, compassionate environment for animals and people alike. If you’d like to spend a weekend petting goats and sharing a comfortable bed with one or more utterly spoiled cats, pay them a visit at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And tell them Stacy from Catster sent you!
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About the author: Stacy Pershall is a constant traveler currently settled in Astoria, Queens, New York, where she lives in a Greek Archie Bunker house and loves it. When she’s not tending to the needs of her two street adoptions, Carbon and Tiki, she writes stories and teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. Her passion in life — besides cats — is her work as a suicide prevention speaker for Active Minds. She is the author of Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl. Find out more by following her on Facebook.