You Know It’s Bad When Priests Start Starving Cats

The cats at St. James Catholic Church had once been a model for well-managed feral colonies, but the priests had decided they didn't want their four-legged rat catchers anymore.

JaneA Kelley  |  Apr 2nd 2012

Cat lovers across the U.S. were horrified to learn that a colony of eight feral cats living at St. James Church in lower Manhattan were being starved.

Father Lino Gonsalves and Father Walter Tonelotto had locked out the caretakers who had tended to the church’s feral cat colony.

These cats, all of whom had been trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to their home, had once been a model for well-managed feral cat colonies (sound familiar?), but the priests had decided they didn’t want their four-legged rat catchers anymore.

But on March 27, there was a breakthrough. After a discussion of the virtues of trap-neuter-return and the importance of daily feeding to keep the colony stable, which was characterized by the Animal Alliance of New York City as “dynamic and vigorous,” an agreement was reached. Monsignor Kevin Nelan of the Archdiocese of New York and Father Gonsalves came to their senses and agreed that removal of the cats would not help anyone.

Maybe the priests finally remembered those paragraphs about the importance of caring for animals from their catechism course.

The priests will work with the NYC Feral Cat Initiative of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to restart the daily care and feeding of the cats. During this 60-day trial period, the group will install a feeding station, a shelter and a litterbox on the church property. I’m not sure how well the litterbox will work out, but I’m sure the cats will appreciate the feeding station and a place to curl up and stay warm during New York’s frigid winters.

The caretakers will meet with the priest and work out a schedule for visits to the colony, and hopefully when the two months are over, the church will allow the cats to stay.

The situation isn’t fully resolved yet — we’ll have to wait and see what happens in a couple of months — but I hope that by then, the church authorities will see how important it is to have a well-managed community cat colony, particularly in light of the fact that the church is in one of the most rat-infested parts of the city.

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