Tag Archives: Cat Ladies

Cat ladies, feral cats, TNR

Cat Ladies: The movie

Cat Ladies documentary Amazon link
Click to buy on Amazon

Finally saw the documentary Cat Ladies and it’s well worth watching.  What struck me was the ambivalence that all four women felt about what they were doing.  They love cats and enjoy looking after them and they don’t like seeing animals suffer. But they do not want as many cats as they have and/or they don’t want cats to define their entire lives.

The youngest of the four has the fewest cats, also a dog.  She has a number in her head of what separates a “cat person” from a “crazy cat lady”.  She gave it as 30, but then said she thought she was near the tipping point with 6.   Another lady loves her cats, but wishes she had Jenny holding cathuman friends too.  Another, a former bank employee, fell into cat rescue by accident and wants to stop.  Her house is full of cats and she works hard to get them adopted.  But she wants “more of a life than this.”  The fourth lady defines herself as a cat rescue, taking them in and finding homes for them.  She said she’s taken over 3,000 cats off the streets.  She loves what she does but said, “I’d be happy if they were all gone to other homes.”  Then added, “so I could bring home another hundred.”

That lady has problems with the people next door in her suburban neighbourhood.  They bought their house in winter and didn’t realize Sigi in cat room in her houseuntil spring that there was a house full of cats next door.  They keep a record of all cat-related annoyances.  I’d like to ban backyard pools, but I think my chances of success are less than these people’s with their cat problem.

Documentary discusses rescue vs. hoarding

Agent Tre Smith of the Toronto Humane Society gave his opinion on cat ladies.  “Animal rescuers” and “animal hoarders,” he says, are the same thing.  They want to relieve the suffering of animals, but can’t stop taking in just one more.  His point has validity, but I think simplifying it to that extent does a disservice to both animal rescue and the disorder of hoarding.

Tre Smith in THS cat roomTo say that animal rescue and animal hoarding are the same is like saying that all antique dealers are hoarders.  Some undoubtedly are, and more have the inclination.

But a successful antique dealer or collector can love the objects without endlessly filling houses and barns with them.  And a hoarder of objects can fill any amount of space with things and have no objective sense of their worth.  It’s not a dichotomy of dealer/hoarder.  It’s relative and on a scale of functional to dysfunctional.  And there are grey areas where it’s hard to know if someone is an enthusiast or has a disorder.

It’s the same for animal rescue and animal hoarding.   There are clear-cut cases, with someone like Tre at the functional end of the animal welfare scale.  The horror shows he sees in his job would be at the Diane holding catother, dysfunctional, end: the person with 300 dead and ill animals squashed into a one-bedroom house.  In between, there’s a lot of grey.

I liked all the women in this documentary and I respect what they are doing and their thoughts about it.  But then I’m a cat lady wannabe.  I’ll probably never really be one because one thing I know about it is that it’s a lot of hard work.

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog Aug. 18/11. See my Cat People post for Ottawa’s ‘cat man’ and the Parliamentary cats. Also see 2 comments below.

 

Cat People

“A Cat Digression” from my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 23, 2010

There are unsung heroes among us. Almost everyone knows one or two, or at least hasRene Chartrand Parliament Hill feral cat colony encountered them. They’re usually not thought of as heroic or civic-minded. Instead they’re a code word for loneliness with a bit of looniness thrown in. In cautionary tales of self-help articles and advice from well-intentioned relatives, you might hear something like, “and if you keep on acting like this, you’ll end up being one of those cat ladies”.

Almost every community has at least one – the person who quietly feeds and shelters stray and feral cats. They use their own resources, even paying for neutering and medical treatment out of their own pocket. If you want to get a cat, they’re often your closest resource. They’re happy to find homes for the cats that want homes. They may be your most relied upon resource if you want to solve your problem with an unwanted cat or a stray that’s hanging around your house. But to people neither acquiring nor getting rid of cats, they’re probably just seen as eccentric at best, a hoarder or crazy person at worst.

Years ago, I was seen as the cat lady of the village I then lived in. I suppose it all fit. I lived alone in an old ramshackle house, I wasn’t from there, I had no visible means of support and kept odd hours. Also I kept chickens and had three cats. I realized this one fall when children began coming to my door with kittens or adult cats.

It seemed there had been a lot of cats dumped off in our town that summer. So kids, looking scared out of their minds, would hold up a tiny kitten or bedraggled old moggy and say “Mam said you’d be able to help with this cat. We can’t keep her and Mam said you’d know what to do.” I tried taking the cats in, at least until I could figure out what to do with them.

But my cats wouldn’t let me become a real cat lady. My mother and son cats loathed other cats. The third cat was a stray that had simply refused to leave despite their best efforts to drive him off. When new cats began coming in the house, the three bonded and became a tag team of terror toward any new arrival. After fearing for the lives of the new strays until I could get them safely to the SPCA shelter, I had to refuse to take any more. And so ended my career as a cat lady.

René Chartrand, Parliamentary Cat Carer

One of the best known “cat ladies” in Canada is a man. For 21 years, René Chartrand looked after the feral cat colony at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. If you go behind the Parliamentary Library and walk along the river, you’ll see a wrought iron fence. Inside there, on the hill, is the cats’ headquarters. Mr. Chartrand built a condominium of shelter boxes for them. The roofs are of the same style as the Parliament Buildings. There are verandahs running along the sides with food and water bowls. There are donation boxes on the fence to help with the costs.

It’s a long-standing colony of cats, from long-ago Parliamentary mousers, cats from vessels on the Ottawa River and ones that have been dumped or strays that found their way there. For many years they have been helped by the kindness of strangers. The first long-term caretaker was Irene Desormeaux in the 1970s. She fed them, got veterinary care for them and began neuter and release efforts. Mr. Chartrand took over responsibility for them after her death in 1987. He retired in 2008 and a small group of his helpers continues to care for the cats. You can read about the cats and see pictures of them on their blog. There’s also lots of articles and information on them on the web.

Buy an extra can of cat food

Most feral cat colonies and cat ladies aren’t as well known as Ottawa’s. But every city and village has them. Without the efforts of the cat ladies, the feral cat population would be a much greater problem than it is. So, if you notice someone buying cat food by the case, try to find out why. If they’re feeding strays, buy a couple more cans of food or treats and put them in their shopping bag. They’ll appreciate the help.

Mr. Chartrand died Dec. 7, 2014 at the age of 92. After the last Parliament Hill cat, Bugsy, was adopted in January 2013, the cat colony was officially closed and the Cat Parliament Buildings demolished. Thank you, Mr. Chartrand.