27 Jan

How Catress Storm Preps

Yikes! The “historic blizzard”  Juno is bearing down upon us and I for one cannot get the thought of animals stuck outside out of my mind.  I can only hope that people are kind and humane enough to bring their outdoor animals indoors for the duration of the storm.

There’s an old saying I like,  something to the effect of “If you can do, you should do.”  This sentiment guides me.  Can I help them all?  No.  Can I help some of them?  Yes.

I live in a neighborhood of Victorian houses and I know many cats burrow down under the porches by the foundations. Cats also like to take refuge under the hoods of cars.  They climb up through the undercarriage of the car and seek warmth and shelter by the engine.  Unfortunately,  many people are unaware of this,  so today I posted a message on our many neighborhood listservs,  FB pages and blogs:

“Just a reminder all–if you ARE able to start your cars after the snow over the next few days please take a moment to bang on the hood first. Many stray and feral cats will be desperate for warmth and shelter during the storm and car engines provide both. Banging on the hood allows the cats a chance to exit before suffering bad burns. Thank you!”

I’ve already seen a few people sharing and re-posting, and I hope the info spreads.

I’ve been thinking about how to create an awning for my feral-shelter-town of Oreo Cats–they now have 5 shelters but with 18-24 inches of snow coming down they need some sort of covering to protect them from getting snowed in by heavy drifts. This morning I had time before my callback–yes, we have callbacks even with historic blizzards around the corner–so I visited the pile of discarded,  forgotten construction materials behind my building. The pile has been the bane of my existence for years until I realized I could re-purpose some of it to help shelter feral cats. This is the life of a Catress.

I,  uh,  “borrowed”   2 lattice-work wooden fences about 3×5 feet each and covered them both with heavy-duty contractor bags.  These I placed at an angle over the shelter-town and let them lean on the existing breeze-blocker I put up last week.  I covered these with a section of a heavy-duty canvas tarp I had lying around (don’t ask)  and covered THAT with a large section of Astro-turf floor covering.  I secured everything with some bricks and cinder-blocks and lashed the structure to the fence,  leaving a small gap of about 7×10 inches in the lower left corner for the kitties to enter and exit.


I checked on them on my way home from my callback with a fantastic director whose commercials are dry and funny as can be.  Most of the team was stuck out of state so for once I auditioned in front of 2 people instead of 10   (truth be told they were video-conferenced in but you know what they say…out of sight, out of mind.)

The kitties were using their shelters and are clearly able to get in and out of their new structure easily.  I left them a huge container of dry food (the wet food freezes so quickly in this cold) under the awning–a self-service snack bar,  if you will. Throughout all of this work I am jumping in and out of the yard by scaling the neighbors iron fence and then climbing over the gate locked with a heavy duty chain. I still have my callback makeup on while I’m trespassing. This is the life of a Catress.

I hope they will stay warm and dry and well-fed tonight and into tomorrow.  If it’s not too bad out I will hoof it over and make sure they are not snowed in. It’s a small thing, but there are 5 Oreo cats with shelter tonight where once they had none. Hats off to all the other intrepid animal rescuers and advocates out there working to help animals weather –and survive– the storm.

20 Jan

This is the life of a Catress….

Up early today to feed all three animals–Momo, Sweetie and foster-cat Maru. Maru is getting needier–his initial exhaustion has worn off and he’s more than ready to leave the cozy confines of my office/foster-cat headquarters for spacier digs. As Maru has healed from the trauma of being stuck for a month in an abandoned bodega his personality, quirks, and kitty-preferences have really begun to shine.

The first few days of his foster-ship Maru was quiet as a mouse–just resting,  relaxing and enjoying feeling safe and loved. Now he’s a properly demanding BoyCat–as in, Maru would like to be around me at all times, and cries lustily when I leave the office, only quieting down after a few minutes. Momo and Sweetie are not quite sure what to make of it, but luckily neither seems stressed or even bothered by the loud meows occasionally emitting from my office (I,  however,  never like to hear an unhappy kitty, even when I know they are just being greedy for even MORE affection.)

Despite not being raised on a farm I follow the “animals eat first” tenet–I believe any creature dependent on me for sustenance and care should be tended to before I meet my own needs ( a quick trip to the loo and a large cup of strong coffee notwithstanding).  So three bowls of wet food of various kinds–Sweetie and Momo get either reduced-fat Natural BalanceNatural Instinct Grain Free Healthy WeightInnova Low Fat Cat Food or even Royal Canin Feline Nutrition Ultralight to add to their food and make it extra-yummy. I always add plain organic canned pumpkin which I truly believe is nature’s wonder food for cats eating a canned,  processed diet. Pumpkin is full of nutrients and has the unique and awesome ability to ease your kitty’s digestion when they are constipated (it “loosens” everything up) –and it can do the opposite as well,  firming up the whole business when their stool is too loose. You don’t need to buy the organic kind either,  as it’s certainly more expensive,  but if you have the extra cash it’s probably better for them in some small way.  I spice up all that low-calorie food with freeze dried chicken from Mouthfuls, an amazing store (and website) based in Denver. Maru and other skinny fosters get higher calorie, nutrient-rich food such as Natural Balance Limited Ingredient. It’s a pleasure to watch them gain weight and get healthier! And of course small amounts of treats–I have yet to meet a cat who isn’t crazy about Temptations Cat Treats so I toss in about 10 of those a day. This is the life of a Catress.

After I feed the brood and tend to their litter boxes ( I use World’s Best ) and give each cat a proper good morning (which involves giving Momo space to eat, playing with Sweetie for a full 5 minutes before she will even consider eating, and cuddling with Maru because he’s been alone all night) I am ready for my own breakfast ( frozen fruit smoothie) and more coffee. This morning I had a callback for a commercial shooting overseas, for which I had to speak English and Spanish (am I fluent in Spanish? Uh….sure I am!) so I had to go full court press:  natural,  fresh makeup (almost as difficult to achieve as a full face of drama),  soft wavy hair and a “casual but flattering”,  subtle but bright outfit. I do all of this in a hurry because today I have to meet my friend Wilfredo before my call-back to give him a full bag of straw for his feral shelters (I get my straw from a friend’s farm upstate but you can order some from Amazon or Feral Villa). This is the life of a Catress.

Wilfredo and I met a few years ago. He is a large, intimidating-looking man who is also just about the sweetest,  gentlest guy you’ll ever meet. I was the contact person at an amazing animal rescue,   Empty Cages Collective,  and I took a call one day from Wilfredo who was desperately trying to trap a local feral cat he had been feeding who was stuck in a construction site. I lent Wilfredo my cat trap and a friendship was born (every cat rescue advocate should have a Wilfredo in their lives–he came to my rescue a few months later when I needed to wade into a bad ‘nabe in Bushwick to rescue Pickles the cat who had been abandoned by his owner and was now cowering terrified in an apt–actually in the back of a cupboard–about to undergo demolition. I needed someone Wilfredo’s size and countenance to back me up, and together we got Pickles to safety and into a loving home).

So there I am, all made up and ready to SELL SOME PRODUCT  (but totally in a “down to earth,  natural,  un-sell-y way”–that’s commercial-speak for “don’t sound like an actress” ) lugging a contractor bag full of straw through Union Square Station.  Met up with Wilfredo, discussed how to make feral cat shelters, pounded each other on the back man-style and ran off to my callback, where I sat with many young,  beautiful,  actually-Spanish-speaking ladies who rather put me to shame. Still, I made it work. This is the life of a Catress.

Then back home to Brooklyn where I spotted my local colony of 5 Oreo-cats waiting patiently in the cold for some food. I am not their regular feeder, but I may have snuck over the chain-link fence of the yard they live in a few weeks ago (shhhhhhhhh!) to set up a small feral shelter-town for them hidden by a wooden wall I propped up through the fence.FullSizeRender(3)


Catress cannot walk by cats in need when I a) have $10 on me and b) am walking right by a dollar-store. I dashed into the store to buy canned food,  a plastic spoon (48 to be exact, but I’ll use them) and a few tin pie plates to put the food in,  because I don’t want to leave cans behind and anger the neighbors. Voila! Lunchtime.  Soon as I can I plan to TNR those sweet kitties and maybe even find them homes if they aren’t too feral.

When I finally arrived home I did most of the morning routine (minus the coffee) in reverse.  This is the life of a Catress.


13 Jan

Maru the Cat!

Maru the cat is my latest foster. He is a wanderer and a lover of laps. Maru found his way to me through a group effort–no surprise. Cat rescue is often a group affair, and I love the way helping animals makes a big city like Brooklyn feel like a small town.

Maru was trapped in a local bodega that had been shut down by the Health Department. We think he wandered in for kibble and company and was unknowingly shut inside when the workers were ordered out. Sweet Maru made himself at home but it was clear to passers-by that he was lonely and in need of rescue. While a small group of local rescuers brainstormed on how to free him in a safe and, uh, legal way a more intrepid neighbor decided to take matters into her own hands. We’ll leave out the details, but let’s just say Maru was freed and brought to a temporary fosters home and then to the vet where he checked out healthy if pretty dehydrated.

Back when Maru was still trapped behind glass in the deli (see video here) Catress signed on to foster. Everytime I see the video I am filled with gratitude that this beautiful and friendly cat is safe and sound, warm and well-fed. I mostly use my office to make jewelry and teach myself how to sew, but it can  be converted pretty easily into a pleasure den for foster cats. I use towels, old blankets and any extra fabric I can get my hands on to cover the sharp bits and create as many nooks and crannies and beds and perches as I can. So far, Maru has slept in each and every one, and even created one of his own–a giant box of Uline padded envelopes allllll the way on the top shelf. I couldn’t find him anywhere and was beginning to panic when I heard a rustling sound far above my head. I peered up only to see his little head peeking out of the giant box. Needless to say, I secured that sucker with a bungee cord so he wouldn’t end up surfing the damn thing down to the floor.

A quick and easy cozy cat bed can be made pretty easily and cheaply using a large foil baking pan (I like the oval ones) and a sweatshirt. Slide the pan into the sweatshirt and voila! Insta-cat Happiness.

Stay tuned for more updates on Maru!!