By Susan Muska
When Christy Speicher saw a large calico cat sheltering in the courtyard behind her West 10th Street apartment building in January, she “had to do something.”
The substantial, well-groomed cat did not look feral; some of Christy’s neighbors had seen this striking gal (all tri-colors are female, which is a sex-linked trait) in various parts of the long courtyard between Charles and West 10th Streets for two weeks. Obviously, someone was feeding her. Was she a stray? Abandoned? Lost?
No one seemed to know, but most were concerned. As the temperatures dropped, Christy felt she had to act fast. On January 9th, she posted homemade signs urging anyone who may own the cat to come forward. Your Neighborhood Office on Bleecker Street helped troubleshoot the best way to keep the signs waterproof (by hanging them in plastic folders, open-end down). The signs were eye-catching and featured a photo of the calico kitty looking bewildered, with a caption “It’s cold out here!”
In response to the signs, Christy received calls of advice, some from Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) advocates, and others offering to distribute flyers. Mary, who has lived in the Village her entire life and has worked with City animal rescues, asked the veterinarians at the Greenwich Village Animal Hospital to hang a flyer in their office (they in turn also offered to screen the cat to see if it was micro-chipped). One Instagrammer posted a photo of the poster and received offers of help from employees of an animal rescue and shelter.
Christy observed that, although the cat was still unclaimed, she “saw a community coming together for the first time in a long time.”
Then, on Wednesday night, after two days of calls from concerned neighbors, her phone rang and the caller, with a British accent, said, “That’s my cat!”
It turns out that Estrella the cat had recently moved to the West Village from London, with her owner, Helen. In London, Estrella was free to roam outside. Once in her new Charles Street digs, though, she refused to adapt to indoor life. Helen installed a cat-port so Estrella could go out to the courtyard, which is where she prefers to spend most of her time, hunting and sunning.
Mary pointed out that volunteers from some local TNR and rescue organizations offered to help trap Estrella. If she did not have a microchip linking her to an owner, she could have been sent to a shelter if she was deemed adoptable. If not, she could have been euthanized. So, being micro-chipped can save an animal’s life.
Mary was surprised that the cat was free to roam outside, as we don’t see that in the City anymore. One assumes that a roaming animal is lost or abandoned. That’s why pet owners should microchip their pets. It’s a small price to pay, and if a cat or dog does go missing, it provides a way to trace it back to the owner when found. Sadly, not all missing animal stories have such a happy ending.
Christy was amazed at the concern raised by her sign and has met many of the callers who offered help. She’s planning a fondue party soon so that the “cat gang” can meet.
So far, Estrella has avoided the City dangers and adapted to the outdoors in the West Village. For her, all’s well that ends well. And, as Christy says, the concern for the cat in the courtyard brought neighbors together, which is always a good thing!