Stray Cat Blues: 'It's Worse Now Than Ever'
Brooklyn cat rescuers face an uphill battle as resources disappear amid a post-pandemic boom of strays
Originally published on Brooklyn Magazine, November 6 2023
Dozens of stray cats peer out from the bushes surrounding Ann Charles’ backyard, hungry. The 77-year-old Canarsie resident began feeding a single stray cat with a couple kittens when they showed up at her door four years ago. Apparently, word got out. Now, Sassee Walker is here to help, setting up traps on Charles’ concrete patio.
The first trap drops within minutes. Then another, and another. Several cats, including a 4-month-old kitten, are pregnant.
“Oh, you caught the little one, I’m glad!” Charles says as Walker transfers the kitten to a smaller trap. The cats will go to the Brooklyn Cat Café clinic in Brooklyn Heights to be spayed, neutered, vaccinated and put up for adoption if they’re friendly. “Well, you can be glad for all of them,” says Walker. “Because we’re not leaving none of them behind.”
Walker, 53, is one of many certified cat rescue volunteers in New York City and one of few active in East New York. Outside her full time job for a New York City hospital, she cares for several cat colonies and helps local feeders like Charles curb the number of cats roaming their neighborhood. Her two-bedroom apartment is perpetually filled with feral cats recovering from or awaiting spay or neuter appointments, and “friendlies” waiting for their foster or forever home. In over a decade of doing this work, Walker says, “It’s worse now than it’s ever been.”
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