Tag: New York City

Got A Rat Problem? Get A Cat To…Befriend It And Groom It?

Cats and humans began their grand partnership some 10,000 years ago, when kitties handled humans’ pesky rodent problem and people repaid the felines with food, shelter and companionship.

Now the deal’s off, apparently.

Yesterday a Reddit user shared a video titled “When you get a cat hoping it will help you get rid of the big rat in your yard.”

The video shows the user’s new cat, a tortoiseshell/calico, “solving” the rat problem by befriending the rodent, playing with it and even grooming it.

The video has amassed almost 86,000 upvotes in 24 hours.

The odd friendship between feline and rodent is not without precedent. Studies have shown that cats are not effective rodent hunters in urban settings where rats have gone unchallenged for so long that they rival or exceed the size of most members of Felis catus.

In certain neighborhoods of New York City, for example, researchers observed cats essentially ignoring massive rats and in some cases eating trash side by side with them. The largest rats, apparently aware of the truce, are equally unconcerned by the presence of the cats. Other rats were more cautious around kitties.

The scene reminded me of the time my brother wanted me to bring Bud over to handle his rat problem. At the time he was living on 88th St. in Manhattan, less than a block from Gracie Mansion. His apartment had an unusual perk for Manhattan living — it was a spacious ground floor flat that opened up into a private, fenced-in backyard with grass and a few trees.

Mighty Bud
Tremble before him! Buddy the Mighty Slayer of Rodents!

In fact, it was one of the first places I took Buddy after adopting him. He was just a kitten, maybe 14 weeks old, and I brought him with me on a warm summer day when my brother had a few friends over for a barbecue.

Buddy made fast friends with my brother’s Chihuahua-terrier mix, Cosmo, and spent the day playing with his doggie cousin, frolicking in the grass and chasing bugs around the yard. Then he got a treat: Steak from the grill, chopped into tiny Buddy-size pieces.

Having a backyard in Manhattan was awesome, but there was a downside. At night the yard was like a stretch of highway for marauding rats who ran across it in numbers with impunity, probably en route to raiding the garbage bins of a bodega on the corner of 88th. The rats were so emboldened and so numerous, you could hear them scurrying across the yard at night.

My brother proposed bringing Buddy over and letting him loose in the yard after dark, letting his claws and predatorial instincts thin the rodential herd.

I declined, using the excuse that Bud could pick up diseases from going to war with the rats. That was true, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have come to that: At the first sign of those rats, Buddy would have run screaming!

(We don’t acknowledge that around him, of course. Officially, Buddy was not set loose upon the Manhattan rats because it would be grossly unfair to unleash such a meowscular, brave and battle-hardened feline warrior upon them.)

It’s one thing if Buddy won’t kill rats. He’s a wimp. But as the Reddit video illustrates, we are apparently closing the chapter on 10,000 glorious years of human-feline partnership, and officially entering the Era of Zero Reciprocity.

We do everything for our cats, and in return they nap, eat and allow us to serve them. From their point of view, it’s a fine deal.

Meowscular Buddy!
Just look at those meowscular guns and vicious claws!

NYC Mayoral Candidate Has 16 Cats

We normally avoid politics on this blog except for the occasional light-hearted satire imagining Buddy as a comically inept president of the Americats, but we’ll make an exception for the New York City mayoral race, which features two animal-loving major party candidates.

Eric Adams, a Democrat, is a former NYPD captain, Brooklyn borough president and vegan who has supported TNR programs in Brooklyn, pushed for more animal-friendly housing in the city and hosted adoption events in his home borough, according to the Humane Society’s Legislative Fund.

Curtis Sliwa is best known nationally as the founder of the unarmed crime prevention group the Guardian Angels, and in New York as a host on the city’s biggest talk radio station. (He’s been on hiatus since launching his mayoral campaign to comply with election law.)

He survived an attempted mafia hit in 1992, jumping out of a cab after he was shot several times by Gotti family enforcers, and he’s a dedicated cat lover, sharing his home with 16 rescues. Most of Sliwa’s cats have disabilities or were pulled from local shelter kill lists. Not all of them are permanent, and the Sliwas consider themselves long-term fosters until they can find the right homes for special needs cats. Last year they were able to place 10 kitties in good homes.

Still, the felines come first in their 87th Street apartment.

“Guess what? It’s the cats who rule the roost,” Sliwa told a New York Post cameraman in June. “We take whatever room is left after the cats carve out their territory.”

Cat furniture dominates the studio apartment Sliwa shares with his wife, Nancy, who told the Post she’s considering adopting more furballs, including a special-needs rescue who is blind. (They had 15 cats at the time and have adopted one more since then.)

Turning to her husband, she quipped: “We might have to lose your half of the closet.”

The couple share litter box duties and clean the multiple boxes in their home at least three times a day, they told the Post.

NYC mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa plays with his cats.

At the end of Tuesday’s televised mayoral debate, when asked which qualities they admire in their opponents, both Sliwa and Adams praised each other for their work with animals.

The city and its surrounding environs lean heavily blue. Sixty-eight percent of registered voters in the five boroughs are registered Democrats, and Adams holds a commanding 36-point lead according to the latest poll.

Like all Republicans who set their sights on the mayor’s job, Sliwa knew it was going to be an uphill battle even though New Yorkers have tired of the current mayor, Democrat Bill DeBlasio. Sliwa hopes one of his central campaign promises — to enact a no-kill policy across the city’s shelter system — will resonate with voters across the aisle.

Republicans who have won in the past have been centrist, like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, or nominally Republican, like businessman turned politician Michael Bloomberg. The latter enjoyed widespread name recognition before he turned to politics and supplemented his campaign hauls with his own considerable resources.

Still, the Guardian Angels founder sees Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s Upper East Side home, as a potentially fantastic cat house.

“I’ve been in Gracie Mansion before,” Sliwa told New York magazine. “There is easily room in there for 60 cats.”

Help Your Local Strays: They’re Starving During COVID-19 Lockdown

Years ago I worked with a guy who started a food pantry from scratch.

This man, a retired software engineer, approached the biggest restaurants, bakeries and food distributors in the area, asking them to donate their leftover/unused food so his pantry could distribute it to the poor.

Many obliged, but they all had the same request: “Don’t tell anyone we’re participating,” they told him.

The request wasn’t prompted by humility. These businesses didn’t want the public to know how much food they waste, and they waste a lot of perfectly good food, a dirty little secret of the restaurant, hospitality and food industries.

The reason I bring this up is because there’s another demographic that depends on the food those businesses toss out: Stray cats.

Stray Cat
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

With restaurants shuttered because of the Coronavirus, stray cats are going hungry and dying for lack of the scraps they scavenge from rubbish bins, dumpsters and sidewalks. It’s happening here in New York, across the United States, and in countries like Turkey, India, Greece and Morocco.

For animals who already live difficult lives, the pandemic made things worse.

“The strays have no means of feeding themselves as all offices, restaurants [and] roadside eateries are closed,” an animal rights activist in India told the environmental news site Mongabay, in a story headlined ‘Slim pickings for strays and pets during COVID-19 lockdown.’

Cats aren’t the only animals suffering. One particularly dramatic example was caught on video in a Thai city where thousands of long-tailed macaques live and depend on food given to them by tourists.

Hundreds of starving monkeys stopped traffic in a chaotic brawl over a single piece of food, shrieking, clawing and pushing each other aside to get at it.

As if things weren’t bad enough, stray cats are now competing with former house pets for the little food available.

In India, where bad actors have been spreading false information about COVID-19, animal rights activists are finding abandoned pets — including pedigreed cats and dogs — on the streets after their caretakers abandoned them.

“A lot of this is happening because of misinformation that went viral earlier about pets being carriers of the virus in China. It turned out to be fake, of course, but a lot of damage has been done now,” People For Animals’ Vikram Kochhar told Quartz.

Much of the damage has been done on social media, where conspiracy theories and rumors about contracting COVID-19 from animals are rampant. In China, where pet owners abandoned cats and dogs en masse during the first wave of Coronavirus, some social media users on Mandarin-language platforms called for the “extermination” of cats after a pair of studies conducted by Chinese research labs suggested cats are susceptible to catching the virus.

It isn’t easy to combat waves of viral misinformation, even as health authorities across the world stress cats cannot transmit the virus to humans.

Stray Cat
Credit: Animal Bliss

In Greece, abandoned pets — many with their collars still on — are following strays to food sources, especially in larger cities like Athens.

“We are seeing an increase in the numbers of cats in areas where we feed, some appear to have been abandoned, while others have roamed far from their usual spots in search of food,” animal welfare advocate Serafina Avramidou told Barron’s.

In feline-loving Turkey, where taking care of street cats is considered a cooperative responsibility, the central government has told local officials to make sure strays are well fed and taken care of. By making it a government responsibility, their thinking goes, citizens who normally care for the cats will be much more likely to stay inside during the pandemic.

“There are lots of cats on the side streets where there are only closed businesses,” a Turkish Twitter user wrote. “I haven’t seen food anywhere for days. The cats are running after us [looking for food].”

In Istanbul, Muazzez Turan fed some 300 stray cats daily before the pandemic, but said she’s had to stay home: Not only has her country been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, but she has pre-existing medical problems that make her susceptible to complications should she contract the virus.

Still, she said, her mind “was always with the cats,” and she told Turkish news agency Anadolu that she was relieved to hear the strays hadn’t been forgotten.

“I will sleep peacefully for the first time today,” Turan said.

latonyawalker2
LaTonya Walker of Brooklyn feeds a stray in Canarsie. Credit: 24 Cats Per Second

Here in New York, some animal lovers are picking up the slack for closed restaurants as well as at-risk people who normally feed strays.

Among them is Latonya Walker, who told the New York Post she normally spends $600 a month feeding several colonies of strays but expects her costs this month will be “way more since there’s less restaurant garbage they can eat from, and more hungry cats walking around.”

“The cats have no clue what’s going on because nothing has changed for them,” Walker said. “It’s not in my DNA to see a cat suffering and not do anything about it. I’m equipped to make a cat’s life better, so I’m going to.”