Who we are

Cherry Street Cats is me (Robin), my husband Steve, Sandi, Michelle, Verena, Vinyse, Derek, Kent, and Connie, a group of dedicated cat lovers who care for a colony of feral cats in the east end of Toronto. I also have a great rescue team of Lesley, Joanne, and Susan. Together we do our best to make the lives better for feral and homeless cats and kittens. 900+ cats helped in nine years!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Everyone loves a sunny day

Even though the thermometer said -2 degrees, the sun was out making it feel much warmer, and the cats were out too.

Jackson and I shared a happy moment. He is the only one we can pat.

You can tell the winter is hard on the cats. Biff seems to have an upper respiratory infection. I could hear him breathing as he drank what seemed to be gallons of water. The cats go straight to the water when we show up. Now that it's cold in earnest, their water is freezing and canned food will too after an hour or so.
Here is Tina tucking in a feeding station just outside the trailer. We make sure there is lots of hard food and try to leave just enough canned food so they all get some, but not so much that it freezes and is wasted.
Over at the pontoon boat, the cats that used to be known as tree cats have totally adjusted to their new spot. No more ducking amongst dumpsters and dodging trucks, much safer for all of us. This is Queenie and MC.
Here is Queenie, MC, Stumpy and Rusty enjoying their meal.
For the winter, we also have the responsibility of feeding two cats belonging to one of the guys who works at the boatyard. He has headed south but the cats are not so lucky. At least they have each other.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The last winter preparations

With a nasty winter storm forecast for this week (if you believe the overly dramatic weather network), our thoughts turned to the tree cats. They eat at a tree in the midst of dumpsters. As soon as it snows, their feeding station will be covered, so we started putting food under an abandoned pontoon boat with the hope that they will transition to this new location. At least it will provide some shelter from the elements. My plan is to put a shelter and feeding station under there as well.

I found their water dishes frozen over so I have ordered solar powered water dishes. Getting enough nutrition to the cats will be a challenge in the winter, now that the temperature is below freezing, canned food left out will freeze. Let's hope the cats all show up when we do. Hard food will become the staple. Stay tuned for tales of winter cat feeding adventures.

More stats: November $300 spent on cats (our six at home + the ferals), probably 40 - 50 hours spent caring for cats. Keeps me out of trouble.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tibbs comes home

After six weeks at the Humane Society caring for her kittens it was time for Tibbs to be spayed and returned to the colony and for her kittens to go to loving homes. Tibbs never adjusted to life at the shelter, she mostly hid in a carrier in a cage. On Saturday we picked her up and took her back. At first she wouldn't come out of the carrier. Here is Teddy checking her out.

Finally when our backs were turned she scurried out. We saw her a few minutes later, frantically searching amongst the boats for her kittens. Heartbreaking. Hopefully she soon settles down. Amongst the boat cats there is only the elusive Lily to get spayed and Pebbles, this gray and white male below. He is always on the outskirts, waiting his turn to eat.
Tina has discovered the high ground.

The others eat while she tries to figure out how to get down.

Thankfully another week of mild weather. The cats will be thanking us for the trailer in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We prepare for winter

Last Sunday we all got together (me, my husband Steve, Aaffien, her fiance Bill, Sandi, her husband Robbin and Tory) at the boatyard to prepare for the onslaught of winter. I wasn't involved with the colony last winter so I haven't experienced it first-hand but I know that feeding will be a challenge once the bitter cold and snow arrives. This year we have a trailer for the boat cats so hopefully their lives will be much easier. We took this opportunity to reorganize and clean up.

Here is a before shot, showing our current setup.

Me, Tory and Aaffien cleaning and dismantling a feeding station. We've kept one feeding station for hard food but the plan is to feed the cats inside the trailer so their food stays warm and dry. We put in pet doors and also put shelters inside for them to stay cozy in.

Sandi and Tory sorting things out, cleaning up a summer's worth of mess.

Robbin and Bill put in the pet doors and built shelves inside the trailer. Now we just have to entice the cats inside. The trailer is a little farther away from where they were being fed before and I'm sure there will be reluctance from some to go inside so we'll leave some food out as well. There's not much we can do for the tree cats. They are always second class citizens. We put a shelter by the tree for them but it's more likely that they will find a haven amongst the dumpsters.

After a long but satisfying afternoon, we lug the last of the garbage to the dumpster just before darkness falls, and head home, dirty and tired.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MC back at home

Here's MC back at the tree. Sadly a true home is not to be for her. We still think she probably had a home at some point but I guess she has spent too long on the street and has lost her trust of people. At least she will be fed and offered what shelter we can provide but it's not the end anyone would want for their cat. We'll never know her story. Was she someone's beloved pet? Was she brushed and snuggled? Was she fed and played with and given a warm bed? I've had the opportunity through this to meet and talk to many wonderful people who care about cats (and they are the ones who would read this) but there's no denying that so many others see cats as disposable.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated...I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. -- Mahatma Gandhi.

Last Sunday was sunny and warm. We didn't show up to feed until the afternoon. This photo shows Lily, Tina, Teddy and Jackson registering their displeasure at our tardiness.
Here is our new trailer that we will set up with feeding stations and shelters for the winter. I expect it will be very cold and blustery, with the wind off the lake.

I couldn't resist taking this photo of Arrow, up high on one of the boats.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday on the water

Sunday stats:
11 cats fed (8 boat cats, 3 tree cats)
6 big cans of cat food opened and eaten
2 trips to the boatyard
1 minor injury (a cut from a cat food can)

It was a beautiful afternoon and all the boat cats were out, even the gray and white one (Pebbles) that we rarely see. At the tree, I had Issac (the smoky gray guy), a black cat with white legs (let's call her Socks) and another black cat who shall remain nameless until we can figure out a way to tell the black cats apart.

I returned to the boatyard as the sun was setting to help get our new trailer in position. I would never have predicted that I would be spending a chilly Sunday evening in November at a boatyard, surrounded by berthed boats, dumpsters, feral cats, and a wonderful group of caring women, but here I am and here I'll be for many Sunday to come.

A Chance for MC?

On Friday Aaffien and I set out in the rain to trap Lily, a beautiful tortie who still needs to be spayed. Lily had kittens in the summer but we had to take them away and raise them when Lily became overwhelmed and stopped feeding them. Sandi and Aaffien did a great job and these kittens have now found homes. Here are two of them in their new home.

Lily has remained elusive, though, so we set up the trap with tasty sardines in an effort to lure her in. Ten minutes later we had trapped Tina (who is already spayed) so we packed up our trap, moved on to Plan B and headed over to try to trap a tree cat.

MC was the only one around, meowing at us for food. Sure enough, she went for the sardines, the trap slammed shut as the rain turned torrential. We bundled her off to the humane society for spaying. We had been debating recently about whether she was adoptable. From her interactions with us it seemed she must have had a home at one point.

When the humane society called to say that they could see what looked like a previous spaying scar we were convinced that this poor cat had become lost or was abandoned. What to do? God bless Sandi, she agreed to take MC in for a few days to see if she was tameable. We set MC up in a room at Sandi's house. I crossed my fingers and silently implored MC not to blow her chance at a new life.

Sadly, it's not going well. MC is hiding under the bed and hissing. It looks like we'll have to take her back to the boatyard and do our best to care for her there. I guess her time on the street has caused her to distrust people.

On the good news side, Tibbs' four remaining kittens are doing better than they were and hopefully will continue to improve and will eventually end up in loving homes like the kittens above.

Since loving homes are not an option for adult feral cats, we do the next best thing, and provide food and shelter, every day, rain or shine, soon to be rain or snow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shelter for the winter

Our biggest preoccupation right now is sorting out a plan for the winter for our feral friends. Shelter is a priority for those cold winter days and a way to keep food and water from freezing. This weekend we bought a little insulated trailer to put feeding stations and shelters in. We found it on kijiji and Sandi and Tory drove off on Sunday morning to see it. It fit all our needs and a lovely gentleman in his 80's sold it to us for $200. Now we just have to get it to the boatyard and get it set up.

Meanwhile, we continue to feed our charges. On the weekend I saw my usuals. I got close enough to MC to just barely touch her. I feel convinced she was somebody's cat at one point. I fed about 10 cats in total each day, 6 big cans each day + hard food. I figured it out recently that I spend about 6% of my take home pay each week on cat food! I have 5 at home as well. I'm quickly becoming that crazy cat lady. Well, there could be much worse things to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feeding the ferals

Every Saturday and Sunday my husband and I load up the car with cat food, clean bowls and fresh water and head off to feed our little group of feral cats. First we feed the boat cats (the tamer bunch). Sometimes a few of the cats will rush out to greet the car. We put out canned food, refill the hard food and make sure they have fresh water. There's always some jostling amongst the cats for food, even feral colonies have a hierarchy.

This is Teddy, the dominant one of the bunch.

Then we head over to a solitary tree in the midst of dumpster and garbage trucks to feed the tree cats. Some days we don't see anyone here, sometimes three or four, sometimes the same ones, sometimes different. This group is much more skittish, hungrier and dirtier.

This is Jackson, the friendliest of the boat cats. You can actually pat him.

Here are most of the boat cats, from left, Teddy, Biff, Tina, Lily and Callie.

I saw this gray cat at the tree last week for the first time.

This cat showed up a couple of weeks ago at the tree and has been there most days. We think it was somebody's cat. It almost looks like a Maine Coon so we've called it MC. The poor thing is dirty with huge mats. Hopefully we can win its trust.

Here are the feeding stations that we have set up.

With winter approaching we have lots to sort out in regards to feeding and shelters. We have found out recently that there may be other cats in another section of the boatyard - just trying to sort out if we can help them too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Update on Tibbs' kittens

Sad news. One of Tibbs' kittens didn't make it and two aren't doing so well. Kittens that age often seem to go downhill in a shelter environment. We struggle with not knowing if we did the right thing in taking the kittens in at that point but if they are left too long they can become difficult to capture or hard to socialize. At least Tibbs will be spayed and won't have any more kittens. Trap, neuter, release remains the best option for ferals. We're not working off a handbook, just struggling to take the best care we can of these cats. I try to set emotional boundaries but it's hard, I find myself thinking about the cats more than I should. Tonight I will make sure I kiss all my lucky furbabies at home, snug, safe and well fed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catching Tibbs' kittens

My family duties fulfilled on Sunday, I spent part of Thanksgiving Day Monday on an old boat grabbing reluctant four week old kittens and trapping the mother cat, whose name originally was Mr. Tibbs, changed to just Tibbs, when it was discovered that Mr. was Mrs.

Many years ago I fed a few feral cats at a building I was working at. One of the kittens, Pebbles, came home with us, and I trapped her mother, had her spayed and returned to where she was living. Eventually those cats disappeared and my husband and I went back to our rescued bunch at home.

Earlier this year I read an article about a colony of feral cats in a boatyard near to us and I contacted one of the caretakers, Aaffien, to see if we could help. More than a dozen feral cats were being cared for by three wonderful women, Aaffien, Sandi and Tory. We started feeding the cats on Sundays and soon I got involved in helping trap. Many of the cats had already been neutered or spayed but there were still more to go. We have two groups, the boat cats, who have permanent feeding stations, and who will come close to you and the tree cats, a much more skittish bunch who live amongt dumpsters and who are fed under a lone tree in the midst of all this. Every day one of us goes down, puts out canned and hard food and fresh water.

Back to Tibbs and her kittens. Yesterday Sandi, Tory and I arranged to meet at the boatyard to try to get Tibbs and her kittens and to sort out a winter plan. I got there a bit early so decided to just put out a trap to see what happened. We've been trying for a while to catch Lily and Tibbs, the two unspayed females of the boat cats, to no avail. Within five minutes Tibbs went into the trap to get the sardines and boom, we got her. I covered the trap and when Sandi and Tory arrived we set about catching the kittens. We knew there were five as we had seen them out on the boat in the last week. I climbed aboard and started grabbing. Luckily at four weeks old they were easy to get although they certainly put up a fuss. One, two, three, four, I handed them to Sandi and into a carrier they went.

Number five was elusive, however, and was hiding at the back of the boat behind some mechanicals. Try as I might, I just couldn't reach the kitten and he or she was not coming out. Sadly, after feeding the other cats, and trying again unsuccessfully, we had to leave the lone kitten behind. Tibbs and her kittens went off to live at the Humane Society until the kittens are old enough to be adopted out. They are young enough that they can be socialized and will make great pets. Tibbs will be spayed and either returned to the colony or will go to live in a barn.

This morning thankfully Aaffien and Sandi managed to captured the lone kitten and he has been reunited with his siblings. Those kittens won't have to live the hard scrap life that the other cats there do and by trapping an unneutered female we prevent possible generations from living on the street.

A very gratifying Thanksgiving.