Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jean The Cat Whisperer

An amazingly talented friend and colleague of Jean's created this cartoon, titled it "Jean The Cat Whisperer" and posted it on Because the cartoon is so beautifully rendered, we just had to share it with you, and the story behind it. (Just click on an image to enlarge and to view slide show.)

Jean had been feeding a colony of feral cats while an East Village neighborhood cat lady was in the hospital. When she found out that the lady also kept two feral cats in her apartment, Jean started feeding them too.

Unfortunately, after nearly three weeks, neither cat would come out of hiding. This (below) is as close as Jean ever got to the shy black cat that hid under the bed whom she dubbed "John".  She never even saw the other even more reclusive cat, a grey and black striped tabby she named "George", until she opened the apartment door one evening and surprised him in the kitchen.  She got a glimpse before he was airborne and ran to hide in another part of the apartment.

Sadly, the cat lady died, so Jean had to trap and remove the two cats from the apartment. Luckily, she was successful and got them out just in time -- the night before a demolition crew was scheduled to arrive to clean out all of the contents and renovate the apartment!

Ah, but where does one take two feral cats who have never been socialized? These two felines have the worst of both worlds: they have no socialization skills to get along with people and, having been indoor cats for nearly five years, they have none of outdoor feral cats' essential survival skills.

Cue the trumpets! Enter a knight in shining armor!  Martin, an East Village resident with a heart the size of the state of Texas, built an enclosure for the cats.  He placed it in a protected location where the cats could acclimate for three to four weeks to living on the outside, get used to the noises, sights and sounds of the great urban outdoors before they are released in the protected courtyard area where he has established feeding stations and sleeping enclosures.

Martin set up the largest water containers (designed for large rabbits) to train the cats to use them, obviating the need for outdoor water bowls since standing water creates a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes.  The fiberboard floor and sides had been painted with a sealant to waterproof them to withstand the elements.

Here's a bird's eye view of the enclosure. The rectangular brown wooden feeding station on the far left can be accessed through an outside door so it can conveniently be refilled without disturbing the residents.  The burgundy and dark grey dog house is in the middle and the silver covered litter box is against the right side of the enclosure, next to a second door.  This two-dimensional shot makes things look closer together than they really are. The widely spaced chicken wire keeps them in but allows maximum air circulation. The blue tarp was just placed on top to prepare for an impending rainstorm.

To protect against windy, torrential rainstorms, the enclosure can be securely covered with tarps fastened with carabiners.

Peek-a-boo! After spending their first day in seclusion in their insulated dog house -- with carpet cut to fit the floor to provide a cushioned sleeping area) -- George, the shyest cat, made an appearance. (Apologies for the blurry cell phone photo, but we didn't want to scare him off, so we didn't move in for a closer shot.)  Please keep your fingers crossed that George and John successfully make the transition and will stay in their protected area with food and shelter once they are released from their temporary enclosure!

Meanwhile, Jean continues to feed the five feral cats (ear-tipped and neutered) who live in the backyard of the apartment building and roam the adjoining backyard areas, inhabited by another colony. ('Ear tipping', for the uninitiated, is a way to signal to rescuers that an animal has already been captured, neutered and released.) Who wants to lay bets on how long it takes for her to become one of those "cat ladies" she swore she'd never be?

For those of you who would like to assist animals in need, but don't know how, here is a website you can start with. It's called The Animal Rescue Site. You can click daily to provide food for shelter animals, and there are petitions you can sign if you are so inclined. And Jean's favorite charity is Social Tees Animal Rescue on East 5th Street in the East Village.  Repeat after me: Adopt. Foster. Donate.


  1. If all pet owners were like Jean and Martin, we wouldn't need animal rescue organizations. The enclosure that Martin built for John and George is amazing - fingers crossed that they are able to adapt to an outdoor lifestyle.

  2. Cheers to all of you involved in this compassionate and practical endeavor!

  3. I'm so sad that the cat lady passed away. I'm sure the two kitties miss her. Bravo for trying to help them!