The Mainstreaming of a Feral Cat – Part Two
Christine Michaels, caretaker of the Riverfront Cats Downtown Miami, was what you would call a classic and devout “dog person” for most of her life. Like many people, she had serious misconceptions about the feline species and now admits that her mindset was due to ignorance. She never had a cat of her own to care for from kitten to adulthood and reflects that she based her opinion other people’s cats rather than her own experience.
As we continue part two of the series, The Mainstreaming of a Feral Cat, we find out how her life took a profound change in direction and why she now so tirelessly dedicates herself to her greatest passion – educating people about the misconceptions of stray and feral cats and saving their lives.
When I found out about the imminent relocation of the feral cats residing on the once pet-friendly Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, I realized that despite my enormous love for cats, that I too had misconceptions and no real knowledge of what a feral cat was or why it would be dangerous to relocate them. I felt that if I could educate myself, I could become a better vehicle to help others understand the situation through my blog and social networking efforts so that we could collectively empower ourselves to fight opponents with logical and substantiated ammunition.
In the first video episode with Christine from part one of the series, we took a very informative and educational approach to discuss why the decision of Loews management to relocate the cats would be so detrimental to their well-being and we also did a summary about what a feral cat is and why it is so crucial to debunk the misconceptions surrounding them.
In this next video segment, we actually get to visit and interact with Christine’s feral cats to get a “hands on” feel as to what a day in a life of a feral cat is like. This was an incredible experience for me and I can say without question, it changed my life profoundly like it did Christine. I was overwhelmed with emotion with what I saw. To my genuine surprise, these were cats, much like my own crew of seven, exhibiting “typical” cat behavior. One cat was daintily licking his paw without a care in the world. Another was rolling on her back enjoying a ray of sunshine. That is any given day in my house. I was not attacked by mangy, filthy, frothing at the mouth monsters who were living in a pungent environment that reeked of urine, or worse. Instead, I saw cats with their tails held high in happy anticipation that their beloved caretaker was coming by for her nightly ritual to give them food, water, and a little loving and socialization.
Words are not necessary to understand what I saw, experienced, and felt – this video says it all.
Now that I have given you a glimpse into the life of a feral cat, I must caution that this video was not intended to glamorize the situation. There is a very tragic and dark side to all of this and that is why it is so critical that we work within our communities to educate people about the rights of these cats and the misconceptions about them. Ignorance and prejudice is an ugly battle and Christine has had a long, emotional, and hard road to get her colony to where it is today.
As I stated in my previous post, only 2% of feral cat populations are sterilized and there are not enough Christine’s in the world to change that statistic overnight. Cat overpopulation is a huge problem and the numbers of cats on the streets and in shelters is staggering. Although it is impossible to determine exactly how many stray and feral cats live in the United States, according to the ASPCA, it ranges upward of 70 million. I do not have the exact number of cats that end up in animal control pounds and shelters (the Humane Society of the United States estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized). Of that number, according to Alley Cat Allies, studies indicates that 72% of all cats entering these facilities are killed, and for feral cats, the kill rate in pounds and shelters rises to virtually 100%.
Christine has seen her own share of tragedy – cats electrocuted looking for shelter, cats with broken bones, cats hit by cars and so much more. Worse is the kittens. About half of all stray kittens suffer and die before 8 weeks and their story is heartbreaking and almost too painful to share. Christine knows this only too well. She has seen the life of a precious and helpless kitten extinguish before her very eyes, as this brave little being struggles with its last breath. That changes you as a person and that is why the feral cat problem cannot be sugar coated. In this last video segment, you will get a final glimpse of a day in a life of a feral cat as our visit winds down and Christine finishes feeding them for the day. She does this all out of the goodness of her own heart – her efforts are not subsidized, but she would say it is not about money. For her, it is about the reward of a feral cat letting you pet it for the first time in three years, or that joyful “happy dance” they give you when they recognize you as that special person who cares enough to give them not only food and water, but the respect and dignity they so richly deserve.
I really hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did and learned something from it. I cannot thank Christine enough for giving me the opportunity to meet these cats in person. The images, names, and unique personalities of each of these cats is forever etched in my mind and no matter how many well written articles I read, or how many pictures I look at, they will never compare to meeting these cats in person in their natural surroundings. Special thanks also go to my fiance, Dan. Without his creativity and talent, we would not have these incredible video episodes to share. He is a true cat lover in his own right and one of the many men of the world who are to be commended for breaking out of another misconception – that men don’t like cats. But, that is a subject to tackle at another time…
I also want to give Christine special thanks for recognizing my book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary, as being a valuable tool to educating people about the joys of owning a cat. As a prior “dog lover” only, she immediately became my number one supporter because she really saw in my story, a message that would inspire people to not only love and appreciate their own cats more, but to inspire people who might not have a cat, or think that they are not a cat lover, to go out and adopt one. It has been a dream of mine to make the world a better place for cats and now I really feel I have the platform to make it happen.
For further information on Christine and her Riverfront Cats, or to make a much appreciated donation, please visit http://www.riverfrontcats.com You can also visit her site to learn about ways to help make a difference to save the Loews cats from being relocated.
If you know of a feral cat problem and want to help make a difference in your community, please visit Alley Cat Allies for suggestions and guidance.
To understand the very technical aspect of feral cats and for resourceful information, please visit Vox Felina for more information.