Here are their stories.
They came from the streets of Brooklyn where young felines grow up fast and fierce if they are to survive. They lived in an empty lot, ignored by most, hated by some, pitied by some, and watched over by a few cat lovers including the West 104th St. Garden’s own Robin Mace.
Feral, from their time outdoors, they were beyond hand-shy and really averse to human contact.
Robin wanted to help them but it was clear that though apparently young and in good health, they were already hard-boiled, back-lot warriors and likely to remain unresponsive to any kind of “Here kitty, kitty!” entreaties. Adoption was not an option.
At the same time, West 104th Street Garden members and local neighbors struggled with a sudden and profound rodent infestation. Seemingly overnight, the garden was overrun with rats who found the garden’s well-tilled soil perfect for burrowing and harborage. Desperate, the garden community agreed to hire an extermination service. Soon a once chemical-free, beautiful organic landscape was befouled by costly poison-baited traps. In time, improvement came. But with no real improvement in the rat situation, the use of toxic bait continued and left many uneasy.
Hating the poison traps and finding a great respect for the street-tough cats who wandered near her workplace, led Robin to a bold plan. Working with advice from the ASPCA, she would trap, neuter and relocate the cats to the W. 104th St. Garden where they would be looked after, sheltered and fed while it was hoped their native antipathy towards rodents would express itself and send the rats packing. Once presented to the garden community, support for the plan was overwhelming.
Not all great ideas meet with initial success. After three of the Brooklyn cats were captured, they were relocated to a secure enclosure built in the garden for their acclimation in the late fall of 2007. They got out and fled. Robin wept. Were they sprung by a non-cat loving neighbor? Did they have some special feline skills to break out? And where did they go? Were they looking for a better deal? We’ll never know because when two of them returned, there wasn’t a meow of explanation.
Happily, over the winter with an insulated, straw-lined house made by a Neighborhood Cats volunteer and regular meals, they decided to stick around. The rats didn’t and spring of 2008 found the garden back much as it once was–a pleasant chemical free, urban oasis, enjoyed by garden members and neighbors alike.
The garden is now host to only one of the original felines, Spotlight, but two other felines heard through the grapevine about the job openings and have joined our Rat Patrol.
Though they are rarely seen during the day, the cats are around most evenings, patrolling and in some cases rolling around on the grass. They may not be friendly, but they look comfortable. We are grateful for their help and their tale now so entwined with our own.
To learn about our Composting program, we invite you to contact the composting committee or come to one of our Workdays for a training session. Use the contact form in the footer.
To report concerns about our Cats or to learn more, visit the web page or contact us with the form below.
Unfortunately, our bee colony experienced an unexpected die-off in Fall 2014. The hive is currently empty.
We welcome graduate students in our community to propose research projects in our Garden. Use the contact form below to request details.