Street tales: Group works to rescue forgotten cats
A little group is in a big fight to reduce suffering among creatures of the urban wild.
After more than eight years on the task, progress is tough to quantify, said Cora Martino, founder of Pitter Patter Feline Rescue, one of several volunteer agencies that work to reduce the population of homeless and semi-wild cats living on streets of Stamford.
The feral cats are the descendants of pets that were abandoned or allowed to roam un-neutered.
“I’m going to say that the population is a little less,” said Martino, who, with a handful of other volunteers, visits alleys, fields, yards, garages and other places where cats colonize, traps them, treats, vaccinates and neuters them, and returns them to their habitats.
So far this year, Pitter Patter has treated 162 feral cats, Martino said.
“I think we might be making a dent,” she said. “But there are still a lot of cats out there.”
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, no one knows. The group finds them starving, sick, injured, without limbs, poisoned, doused in gasoline or wounded by BB guns.
Then there are the kittens. They are carried away by rats, raccoons, hawks, weasels or coyotes, killed in traffic or drowned in rainstorms. Each year a feral female can have three litters of four to six kittens. About half die.
Pitter Patter volunteers take in the kittens they find — about 1,200 to date.
The state does not regulate cats as it does dogs, but two years ago, the Board of Representatives revised the city’s animal welfare ordinance to prohibit owners from allowing their cats to roam unless they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and micro-chipped. Abandonment is illegal, and so is keeping strays without notifying Stamford Animal Control. Officers may investigate any property with a feral cat colony when it appears animals are in danger.
The ordinance incorporates the work of groups such as Pitter Patter, and requires that they keep records of the cats they treat.
Martino said grassroots groups step in when the city is not able.
“Animal Control can’t bottle-feed kittens, so we take the babies they find,” she said. “We also take the ones that need overnight care, and the ones that need socialization.”
Pitter Patter works with a network of foster families, including Tuesday Tamburri, of Darien, and her daughters, Sydney, 14, a student at AITE in Stamford, and Meisha, 11, who attends Middlesex Middle School in Darien.
The Tamburris and their family cat, Prosciutto, have welcomed 10 rescued kittens. The idea came from Sydney, an animal lover who is required to do community service as part of the AITE curriculum, Tuesday Tamburri said.
“Our goal is to make them as adoptable as possible. We really love it,” she said. “My daughters are doing all the socialization. When Meisha falls asleep, the kittens all fall asleep on her and around her. They go from super-skittish to super socialized.”
Sydney Butler, 14, plays with some of the kittens her family is fostering at their Darien home on Thursday. The kittens were saved by Pitter Patter Feline Rescue, a Stamford group that traps, treats and neuters feral cats.