When I first moved to my current Bushwick apartment in the summer of 2013, there were about six cats in my backyard area. My neighbor across the hall met her cat after her door was left wide open and they’ve been inseparable for nearly three years. But what if it were the other way around, and you instead were the one seeking out the cat? Seven-year Bushwick residents Scott Bleicher and his wife, Jayda Chi, have been doing exactly that for the past four years – rescuing kittens and cats from the streets of Bushwick.
“Once you start, then you start seeing cats all over the place, almost like they come out just for you to see them,” says Scott.
Lately the couple has been particularly devoted to a kitty named Cecil, who was rescued with his three brothers shortly after injuring himself from climbing a chicken wire fence. While his brothers were rescued in good health, four-month-old Cecil had to pummel through not only a toe amputation from the climb, but VERG North also discovered little pieces of chicken wire in his stomach and intestines.
“We knew that it was going to get expensive once the x-rays revealed wire and other foreign objects in his stomach and intestines, and he wasn’t going to pass them naturally. The decision to cover Cecil’s medical expenses was just plain obvious,” says Scott.
The surgery is $5,000, and though Scott and his wife have committed to the amount, they are reaching out to the community for financial help. So far they’ve raised $1,868 of their $4,500 goal – nearly halfway. Cecil is by far the most expensive kitty they rehabilitated, second to one who’s procedures reached $1,500 from a dislocated tail and weakened immune system. “Now he’s almost two years old and is super loyal!” notes Scott. The couple have helped out dozens of cats since their start, with realistic expectations about the adjustment.
“Sometimes they’re too feral or want to be hunters out in the urban wild, but we always try to bring them around and help them as much as we can,” admits Scott.
Cecil has been hanging low since his discharge from VERG last week and is quarantined in a big crate in the bathroom, made possible via Thundercats TNR, until his belly stitches are out. Since the release, he has expressed verifiable signs of his increasing health: a softer coat, an appetite, brightened eyes, lifted tail, meowing, and purring (the first time Scott and Jayda have heard him meow). Not to mention he has had energy enough to explore beyond his crate in the bathroom – while supervised – and, according to Scott, looks really cute when he walks with his cast.
Though Scott and Jayda have always been animal lovers, four years ago their love turned philanthropic while out for an afternoon jog, cut short when they noticed two calicos living behind their building. After finding out that their super was keeping them alive by feeding them table scraps, the couple felt morally obligated to do something more. They named the cats Ginger and Dum Dum, and moved them towards adoption. The people who opened The Meow Parlour cafe are also based out of the Union Square Petco—KittyKind. They are not only the same group who helped find a home for Ginger and Dum Dum under one roof, but also the primary means for adoption used by Scott and Jayda to this day.
Right now, Cecil’s brothers are staying with a friend of Scott and Jayda’s, Bruce, who has been rescuing and fostering cats for decades. They expect by the later half of February there will be open spots at KittyKind and the kitties can be on their way towards a permanent home.
The couple’s TNR (trap neuter return) certification greatly helps the rescue process. The privileges of TNR certification include the use of all TNR certified ASPCA facilities, $0 to spay/neuter a cat at those particular facilities (you read that right – it’s free), and yields borrowing rights of traps and equipment.
Before the adoption process begins, the couple fosters the kittens and cats for at least a month, depending on how long the cats have been on the streets. During this time the cats and kittens also recover from any vaccination, the spay/neuter process, or, like in Cecil’s case, surgeries. Currently, the couple has been taking care of three adult cats for over a year.
“Two of them we can pet but can’t pick up, another we can barely scratch on the head before she gets scared. Mostly, it takes a lot of patience and trust building,” says Scott.
He continues: “We’re all so busy and focused on ourselves, moving through the city with blinders on, shoving each other to get on trains and getting annoyed when we have to wait two minutes for a latte. When you stop long enough to help a little creature that can’t help himself, that is living under a car and doesn’t have any food, it kind of helps to center you when this city pulls us in so many petty ways.”
If this article has spoken to your heart in more ways than one, then attend some workshops and consider getting your TNR certification on and helping out a cat or two.