While Hurricane Irene was menacing New York City last month and accounts of valiant rescues flooded the media, some rescuers labored quietly outside the spotlight to ensure the safety of some very special Little New Yorkers.
Even before Irene made landfall in the Big Apple, calls and e-mails from people seeking help to save endangered outdoor cats, kittens, and wildlife poured into the New York City Feral Cat Initiative (NYCFCI), a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. In the hours before, during, and after the storm, the NYCFCI’s Valerie Sicignano fielded dozens of requests for coaching, trapping assistance, and help with placement for displaced or injured animals. Among them:
Throggs Neck, Bronx
An e-mail came in to the Mayor’s Alliance from Liana on Friday morning asking for help in rescuing a mama cat who had just given birth on Monday behind a bush at the church across the street from her home. Liana feared “Gypsy” and her four, four-day-old kittens would drown in the anticipated flooding. Valerie responded and, after determining from their conversation that Gypsy was friendly, she dispatched Carolyn, a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Coach in the area to gather up Gypsy and her kittens. Today the family is resting comfortably in a NYCFCI foster home, and will be available for adoption next month.
Howard Beach, Queens
Flo, a kitten bottle-feeder who volunteers with Bobbi and the Strays, an Alliance Participating Organization, found a three-week-old baby squirrel floating in the floodwaters of Howard Beach. Having attended a NYCFCI Kitten Palooza! workshop this past spring where she learned how to care for newborn kittens, Flo knew that keeping this baby warm was the most important thing she could do. Once she had the baby squirrel (whom she named Little Irene) safely in her care, Flo contacted the NYCFCI. Valerie reached out to the Wild Bird Fund and located a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who will care for Little Irene until she can be released back into the wild or, if that’s not possible, will place her into a sanctuary.
Grand Concourse, Bronx
Jamie, a TNR Coach for the NYCFCI, spent the entire day on Friday before the storm lining up rescuers available to gather up stray friendly cats and kittens and move them out of harm’s way before the storm arrived. Friday night, she was busy trapping, to complete a large TNR project at a church. Next morning, just hours before the rains began, Jamie was on the road to the Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C) Staten Island shelter to pick up cats and kittens being evacuated from the shelter and deliver them to Alliance Participating Organizations for future adoption placement.
“The Lucky Ten” Bunnies of Staten Island
Days before the storm’s arrival, Cathy rescued ten domestic motherless newborn rabbits in Clove Lake Park and brought them to Sandy. Both women are volunteers for Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. The baby bunnies were matted and covered in mud, so she cleaned and groomed them, and began bottle-feeding them. The “buns” (as Sandy calls them) are now picture-perfect and available for adoption through Rabbit Rescue & Rehab in Manhattan.
When word that AC&C’s Staten Island shelter was being evacuated in anticipation of flooding, many groups and individuals stepped up to ensure that all the animals in the shelter were moved to safety. Among those who took in the animals were Michelle, from Staten Island Hope Animal Rescue, and Iris, a NYCFCI foster caretaker and volunteer at AC&C’s Manhattan shelter. Both ladies responded immediately and took cats and kittens into foster care. Iris also responded to a call for volunteers to help set up cages and supplies for incoming pets at the Lehman College Emergency Center, one of the city’s hurricane shelters.
East Elmhurst, Queens
Maryanne took in a litter of four ten-day-old kittens born in her backyard hours before Irene arrived. She contacted the Mayor’s Alliance for help with the kittens, and the NYCFCI placed them with Leni, an alumnus of our last Kitten Palooza! workshop on “Bottle-Feeding & Care of Orphaned Kittens” who has been putting her newly learned skills to the test by fostering neonatal kittens. The NYCFCI will follow-up to make sure that their feral mom “Evon,” who remains outdoors, is TNRed and her babies are adopted into loving homes through the Mayor’s Alliance.
Always at the ready to provide assistance when NYC’s outdoor cats are at risk, the NYCFCI went above and beyond when disaster loomed to ensure these furry Little New Yorkers made it safely through the storm.
If you’d like to learn more about the New York City Feral Cat Initiative, please visit NYCFeralCat.org. To become involved in the NYCFCI’s lifesaving work, or to adopt any of the cats or kittens featured here, please e-mail kittens@NYCFeralCat.org.