Trial Period Ends with Permission Granted for Feral Cats to Be Fed on Church Property

The eight feral cats living on the grounds of St. James Church in Lower Manhattan will be allowed to stay due to the success of this spring's trial period. (Photo by Mike Phillips)

The eight feral cats living on the grounds of St. James Church in Lower Manhattan will be allowed to stay due to the success of this spring's trial period. (Photo by Mike Phillips)

The 60-day trial period to evaluate and iron out the details for ongoing care of the feral cat colony at St. James Church in lower Manhattan has concluded. As each of the church’s objections was heard and addressed, a satisfactory arrangement has been found for the peaceful coexistence of all concerned — excepting, of course, the banished rodent population!

During the trial period, the church allowed a proper feeding station to be placed on the property, which immediately improved the sanitary conditions and the ability to keep the area clean. The unusual experiment of introducing a litter box for the feral colony was a success. The church location has lots of paved surfaces without the burying options available that cats prefer, so they welcomed the litter box and started using it immediately. This resolved one of the main concerns of the church. The litter box is a cement mixing pan on a pallet with a hinged roof to protect it from rain and snow. Insulated shelters will be added before winter, and the caretakers are granted daily access to feed the cats (and scoop the litter box). To prevent future problems and misunderstandings that could put the lives of the cats in danger, the channels of communication will be kept open between the church and caretakers to work together to find solutions should a problem arise.

The St. James Church colony site includes a litter box station, which is cleaned regularly by the caretakers when they feed the cats. (Photo by Mike Phillips)

The St. James Church colony site includes a litter box station, which is cleaned regularly by the caretakers when they feed the cats. (Photo by Mike Phillips)

Special thanks to Monsignor Kevin Nelan, the Vicar of South Manhattan, for his guidance in diffusing what had become a seemingly intractable situation. With both sides listening to the other’s concerns and with careful consideration of the facts, it became clear that removing the neutered and vaccinated cats from rodent-infested Chinatown was not in the best interest of the parish or the surrounding community.

His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan weighed in on the situation and made the wise recommendation for Monsignor Nelan to mediate the discussion with the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. The situation got a lot of attention through social media, and well over 1,000 e-mails and a flood of phone calls to the Archdiocese made it clear how passionately people cared about the well-being of the cats and how much they wanted the cats to stay and continue to be cared for on the church property.

Fortunately for the cats, their position was a strong one thanks to the timely Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) project implemented by Elizabeth Eller of City Critters, an Alliance Participating Organization, several years ago. After TNR and the taming and adoption of a couple of litters of feral kittens, the colony was stabilized at only eight cats. Given this relatively small number of already neutered and vaccinated cats, the negotiations started on a very strong footing. If they only knew, the cats have Elizabeth to thank as much as anyone for their current good standing in the community.

On behalf of the cats, we’d like to thank each and every person who took the time to e-mail or call on behalf of these cats! Succeeding to defend the St. James colony will surely help the plight of less visible but equally worthy colonies everywhere.

   

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