Niagara Gazette

Columns

October 31, 2013

DELUCA: The feral cats and their frantic friends

Niagara Gazette — It started with a single kitty, meowing pitifully outside her door. Apparently, that’s how it almost always starts.

Paola Wojtowicz, who lives in a tidy neighborhood off Hyde Park, did what so many of us might.  She put out food so the feral cat wouldn’t starve. Of course, the cat came back.

When the cat had two little kittens, it made itself a little home in a rabbit hole beneath her shed. Paola, a tiny woman with close cropped hair and a giant heart, was able to trap the kittens — which she brought to be spayed — and then released them. It’s what many cat lovers do to attempt to stem the feral cat problem.  But, she wasn’t able to catch their mom. Weeks ago, the mom cat birthed five more kittens — as ferals can do every 62 days.  

Paola, a widow with an impeccably clean house and magnificent gardens, was able to trap them all. They are now in her lovely living room, where a plastic fence holds a giant dog kennel which holds a kitty carrier, where the mom cat hides. 

I visited Paola yesterday, after she called me, desperate for someone to help her. She introduced me to the babies. One, a black and grey striped beauty, lay just near the door of the carrier where his mom hid. He was on his back, soaking in the rays of sun which streamed through the front windows, looking innocent and perfectly relaxed. A pair of his siblings played nearby, one gently batting the other with a little white paw.

So darned adorable. Yet a part of one of the saddest animal epidemics the region is facing — an explosion of feral cats.

Paola, a native of Venice, Italy, whose heart was stolen by a young American paratrooper in 1957, came to Niagara Falls with her husband, Chester Wojtowicz, as a young woman. They had two lovely children. At 71, she should be enjoying this time in her life. But, caring for the cats is consuming. 

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