It struck me as I walked the streets of New York that I hadn’t seen many people with dogs walking about, the same applied to spotting stray cats. It is rare for me to be in such a built up place where animals are seemingly absent from the landscape. I’m used to homes teaming with a cacophony of animal sounds but here in the areas where I spent my days haunting the walkways, there appeared to be little to none.
A couple of days before I was due to leave New York, I decided to take a break from writing to head out with my camera as a treat for completing the first draft of my current novel. I had heard people mention there was a local fellow who used to feed all the stray cats and had done so for years. I was curious about this given, I had been in the US for close to a month and was yet to see any stray animals in the streets.
A few minutes into my stroll I heard the distinct call of cats meowing. Instantly, I switched directions to follow the sounds and managed to stumble upon a fellow who was in the process of being greeted by a group of strays. I couldn’t believe it. A month had gone by where I hadn’t found one and yet there they all were less than a block and a half away from where I had been staying. Dozens of stray cats were running about playing, while others politely waited for a serve of the food, this kind man had purchased for them.
I came to understand he used to be a resident of the district and spent some time devoted to the care of the strays in the area. When he was evicted because the building was being sold, he had no choice but to find a new place and now lives down town. Nevertheless, he still makes the effort to come across whenever he can, to give the cats some food.
“Kindness rewards the soul.” ―Truth Devour
He confirmed there are other people in the area who also assisted with feeding the cats and regularly supplied them with clean water. There were a couple of old metal structures that had been donated to provide them with shelter from the wind and rain. A community effort is in place where people give what they can to assist the local strays. It was honestly really touching to witness.
What struck me as marvelous above all things was observing the cats patiently wait for him to place their portion of the meal in front of them. There was no growling, hissing or fighting. They all sat and watched as each got served and would stand when the spoon was being presented to them. I didn’t witness one stray cat, young or old who tried to steal an extra portion from another. Once they got their meager spoonful served to them, they ate it and then went off to play or stayed to groom themselves.
I’m not a veterinarian but the stray cats all seemed to look to be in reasonable condition. Sure there was the odd one with a battle scar but none of them were disturbingly skinny or had chunks of hair missing or were overridden by fleas, etc. They have a communal structure where there is a comfort associated to their close knit unity. The cats weren’t skittish or threatening like some true feral animals I have met across the years. These guys were holding it together with the support of the locals and from what I could sense, were content.
I had been wondering why New York wasn’t overran by rats given the sheer mass of garbage I saw regularly piled high in the streets. I’d suspected rodents must be able to flourish in an environment where excess seems to be spilled into the oversized black garbage bags piled so tall in some places I questioned if there was a union strike on collections. Now, I recognized it is possibly the local stray cats who keep the balance in check on the ratus ratus community preventing them from domination.
It also explains why the homeless cats, here are not as skinny as I have seen in other places. I have no doubt they help themselves to the endless supply of rodents ensuring their bellies are filled with regularity.
My only encounter with a rat in New York occurred on a night it was storming with rain. I was walking to my apartment when I saw this humongous beast leap off the stoop, onto the garbage lid and down the drain. The flash of red in its eye gave me a chill as it disappeared into the blackness. It was equal to the size of an average rabbit. I’d never seen one quite so big before.
Most of the time the reason I look for the stray animals in the places I travel is because I want to give them something, anything as a gesture of goodwill. I have done this since I began traveling from the age of seventeen. If I was to label it than perhaps it is my way of paying it forward. My own personal policy to seek animals in need to help in some small measure. It’s very rare to come across a situation like this whereby everything is working out fine. I was incredibly moved and get blessed to be able to see it. I know there are people out there quietly doing good deeds. I was stoked on this day to be present to one of them.
‘Help when you can. It all counts.’
In the centre of devastation, poverty, real life struggles, there is a heart beat that responds to gestures of kindness. Aim to be a contributor to igniting faith and hope back into the energies of the souls who need it most. Then look into their eyes, for there is where you will find intangible beauty truly resides.
Blessings – Truth Devour
All the photographs in this article were taken By Truth Devour