Saving Stray Cats in Morrisania

Edith Georgia began her day at 6 a.m. on August morning by preparing food for the stray cats lurking on the street corners in her Morrisania neighborhood. Georgia, a 65-year-old relative newcomer to the Bronx, arranged everything in her foldable cart: bottled clean water, paper plates, baking soda, vitamins for kittens, and stacked up cans of “Friskies” cat food.



Georgia, a former waitress working in North Harlem, has been following this routine for four years since she moved to South Bronx. Georgia started one day when she found a shorthair cat starving and meowing up at her when she walked down to her apartment at 9 p.m. after work. Georgia left out cat food, which later attracted more of his companions. She never thought this would become her responsibility, but every time Georgia saw cats out there, she “just can’t leave them alone.”

An overpopulation of feral cats have been a long-term headache in the Bronx. The issues surrounding it include insufficient neutering procedures, the city’s highest animal abandon rate, a lack of shelters and sanitation problems — problems that citywide animal enthusiasts and City Council Committee of Health have been pressuring the City to address for more than six years.

“Providing humane treatment to stray animals in New York City requires having the most modern facilities,” said City Council Member Mark Levine, who chairs the committee on health. “Until now, we as a city have failed to meet that standard in the Bronx.”

Meanwhile, Georgia and a handful of other Bronx residents are left caring for a growing population of homeless animals. Right now, she counts 25 feral cats under her protection. Twice a day, seven days a week, Georgia comes out on Fulton Avenue to provide them food and shelter built from plastic, waterproof sheets.

Georgia feeding her homeless felines in Unity Park

“There’re way too many cats here in the Bronx,” Georgia said as a gray cat named “Smokey” brushed by her legs. “Every time I turned around, it’s a new face.”

Georgia’s last stop in her everyday routine is the Reverend Lena Irons Unity Park located at East 167th Street. By the time she dragged her trolley to this park, Georgia’s fuschia hair band and leggings were soaked with sweat in the hot summer days.

When she stepped into the park, six cats suddenly jumped out from the bushes and behind the wire meshes surrounding the park. According to Georgia, there were only two of them when she first came here one year ago.

“This is a big family. Tabby is the mother. They breed so fast,” she said.

A large group of unneutered feral cats in Morrisania led to their booming population. According to the New York City Vital Signs study conducted in 2015, cats in the Bronx were least likely (60 percent) to be neutered, compared with 93 percent in Manhattan.

To solve this problem, the city adopted the Trap-Neuter-Return program that traps, neuters, and returns stray cats to outdoor locations in the city in order to humanely reduce the free-roaming cat population.

However, the Bronx has the smallest number of Trap-Neuter-Return locations despite its greatest need. None of the Bronx locations listed in the Health Department page has a physical space and there are only two feral-friendly veterinary clinics in the Bronx compared to an average of eight in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“We also work with over 8,000 certified Trap-Neuter-Return caregivers,” said Kathleen O’Malley, Director of Education for the Feral Cat Initiative. “Providing more free workshops and training in the Bronx for cat advocates can help to solve the lack of animal care location problem.”

Feral cats in the Bronx

More and more cats on the street further increased the animal abandon rate. The largest number of cats being abandoned or surrendered to Animal Care Centers came from the South Bronx according to the Spay and Neuter Practices Survey.

In the year 2012 and 2013, the South Bronx had 3,958 abandoned cats, which means five domestic cats become feral per day.

According to Georgia, people abandoned their pets because they believed “maybe just one more cat on the street won’t be too much of a problem since there are already plenty of them.”

Georgia is not the only local resident taking care of the stray cats. Plastic bins filled with fresh or dried-out, rotten cat food are not hard to find in the Morrisania area. Animal advocates built their own “cat colonies” since the city has never build full-service animal shelters or adoption centers in the Bronx.

It’s been three years since the Health Department announced the new efforts to improve shelter animal care in the Bronx, including doubling the fleet of mobile adoption vans. However, Georgia said she didn’t notice any improvements in her neighborhood.

“Most of the money for the cat food came from my own pocket,” she said.

At this moment, Georgia has several donors, most of them are also Bronx residents who got to know her on the streets.

According to the mayor’s most recent statement from late January, a $27.3 million investment will be used for constructing a new animal care shelter in the Bronx that is “projected to open in 2024.”

Stray cats in the Bronx

Stray cats also caused sanitation problems and diseases.

“Food left for those cats filled the street with the stench,” said Rachid Sywra who works for a local hair braiding store. A simple shelter built from waterproof tarps and tree branches sits directly in front of his store, next to some rusty trash cans and black plastics bags filled with smelly garbage.

People usually forget to clean the cat food they left around street corners. Instead, they let the food gradually decay and attract mosquitos drumming around.

“This place is not supposed to be their litter box,” Sywra said when he swept up the grains of rice spilled on the ground.


Worse, cats with rabies reappeared in the Bronx last year after its extinction in the New York City four years ago. According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a stray cat that had bitten someone was found dead in a nearby backyard in the Bronx and subsequently tested positive for rabies on July 19 last year.

“Since they announced plans for the Bronx,” said City Councilman Robert Holden, “we are the only borough without a shelter and we probably have the most animals here.”

“But look on the bright side,” said Georgia, “at least they kept the rat population down. That’s why this neighborhood is not more infested with rats.”


(Photo credit to Leafy Yan)

2 Responses to “Saving Stray Cats in Morrisania”

  1. avatar Xavier Wang says:

    Nice job!!!

  2. avatar joan says:

    thank you Georgia..and all who help feed the strays.


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