Cats of St. James win archdiocese reprieve

When we first learned of the cats of St. James last month, they were being evicted from their courtyard residence in the historic Lower Manhattan church.

Even worse, the cat caregivers, who dutifully fed, watered and provided vet care, were denied access to them, leading to fears of starvation and a crisis over the cats' future.

Diligence and public pressure brought the Archdiocese of New York to the table with the NYC Feral Cat Initiative of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals.

The result? An agreement to restore the daily care and feeding of the eight spayed and neutered cats. During a 60-day trial period, a feeding station, shelters and a litter box will be set up. The deal was reached during a March 27 meeting attended by high ranking officials with Mayor Bloomberg's animal welfare team and Monsignor Kevin Nelan of the Archdiocese of New York and Father Lino Gonsalves of St. James Church, according to a report on the alliance website.

The alliance's president Jane Hoffman and Feral Cat Initiative outreach coordinator Mike Phillips said the St. James cats are an outstanding example of the benefits of Trap, Neuter Return (TNR). The adult cats being cared for now part of a project several years ago that trapped and removed two litters of tame kittens for adoption. 

The tricky part in cat rescue always comes when trying to address the remaining unneutered/unspayed adults, but they were successfully trapped, fixed and returned to the church.

The population was effectively stabilized.

The animal advocates stressed with the church leaders the importance of feeding to maintain that stability in the colony - which is doing its part to rid its corner of Chinatown of rats, the alliance reported.

Call it Catican 1.

"The church is setting a fine example of leadership by example with this compassionate and humane consideration for these cats abandoned to the street through no fault of their own," wrote the alliance's Phillips in his blog.

Indeed, what an example New York animal advocates, religious leaders and the lowly cats of St. James have set for everyone.

(Photo/Maggie O'Neill)