Saving Cats: A Calling, Not an Option

Karen Levenson, Ontario, Canada

My first rescue cat was abandoned in the basement of the old apartment building where I lived after university. A small colony of cats had squeezed through an opening in the crumbling construction and nested there for shelter and security. I might catch a glimpse of a black and white tail or see the back of a calico head darting out of sight, but most of the time all I saw were shadows, mere glimpses in the corner of my eye. Even so, some of the residents and I put out plates of kitty kibble or canned kitty pâté and water each evening. When we returned later in the evening to pick up the dishes, they were empty.

One day a neighbor told me the building superintendent was planning on cementing over the opening of the basement to prevent the cats from entering. I begged the superintendent not to, but he told me the building owner was adamant that it had to be done. One of the cats was a deaf, albino cat with striking blue eyes. I didn’t know how old she was—I guessed 3 to 5 years old—but I knew, without her basement home, she would never survive the rough, highly trafficked neighborhood or the frigid winters. I decided to take her in.

Lilly let me pick her up and wrap her in a blanket and didn’t struggle in my arms as I brought her up to my apartment. She appeared relieved to be inside. She quickly learned how to navigate around our apartment. She handled her deafness and her new environment with acceptance and grace.

Soon after I brought Lilly home, she and I moved from that apartment to another, nicer one in a different city, and we lived together for many years.

That was 40 years ago. Since then I have rescued over 30 stray and feral cats. In my new city, Guelph, Ontario, I continue my work. I’ve joined a feral cat task force to make sure community cats are protected in Ontario, and I often write about cats in our newspaper. Saving cats is not an option for me. It’s a calling.