Sunday, July 31, 2011

To the alley cat rescue

They call themselves the Pussy Patrol. Together, Danette MacKay, Leni Parker and Zoï Kilakos have rescued 25 Mile End alley cats in the past two years.

They pick up strays, take them to the vet where they're spayed or neutered, and provide foster care until a home they deem suitable is found.

"They've got their fingers on the pulse of the local alleys, " said vet Judith Weissmann who charges the Pussy Patrol a special rate for the strays.

"We're crazy cat ladies," said Kilakos, who puts out food twice a day for the strays in her alley and has been known to spend hours on a rescue stake-out, waiting for a feral cat to approach. "We were each doing it on our own, then we merged. It's our vocation."

They each own four (or five) rescued cats and refer to the strays as "the boys and girls on the street." One recent rescue was Mad Max who took shelter in one of the insulated structures they put out in the winter.

"He showed up with his leg completely ripped open. I live-trapped him to take to the vet. He was there for a month," said Kilakos, a commercial and fine arts photographer, as well as a cat rescuer.

Danette MacKay is an actor and co-owner of the Arterie Boutique & Friperie on Bernard. She had the idea of offering the cats up for adoption through the store, where actor Leni Parker also works.

The current store cat is tawny Leo, who just a few months ago, had fur so dirty and matted he had to be shaved. "When he was freshly off the streets he would lunge at his food and drink all his water at once," said Parker.

Now he lounges around the boutique like a lazy king. A recent visitor to the store may turn out to be his "forever mom," but first she'll have to pass the Pussy Patrol's intensive adoption interview. There's also a $150 fee designed to cover the cost of neutering and to make sure future owners are serious about owning an animal.

Sometimes, the Pussy Patrol despairs about humans.

"Why is it not OK for dogs to be out on their own and it's totally socially acceptable to let cats roam around?" asked MacKay. "It makes no sense. Do we have a stray dog population problem in Montreal? No, we don't."

"People have this mentality that cats are solo creatures and autonomous and need to be outside in nature. That's not true," said Parker.

"Rescued street cats very rarely want to go out again," continued MacKay.

Kilakos points out that if cats aren't spayed or neutered they will produce several litters a year, as will their offspring, quickly resulting in an exponential number of animals. She gives out her vet's card to new pet owners, gently transmitting that message.

"Yelling at people doesn't work so I try to bribe them with compassion," she said.

To adopt a former alley cat, contact