Cats In Covid Crisis

Since mid-March, I’ve been delivering cats.

Not in the “giving birth” kind of delivery, but in the “ordering delivery” sense, when someone wants/needs something and someone else brings it to their door.

As people began working from home, they wanted a furry companion beside them, or they had the time to devote to a new pet, or they wanted to do something good at a time when everything felt awful.

So our beloved Cat Cafe was flooded with requests to foster cats and kittens, and I had the absolute pleasure of delivering the coveted felines to their humans.

Now, four months into our bizarre new world, the consequences of Covid are less pleasant.

    • In March, the ASPCA shut down its spay/neuter program, which provided free surgeries, testing, and vaccinations to rescue programs and certified TNR (trap-neuter-return) personnel–the program spayed/neutered hundreds of cats a day. During the four-month suspension of the program, a lot of cats that would have been rendered reproductively useless this spring have instead indulged the call of nature, resulting in a kitten explosion.
    • As summer approached, many (more) New Yorkers left the city, reducing the number of available people to foster/adopt.
    • The city animal shelter system, Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), which is required by law to take every animal brought to it, has drastically reduced intake since the beginning of the pandemic shutdown in mid-March and is referring the public to small, private rescue groups (like Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, which runs the Cafe), usually run by single individuals or a few people, paying costs mostly out of pocket.
    • ACC has stopped doing spay/neuter surgeries, so rescue groups that pull animals from the shelter are having now to pay the costs themselves. There are limited private veterinarians that offer discounts and those that do have very limited appointment spots. Rescuers who were getting spay/neuter and vaccines for free are now paying $100 – $200 per cat, when they can get an appointment.

How has this affected the Cafe and BBAWC?

  • Through the end of June 2020, BBAWC and the Cafe took in 539 adoptable animals and adopted out 440. These numbers match the number of animals the organization helped in all of 2019.
  • In 2019, they were able to trap-neuter-return 239 cats; so far this year, they’ve been able to TNR only 86.
  • Their veterinary costs last year were about $75,000, a number they have already exceeded this year.
  • In 2019, nearly half of the 14,000 cats taken in by ACC were transferred to private rescues. Before COVID, all of those cats would have been spayed/neutered before being released to a rescue. Now, many are released to rescues intact.

Because many of the big, well-funded shelters in New York City work only with adoptable animals, small rescues are fielding constant requests from people finding homeless cats and kittens in their neighborhoods, many of which are feral and unsuitable for adoption. These small, independent rescues rely on donations, fundraisers, and volunteers to do their work.

How can you help?

  • Of course, you can donate. All donations are fully tax-deductible.
  • Adopt!
  • Not ready for that commitment? You can foster, too.
  • Become a volunteer driver. It’s an easy, contactless way to help, and you get to explore neighborhoods all over NYC.
  • Share this post on your own social media channels.

The Cafe itself is still closed under Phase 4 restrictions, but you can keep up with its residents and needs on both Instagram and Facebook.


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  • Susan O’Doherty

    Thank you for your good work, and for keeping us informed.