The Cat Ladies

Posted by / Filed under Tear Sheets

Janis Newman

Vicki Farretta

This assignment really surprised me, and made a big impression on me.  I’m not talking about being surprised by the locations that I shot at, or some impossible circumstances that came up during the assignment.  I’m just talking about being surprised by people, and gaining an appreciation for the fact that everyone is different.  Vicki and Janis love cats.  As do many Americans.  I am actually allergic to cats, so although I do not hate cats, I don’t really get excited about them either.

These two ladies love cats so much, they pour almost all of their time and energy into making the lives of feral cats as comfortable and safe as possible.  As the tear sheet indicates, they trap, neuter, and release or find homes for feral cats.

I spent two days shooting this assignment, and on the second day, Janis drove me around her hometown to show me some of the feeding spots and cat shelters that she frequents.  As we drove around, she would stop every few blocks, and fill up empty feeding dishes.  I was amazed by the number of cat shelters and bowls that were hiding in the bushes, and behind businesses.  Sometimes there were bowls right out in front of a business.  It was a hidden world, like the Troll Market under the Brooklyn Bridge in Hellboy II, for those of you who saw it.  You might walk by a cat shelter, or food bowl in public every day, and never even notice it.  I can’t recall ever seeing one in my life, but there were dozens of stray cats living behind, under, and in front of buildings just within a few blocks.  And all of these cats are given fresh food and water every single day by Janis and some of the other ladies who are involved.  That’s a lot of money when you think about feeding hundreds of cats everyday.  

While we were driving around from location to location, it really hit me.  Every day, for years, these women have been caring for cats all over the city, and making a big difference.  They prevent thousands of kittens from being born into difficult situations, and provide much better care for those cats that are already living without homes.  While we were at a trailer park on the first day of shooting, a lady came out of her home, and thanked Vicki and Janis for what they are doing.  She said that since they started fixing and caring for the cats in her neighborhood just weeks earlier, things have gotten much better.  Cat’s were no longer urinating all over the place, and the frequent cat fights had pretty much stopped. 

After my shoot with Vicki was over, I thanked her for what she is doing.  Her work may not affect me directly, or at least in a way that I would have ever known about, but it is so good to see people caring for others (cats in this case).  Trapping cats, and feeding them is not something that I will ever do, but I am thankful that there are people who do.  That’s what I love about photography.  I get to meet so many different people, and experience life from so many different points of view.  I can just imagine what I would have thought when I was younger about “cat ladies”.  Remember when so much of the country would laugh at “tree huggers”.  I’m grateful for a new perspective.  If everyone could find just one  small way to care for people, animals, or the earth ,the changes would be great.

I have just been thinking about these things lately.  Interestingly enough, some of my work has allowed me to experience first hand the needs of others, and what some people are doing to help.  Thanks for reading.  

You can read the entire article about TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) (here).
* If you are using a blog reader, you may need to visit my actual blog to see the cat slide show above.