WCB 75 is being hosted this weekend by Skeezix the Cat. My contribution this week is a special article on cats in New Orleans. Of course, this is a city steeped in its jazz heritage, and cats and jazz have always gone together at least when it comes to imagery and language. Certainly there were no shortages of artwork, posters, murals, etc., celebrating the “cool cat” of jazz:
The relationship of New Orleans to its real cats is a bit more ambiguous. This is definitely a “dog town” from the perspective of animal companions. People can be seen walking dogs everywhere, and there appear to be lots of guard dogs around as well. Cats were a little more elusive, though I did see a few during my many walks in the uptown area to and from Tulane for the conference. Please click on the images below to see large images of the furry New Orleans residents:
The middle picture is of a pet cat named Kramer who was very friendly and talkative. Most of the other cats I encountered were a bit skittish, many of them darting across streets and hiding under the raised fundations of the houses. Hiding under a house is most times a perfectly good strategy, but I do think with a bit of sadness how many kitties were caught hiding there when the floods came. Many cats were located and rescued in the aftermath of Katrina. Spray-painted notices such as these are still a common site around the city:
Of the groups most involved in locating and rescuing cats and other animals after Katrina was the Louisiana SPCA. Their shelter facility was destroyed in the storm, and they had to evacuate themselves and the animals in their care, no easy task. Upon returning, not only did they not have a facility, but were faced with the reality that so many people had left their pets behind – largely due to a government policy that disallowed pet evacuations, but has since been reversed. You can read more about the SPCA's efforts to rescue animals and rebuild – its both heart-breaking and uplifting.
I did have an opportunity to visit the SPCA's temporary facility. I would like to thank Lori Haeuser and Kate Pullen for taking the time and effort to provide me a tour and more information about their efforts with cats.
The temporary shelter is in a converted coffee warehouse on the Westbank, across the river from the main part of New Orleans and largely spared by the flooding. The warehouse is basically a huge non-insulated space with a concrete floor, not really set up to house large numbers of animals. The SPCA constructed a number of temporary housing units inside the warehouse for offices and animal facilities, including several units for the cats. There are separate units for kitties ready for adoption, healthy cats not quite ready for adoption, those with medical needs, and a separate area for feral cats. Each of the little buildings has its own climate and lighting control – the latter was particularly useful for the feral cats who prefer the shadows. Below is a picture from the adoption unit:
As you can see, they have quite a few black kitties at this time. As noted a few weeks ago around Halloween, black cats do have a harder time getting adopted. And more generally, it seems that culturally many people in the area, particularly those with a more rural background, as less likely to view cats as “pets” that one adopts from the shelter, but rather as functional animals that one might start feeding a befriending, and then perhaps take in. In someways, it is more a situation of the “cat adopting the human”, though those of us with cats know that is how it usually works anyway. They did say that cat adoptions are starting to pick up a bit now, so hopefully some of these kitties will find homes. In the meantime, it seems that they are being cared for as best they can under the circumstances. And they do get to come out and play, as was the case with this friendly little torbie (in photo to the right).
Please visit the Lousiana SPCA website for more info and to support their work.