Economic Troubles Increase the Number of Homeless Cats in NYC Shelters


Published: April 9, 2009

The current state of the economy has sent many people packing from upscale homes to lower cost housing, apartments and, in some cases, homeless shelters. But while we’re aware that tent cities have cropped up around the country and homelessness is on the rise, there are other species being affected by our faltering finances. Countless dogs, rabbits and especially cats have been surrendered to shelters for financial reasons since this past October.  Pet owners suffering from job loss and not having enough money to make ends meet have found themselves faced with the choice of putting food on the table for their families or in the bowl for their pets.  Some feel so overwhelmed by debt that making the choice to give up their pets seems inevitable.

Luckily for these newly homeless creatures, a number of students at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) currently volunteer at Manhattan animal shelters to find these felines good homes and provide them the best care they possibly can until they’re placed.

Ariadne Blayde, FCLC ’11, volunteers at Ollie’s Place, a cat-only shelter located on 26th Street and Third Avenue. Not only has the shelter seen a decrease in adoptions, but it has encountered other financial issues as well.

“We have a harder time placing cats in homes now,” Blayde said. “People don’t want to adopt because the economy is bad and [they] refuse to adopt from us because they feel the fee [$125] is too high.”

Besides adoptees being deterred by the adoption fee, suffering organizations have also withdrawn their support.

“Another problem is that we used to have grants to support us, and now we are only receiving support from individual donations,” Blayde said. “Some of our corporate suppliers have dropped out and are not providing us with donations. We have to buy all our own cat litter now. We used to have a company that donated it.”

Since Sarah Rogers, FCLC ’12, started volunteering for the Anjellicle Cats Rescue in October, she’s noticed a definite increase in the number of cats being brought in to Anjellicle, as well as a decrease in cats being adopted out.

“The last time I went for my shift, there were more cats than I’d ever seen. Two of the cages had two or more cats in them,” Rogers said. “We’ve had several cats come in who were simply abandoned by their owners. One person who adopted two cats from Anjellicle returned the cats to us because the family couldn’t afford to keep them anymore. We have so many sweet, healthy cats that just can’t find homes, despite all the adoption events we have.”

The Anjellicle Cats Rescue, a no-kill, all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization is located right by FCLC on 49th Street and Ninth Avenue. Tracey Toole, the creative director of Anjellicle, has become overwhelmed by the amount of homeless cats the organization has rescued due to financial issues faced by their owners.

“Just last week we found a cat sitting outside [an apartment complex] in the garbage next to his scratch post and some furniture. The neighbors said people moved out,” Toole said. “The cat even had identification tags on but the number was disconnected. Because of people moving and losing jobs, there are many more animals left on the street or dropped off at the Animal Care and Control. Unfortunately, most of those animals are euthanized because there is not enough space. It really is heartbreaking.”

Despite the hardships that have befallen the shelters (which don’t seem to be improving), FCLC students continue to volunteer their time and energy.

“I volunteer because I care about animals,” Blayde said. “These animals need to stay happy and healthy, even if none of them ever gets adopted. The cats need our care no matter what, and we can’t give up just because we’re not placing as many cats as we’d like. Ollie’s Place is volunteer run, and they really need all of us to keep things running. Also, I need my kitty time! I get a lot out of it, too; it’s not just a sacrifice. I do it because I love cats and it’s a lot of fun.”

Rogers agrees that “kitty time” is also a huge part of why she continues to volunteer.

“I started volunteering with Anjellicle because I missed my cats back home. Since we can’t have cats in McMahon, or we’re not supposed to, at least, I looked for a shelter so I could spend time with cats that really needed it. Once I got to know the cats in the cat room and saw how enthusiastic and dedicated Anjellicle’s organizers are, I wanted to stay involved,” Rogers said.

There is no quick fix for the state of the economy, nor is there an easy way to slow the increasing number of pets affected by it.  However, with FCLC volunteers working to help the cause, shelter cats have hope for a better tomorrow.