The documentary “The Cat Rescuers,” which premieres at DOC NYC Film fest on November 10, follows four dedicated Brooklyn residents who spend almost all their time, money, and energy trying to care for the stray cats of the city.
We first meet the aptly nicknamed Sassee (who easily steals the movie) in Carnasie. She objects to being called a “cat lady,” but wouldn’t mind being called “Catwoman.” She feeds a colony of cats every day in her own area, in addition to spending hours staking out cats — like an elusive pregnant one — in other neighborhoods.
The first cat she ever rescued, a calico, followed her home one day “and that was that,” she says. She was spurred into action over seeing so many strays and new litters. “You gotta do something. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”
Stu, a radio technician for the NYFD, gets up before dawn every monrning to feed the strays in his area. “I think the general consensus was that I’d gone totally crazy. Who goes out of his house at 5 o’clock in the morning to feed a bunch of cats?” he says. He estimates that each block in Brooklyn has at least 25 stray cats.
Claire is an artist in Bedford-Stuy who helped start Brooklyn Animal Action. Daily, she scrolls through listings of cats online who were saved – and several, including a 10-year-old black tortoiseshell, who weren’t saved in time, and killed. The film doesn’t shy away from the heartbreaking side of rescue: You literally cannot save them all.
There’s also Alley Cat Allies, which teaches people how to trap cats, using stuffed animals in class. There aren’t enough homes for all the stray cats in the city, so the group’s goal is Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR), to keep cat colonies under control.
Some of the rescuers admit that constantly trying to care for (or at least spay or neuter) cats is taking too big a percentage of their lives. Some have giving up trying to find a human mate they love as much as rescuing cats. One woman who credits cats with saving her life, reveals that she traded a drug addiction for an addiction to rescuing strays.
As in “Kedi,” which was filmed in Istanbul, we see that construction is taking away space for the strays. At Industry City in Brooklyn, rescuers have to worry about people poisoning stray cats on abandoned sites marked for development, which adds an urgency to their mission.
We admire these people not just for their dedication to saving cats of all stripes, but for letting filmmakers Rob Fruchtman and Steve Lawrence into their lives for more than a year. The movie ends up being a tribute not just to all these furry faces and the people who love them, but to the highs and lows of rescue.
Because there are so many feral and abandoned cats, the rescuers are fighting a never-ending battle. As we learn in the film, in six years, two unfixed cats and their offspring can produce 670,000 cats. And a cat can become pregnant again 30 minutes after giving birth! So there’s always one more kitten to save. No wonder some of these cat lovers burn out.
Some good news: Because of ACC (Animal Care Centers)’s relationship with rescue groups, since 2003, it’s gone from euthanizing 75 percent of the 20,000 animals brought in every year to less than 10 percent.
The movie ends with a sobering statistic: “In the US, there are an estimated 40 million feral and abandoned cats. Only 2 percent are neutered.”
Spay and neuter your pets, support animal rescue, and go see this movie!
Official Site: http://catrescuersfilm.com
On Twitter: CatRescuersFilm
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatRescuersFilm/
Directors: Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence
Music: Hahn Rowe
Running Time: 87