Friday, October 14, 2011





Saturday, October 8, 2011


October 6th was the 50th anniversary of the debut of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Arguably, one the most famous stray cats in the annals of American culture is Audrey Hepburn’s poor slob without a name, a principle actor in the film. The role, portrayed by Orangey, a two time winner of the Patsy Award (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year), is that of a stray cat living on the streets of Manhattan** In the film, this homeless cat quickly becomes a metaphor for the rootless life led by the charming and eccentric Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) who befriends him. Not to give the story away for anyone who has not seen this 1960’s classic, but the final scene in the film with Holly, Paul—the man who is in love with her, and cat is worth at least two fistfuls of tissue.

Orangey, a red tabby, made his film debut in 1951, as Rhubarb in the film of the same name. His acting career spanned fifteen years, including the role of Minerva in the television series, Our Miss Brooks.

**As with most films involving animals, Orangey had several feline, on-set stand-ins during his career.

Monday, September 26, 2011


The gang at Stone Ledge applauds Sugar Ray!
Read about this stray kitten that has become an inspiration to all who meet him:

Stray kitten an inspiration
Crooked front legs don't slow this little guy down
Published 12:01 a.m., Saturday, September 24, 2011
Read more:

ALBANY -- Just like his namesake, 10-week-old stray kitten Sugar Ray is a fighter.
An affable kitty with a soft, solid-gray coat and striking eyes, Sugar Ray was born with deformed front legs on the streets of Albany. Discovered along with his three siblings and their mother last month by caretakers of a feral cat colony, the whole family was rescued.
A friendly, affectionate and playful bunch, all are up for adoption through AnimaLovers, a nonprofit rescue organization that aids both domestic and feral cats throughout the Capital Region.
"He's a mini-inspiration, always charming, always ready with a purr and always doing his best with what he's been given," said foster mom Ronnie Lyons, a senior trainer at SUNY Research Foundation. "Nothing fazes him, and he never ceases to amaze me or make me laugh."
Even though his legs are in baby blue splints, Sugar Ray still manages to hold his own with the kittens he's being fostered with. When it's time to play, he leans back on his hind legs, swaying back and forth with his front paws in the air -- like a boxer.
Sugar Ray is being treated by Just Cats veterinarian Sue Sikule, who is hopeful that with further treatment and re-splinting, his front legs can be straightened, at which point he'll be put up for adoption.
AnimaLovers is holding a Kitten Adoption Clinic from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, at PetSmart in East Greenbush, where Sugar Ray will be the guest of honor. The rescue organization, like so many others, is overwhelmed with cats and kittens.
"Everyone who meets them (Sugar Ray and family) loves them," Lyons said. "He's a pretty amazing little dude."

Thursday, September 22, 2011


The Cats of Stone Ledge is excited to participate in the countdown to National Feral Cat Day!

National Feral Cat Day (NFCD) is celebrated each year on October 16th with many different events happening across the country. To learn about events taking place in your area go to: Alley Cat Allies  This year, to celebrate this special day, the Stone Ledge cats voted paws down to post a daily blog that exemplifies the important contributions stray and feral cats make to our human communities throughout the year.

Our first blog is about a group of working ferals that live in Marseilles, Illinois. These industrious cats work 24/7 to keep Marseilles free of rodents:

Green Cats of Marseilles: Forget rodent traps and poisons — Smoky Joe is on patrol

by Charles Stanley (

On Main Street in Marseilles — between the railroad tracks and the Illinois and Michigan Canal —there's a colony of working feral cats.

They would prefer just to be left alone to do one of the things they do best, which is to provide effective and free rodent control.

The little social unit headed up by Smoky Joe — a buff and orange tomcat, his four females and their dozen or more offspring — patrol both sides of South Main Street, an area with several restaurants and taverns. They live on food handouts, garbage scavenging and a diminishing number of mice and rats.

The colony, and others in Marseilles, Seneca and nearby areas, are comprised of feral cats managed by Jennifer Bilyeu of Spay It Forward, a nonprofit animal welfare organization headquartered in Seneca.

She has several controlled colonies, including ones at Woodsmoke Ranch and Skydive Chicago. Next year she hopes to begin work in Illinois State Park.

The notion of "green rodent control" is spreading in towns across the county, she said.

The basic idea is that feral cats, properly managed, can reduce or eliminate rodents without the use of traps, poisons or toxic sprays. This is accomplished by their scent, which is repellent to mice and rats, and, of course, their instinctive skills at mousing and ratting.

The concept only is somewhat new for urban neighborhoods, said Bilyeu.

"Farmers have known this forever," she said.

The mechanics of managing each colony are basic. You find a human who will feed them, provide the cats with winter shelters and work to get them spayed or neutered. The last item is important, both to keep the colony from growing and also to settle down the colony.

Once the cats have been fixed, the yowling, fighting and other activities unappreciated by people diminish, Bilyeu said.

"Once that colony is stabilized it's a proven fact that the cats will be more friendly to each other and more loving to each other," Bilyeu told the Marseilles City Council at its last meeting.

The fact that Marseilles has rats and mice is to be expected, the same as it would be in any other town with a canal and river, she said.

"You're going to have rodent city if you don't have those cats down there," she told the council.

In the past, the rodent problem was worse.

A century ago, Marseilles constable W.D. Quinn advocated an annual rat killing day, according to a 1911 article in the Daily Republican-Times newspaper. Quinn suggested everybody in the city should turn out one day each year to kill as many as they could of the 2,000 rats that he calculated were in the city — and proving particularly annoying at the canal.

The feral cats are a practical solution, Bilyeu told the council.

"This is a green alternative for rodent control and it's also a lot cheaper to trap, neuter and return those kitties," she said.

The "TNR" procedure is handled by Bilyeu.

"I prefer to trap and transfer by myself because I've done it for a million years," she said.

She takes the trapped cats to Illinois Valley Cat Taxi in Mendota, where they are transported to PAWS, a no-kill humane organization on the North Side of Chicago.

There each cat gets the $36 feral cat package: spayed or neutered, rabies and distemper vaccines, a flea treatment, microchipped and ear-tipped.

With ear-tipping, the top centimeter of the cat's left ear is clipped flat and cauterized.

"There's no nerve ending up there so it doesn't hurt them," said Bilyeu. "Then I can tell by looking at these guys who's done and who isn't."

She keeps a file for each colony with the paperwork and photos of each cat.

"I know who's out there."

She began work with the "Bar Alley" colony early this year and hopes to be finished by the end of the year.
Bilyeu said a typical lifespan for a feral cat is six years — weather, diseases, poisonings and run-ins with vehicles take their toll.

"But as long as they stay out of the road and nobody's really messing with them they can live even longer."

When Bilyeu began work with the Bar Alley colony she discovered it already had a feeder — animal lover Sandy Dennis.

"I just met her by accident one night when I was out here trapping," said Bilyeu.

Dennis said it was Francine Babcock, a kitchen worker at the Illini Lounge, who made her aware the feral cats were present.

"She's another one with a good heart," said Dennis.

Dennis began bringing cat food every night, both dry and wet, as long as it offered the correct nurtition.

The cats, although wild, grew to trust her. Now they come running at the sound of her van.

Bilyeu also runs a sort of continuing education program for local residents about feral cats.

She said the notion of wild cats can make people uncomfortable and want to do something.

"A lot of people think they're going to help them by turning them in to a shelter or animal control. If they do that they're dead."

"They're no more suitable to live in a home at this point than a raccoon would be. The best thing is to leave them in their colony with their mother and their siblings. It's their home. They're not going to mate. They're not going to reproduce.

"They're going to live out their lives here and do an important service for the community at the same time."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


We have had a young visitor at Stone Ledge for the past few weeks. A young fox has enjoyed sharing breakfast with Samson and Delilah. Not that the cats are all that keen about sharing, but feral cats, fox, and raccoons generally maintain a degree of mutual respect for one another. The cats will back off two or three feet to let the fox eat. Although, today, when I clapped my hands to encourage the fox to leave the feeding station, Delilah took it upon herself to chase the fox to the edge of the woodlands. Delilah is a very bossy cat!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


If Samson is a Prince, then Dear Prudence, his suspected mom, is surely Queen. When, on rare occasions, this elusive yet regal tortie, walks through the colony, all the cats back away in what appears to be both reverence and awe. (I swear, they look like they are bowing!) Dear Prudence, who is graying around her muzzle and walks with a touch of stiffness in her gait, still commands the deepest respect. Dear Prudence does not sleep in a feral shelter. Instead, she's content to live under a large shed with a roly-poly raccoon named--what else? Rocky! Delilah, Samson, and the other cats occasionally receive an audience with the Queen.

Tortoiseshell cats or torties, as they are fondly called, come in varied coat color combinations, as well as having exotic facial markings. They can have patches of orange, cream, cinnamon, dark brown, gray, black, or blue. Underlying the color patches is usually a distinctive tabby pattern. Often, they have an orange streak or patch on their heads which acts as a kind of symmetrical dividing line in their coloration. Here's a shot of my friend Donna's feral cat "Honey" with her son Roger. Honey has a lovely mahogony and black coat with caramel patches. Torties often have ginger or red kittens.


An interesting fact: only one in three thousand tortoiseshell cats are male. This is the result of having an extra X chromosome (XXY). As in humans, these cats are always sterile because of the imbalance in sex chromosomes. Some male calico or tortoiseshell cats may be chimeras. Chimeras are formed from four parent cells (two fertilized eggs or early embryos fused together).

As far as personality goes, torties are often described as having “tortitude.” They are known to be curious and playful companions. Call it tortitude or call it attitude, Dear Prudence, Queen of Stone Ledge, possesses both!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Breakfast with Midnight

Midnight was in an especially playful mood this morning. After dining on kibble and drinking fresh water she made happy paws and marked her feeding station with her whiskered cheeks. Then, as is our habit every morning, Midnight meowed to my off-key rendition of "Good Morning to You." (To the tune of "Happy Birthday to You.") When we had finished our mutual crooning, Midnight hopped up on top of her new feeding station where I snapped this picture.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back by popular demand - feral kittens 101 - The Bandera Bulletin: Columnists

Back by popular demand - feral kittens 101 - The Bandera Bulletin: Columnists: (by Sandee Bowman) "It’s that time of year and kittens are showing up everywhere! I’ve had numerous people call wanting information on
what to do with fera…"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ATTICUS: The Cat the Shelter Turned Away

Five weeks ago, a boney, gray tabby appeared at Jem and Scout’s feeding station. He was standing near the empty food bowl wailing his head off. Clearly, he was starving. In fact, he nearly grabbed the dish out of my hand as I attempted to place it in front of him. Jem and Scout, who had, several months earlier, been scrawny and half-starved too, stood back to let this strange, skeleton of a cat eat first. They seemed to understand that food was critical—possibly even a life or death issue for this interloper. Truly, the little guy looked like he was a few days and a can of tuna away from death’s door. So, he ate and he ate some more, and he kept on eating until I was certain he would toss the entire meal back up, but he didn't. My friend Donna and I decided to call him “Atticus” to keep on theme with Jem and Scout a la To Kill a Mockingbird.

Atticus was possibly the ugliest cat I had ever seen. His fur was a dull, faded shade of gray, and was so dry it bristled along his boney spine. His head looked too big for his skinny body and his eyes were vacant and expressionless. Only his cries for food were filled with desperation. I now realize that Atticus was the first cat I had ever seen so close to starvation. All of this, of course, pointed to the fact that Atticus was either lost or dumped; or, perhaps, a roaming stray that had once-upon-a-time known human companionship and love. What was immediately clear was that Atticus needed to be trapped, vaccinated, and neutered.

Over the next ten days Atticus’ visits were sporadic, and he only appeared every two to three days at feeding time. Although I felt certain that a strong breeze might whisk him away like dry leaves in the wind, his eyes began to lose their starving, vacant look and he appeared to be out of immediate danger. For this reason, Donna and I decided to refocus on trapping the elusive gray tortie called Maude. However, Maude was also unpredictable in her visits to the feeding station, and given the time of year—spring—probably had a litter in the oven, so to speak. Our plan was to trap Maude and let her give birth at Community Cats, a cat sancuary in Bedford, New York.

I was the first to attempt trapping Maude. I arrived at the feeding station early and fed Jem and Scout first. I then put a tablespoon of super fishy cat food on a quartered paper plate and placed it in the back of my True-catch trap. As I leaned over to set the trap’s mechanism I saw a flash of gray streak past my face and into the trap. I screamed and jumped back. Atticus never even looked up. He rapidly devoured the bait and then stared up at me from the confines of the wire mesh cage, crying for more. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was now my prisoner. As long as prisoners got to eat, that was fine by him. That’s when I knew for certain: Atticus had been someone’s pet cat.

I immediately drove Atticus to my local no-kill shelter in Briarcliff, NY. Sadly, I was told there was no room for even a friendly cat, and that his best bet was to be vaccinated, neutered if necessary, and put back out. As one young tech put it, “If he’s friendly he can beg for food and maybe someone will take him in.” Once I recovered from the shock of what was, in my personal opinion, an insensitive and even irresponsible response to this sweet, starving boy, I called Community Cats in Bedford, NY. I knew that Director Penny Berk would never turn away a friendly stray that was down on his luck.

Today, five weeks after first seeing this half-starved little cat, I am able to say that Atticus is doing great! He’s put on weight; his coat is no longer dull and dry; and his eyes are a lovely, soft shade of green. What is even more amazing about Atticus is how happy and appreciative he seems. He loves pets and head rubs, and he can’t stop purring. For now, Atticus is content to be in his cage with his soft bed, full bowls of food, and catnip toys. Someday, we are all certain that Atticus will have a wonderful forever home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Lion King Called Pumpkin

When I first saw Pumpkin sitting under the shed at Stoneledge I gasped in astonishment. He was a gorgeous, long-haired, blue-eyed orange tabby. In fact, he looked like a lion! He was also talkative and very hungry. In fact, he was so talkative I thought he might be a stray. However, as soon as he ate he took off. After this initial showing, Pumpkin appeared at random intervals often several months apart. It was always the same scenario: eat two, five ounce cans of food then high-tail it back into the woods. Then, this past winter he began showing up a bit more regularly and staying with Prudence under the shed. They seemed to be feline soul-mates. Yet as soon as mating season began in mid-February, Pumpkin appeared less frequently, and when he did come to eat he looked worn out with matted fur and a possible URI. Jo and I decided it was time to trap and neuter him.

Pumpkin was trapped last Thursday, March 17th. The day started out as the first truly magnificent spring day this year: temperatures in the high 60’s—perfect for our local 250th St. Patrick’s Day in NYC.
Pumpkin was waiting patiently with Prudence when I drove into Stoneledge. Sadly, he looked terrible. His long, matted fur had been falling out in large clumps, exposing sensitive skin. Recently, he had also seemed very stressed—possibly the result of mating season or not feeling well. In any case, he hissed and growled at me as I approached with the trap. He then turned and snapped at Prudence, narrowly missing her.

The vet diagnosed Pumpkin with FIV and recommended euthanizing him if he could not be placed in a home with other FIV’s or as an only cat. She would not release him to be returned to the colony. Given the fact that Pumpkin was too wild to go to a home, coupled with the fact that he was a roaming feral, and, therefore, might not be treatable if he required future medical intervention, we decided to say good-bye to Pumpkin. It was very painful but Jo and I decided that we did not want to risk the chance that he would suffer with an untreatable condition in the wild. It was, and still is, heart-breaking to think that, after surviving such a long and terrible winter, Pumpkin would not be able to enjoy his spring and summer in the woods and fields that were his home. And, of course, saddest of all, Dear Prudence surely waits for her pal to return.

Pumpkin's story is bitter-sweet, however. In January, Donna, Jo, and I discovered Pumpkin’s offspring: five-month-old “Jem” and “Scout” were trapped, spay/neutered, and vaccinated in early March. Our only regret is that we did not know of their existence earlier so they could have been placed in forever homes. However, they now have shelter, daily food, and water. Both kittens have Pumpkin’s wonderful soulful expression, and Scout even has her dad’s sky blue eyes. (Jem’s are green!) Hopefully, we will be able to locate and trap mom soon!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan's Whimsical Cat Island Gone?

The human loss and suffering in Japan is heart-wrenching and tragic beyond words; however, since this blog is devoted to cats, and feral cats in particular, I want to say a brief word about Cat Island.

Tashirojima, or "Cat Island" is a small island off the coast of northeastern Japan. It was once a bustling fishing village, but has, over the years, become popular with tourists who want to see the 100 or more beautiful cats that freely roam the island. These cats are cared for by fewer than 100 residents, who are mostly elderly villagers. These cats are revered for the prosperity and the good fishing they are believed to bring to the community. Cat Island even has a“Cat Shrine” near the center of the island where locals and tourists can pay homage to these local felines.  
Today, I am offering a prayer to the Goddess Bast that the cats of Tashirojima maintained their talisman power, and that the island and its residents have survived this horrific tragedy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why do TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release)

"You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A friend asked me today why I spend so much of my time and resources caring for feral cats? It's a good question, and it certainly crosses my mind at least once a week! The best reply I can think of is the above quote, spoken by the fox to the Little Prince.

Cats were domesticated roughly six thousand years ago. Those that are uncared for are slowly slipping back to an "unsocialized" status. With this homelessness comes hunger, disease, and suffering for many adult cats and kittens. TNR (trap/neuter/release) is, in my opinion, the only solution to a collective responsibility that began those many centuries ago when the Human species welcomed Felis Catus into their dwellings.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Millou's story is the tale of a very special little kitten that was rescued in Greece by a couple who happened to be vacationing there. It is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt stories I have ever read. I hope you will go to and read about an angel called Millou.



Friday, January 7, 2011


Dear Prudence (tortie)
So much has happened at Stone Ledge since my last post. To begin, Dear Prudence has once again returned! After a ten month hiatus she appeared one morning with a large, long-haired male that I have dubbed Pumpkin. As far as I have been able to discern, Prudence and Pumpkin reside together under her favorite shed. They eat out of the same bowl, or take turns standing watch while the other one eats. (Pumpkin likes canned and Prudence prefers kibble so I guess it's a match made in kittie heaven) Prudence looks strong and healthy, and I feel relieved to know that she has not had to worry about providing for kittens for the past year.

Speaking of kittens, a new litter of kittens appeared in September. After socializing them in my office for a month, I am happy to report they have all been adopted through a local SPCA.

Unfortunately, Samson received yet another bite wound at the beginning of November. I am now willing to admit that this sweet, mellow boy is the alpha in the colony, and that he stands his ground when interlopers pass through his territory. A goal for 2011 is to retrap Samson for re-vaccination.

Most recently, two snowstorms here in the northeast have hit Stone Ledge hard. To make my life easier, and the cat's lives a bit more enjoyable, I have been adding a small amount of sugar (one to two teaspoons of sugar per half gallon of warm water) to the water bowls each morning. I prepare this at home using gallon containers. This process makes the ice that forms in the water bowls overnight easier to empty, and the cats lap up the warm water as if they were enjoying a cup of hot tea!