1. As of spring 2013, there are anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million feral cats living on the streets of New York City.
3. A small percentage of that population, no more than a few dozen cats, make their home in Morningside Park, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Columbia University.
The magnificent Cathedral of Saint John the Divine overlooks the southwest corner of the park.
4. Walking the grounds of the park, if you look carefully, you’ll see cats everywhere. Though they tend to cluster in two large colonies: one near the pond, the other near a school at the northern tip of the park.
5. There’s a relatively diverse variety of cats hanging around.
That’s a frog it’s chewing on.
14. Aggressive types
Little white feral cat hissing at a nearby cat. When there’s food around, some cats are testier than others.
A white odd-eyed cat walking through the daffodils.
16. Some of the cats sleep in shelters erected in a few enclosed areas around the park.
17. Others have been known to seek refuge in small caves along the rugged cliffs that stretch across Morningside Park’s west side.
Especially when it’s cold out.
18. Although when it’s warmer outside, a nice soft log will do.
19. As with any group of ferals, populations vary widely. One site estimates there may be more than 70 cats living in Morningside Park.
Via Bloomberg, “They are adept at hiding and they are adept at reproducing … TWO CATS can produce 62 CATS in just two years.”
20. Trap-Neuter-Return programs help keep feral cat populations in check — though it’s unknown how many of the cats in Morningside Park have been dealt with.
The one-eyed feral cat pictured above has its right ear tipped, to help identify it as having been spayed or neutered and vaccinated as part of a Trap-Neuter-Return program.
21. The vast majority of cats in the park were likely born there, descendants of stray cats — domesticated felines that at one point or another were either lost or abandoned.
22. Cats aren’t the only descendants of abandoned pets in the park. There’s a thriving population of abandoned pet turtles in Morningside Park pond.
Almost all of these are red-eared sliders, a species native to the South. They’re either descendants of abandoned pets or first-generation orphans — and many of them may have been living in the park quite a while. Red-eared sliders have a lifespan between 50–100 years.
23. Feral cats are ruthless hunters of small birds and rodents in the park…
I was taking pictures of these two cats when a bird flew overhead and they both looked up at the exact same time.
24. …though people in the neighborhood also come by to feed them regularly.
25. Feeding feral cats in New York City is perfectly legal.
It is illegal to feed feral cats in some towns and cities throughout the U.S. — though as groups like the Humane Society point out, feeding bans don’t really do much to curb feral populations anway.
26. Leaving food out may attract unwanted visitors, though…
A hungry raccoon about to hop the fence near the pond in Morningside Park.
27. I think he likes cat food even more than cats.
28. In the background, a white-gray feral cat watches as a raccoon eats all the food.
29. This group cautiously watches the bushes after the raccoon darted off.
30. If you see these cats in the park, try to respect their privacy. They are adorable, but timid. Regular visitors rarely get closer than 10–15 feet from them.
31. There are feral cats in alleyways, construction sites, abandoned buildings, warehouses, parking lots, etc. all over New York City. In some ways, the ferals in Morningside Park are the lucky ones.
32. A small but devoted (and mostly anonymous) cadre of caring neighbors stop by regularly to feed them, check on their living conditions, even bring them medicine.
33. If you want to learn more about New York City’s feral cat population, and ways you can help, here’s a good place to start.
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