What can be done to solve the intractable problem of wildlife and feral cats? Ask Peter Paonessa.

Peter, who lives in Salem, CT, noticed two feral cats living near his house. He trapped them, provided veterinary care for them, and released them … into his basement.

Prior to their release he arranged his basement with litter boxes, a bed, and places to hide. He also built an 8’ long, 6’ wide, and 4’ high cage which he attached to the basement window, so fresh air and sun- or moonlight would be available to them at all times.

Of course there was a settling-in period. They were afraid of people and not used to being inside. But unsurprisingly, they quickly grew accustomed to the man who made no demands on them, appeared daily with food and water, and gave them sanctuary.


Have they become cuddly pets? No. But they are healthy, content, and they are safe. Peter, who loves cats, has saved two of them from the normally short and brutal life of a feral cat. And Peter, who loves wildlife, has saved hundreds – if not thousands – of birds and small animals from being killed by two more feral cats.

Feral cat supporters: why not open your own homes to the animals you love – without demanding they become purring lap cats in return? Instead of rounding them up, providing minimal veterinary care, and dumping them back on the streets, why not actually rescue them?

I can hear it already: I want to be involved in saving cats, but not that involved.

If every feral cat supporter were to take personal responsibility for housing two or more unadoptable cats, the number of miserable, disease-ridden strays would plummet, and the populations of threatened and endangered wildlife would rise. And then the phrase “I don’t just love cats, I love all animals” might actually be believable.

Written by Suzie
Suzie Gilbert is a wild bird rehabilitator whose shameful secret is that on more than one occasion she has received a female LBJ, or a fledgling whatever, and has been completely unable to ID it. Luckily she has birder friends who will rush to her aid, although she must then suffer their mockery. She is the author of her bird-rehabbing memoir Flyaway (HarperCollins) and the children's book Hawk Hill (Chronicle Books). Her recent suspenseful, bird-filled adventure novel Unflappable (Perch Press) was selected by Audubon Magazine as one of their Three Best Summer Reads of 2020. She lives in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley and is always up for a good hike.