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Steve Ferguson is a longshoreman who works on the Baltimore, Md., waterfront. For seven years he’s cared for a colony of cats near the dock where he works.
Ferguson started feeding the cats when their original caretaker — one of his coworkers — retired. “He used to tell me stories about the cats, and I got to know them,” Ferguson says.
The colony’s numbers have dropped because most of the cats have been spayed or neutered, thanks to Ferguson. While he didn’t know anything about TNR in the beginning, Ferguson educated himself. “I learn as I go,” he says, chuckling. Now he borrows traps from local rescues and pays for the spay and neuter surgeries himself.
When a cat does have kittens, Ferguson finds homes for them.
Caring for colonies isn’t easy and certainly not for everyone, Ferguson concedes. “But they’re like my cats. I don’t even look at them as a feral colony anymore.”
People often ask Ferguson, who has two cats at home, why he spends so much time and money on the ferals. “I believe we owe it to these guys to take care of them,” he says. “Hopefully someone will see what I am doing, and that will inspire them to be just a little more courteous to animals.”
Buffy Tarbox and her husband, Orpheos, began helping care for a local colony when they saw a plea for assistance on Facebook.
Buffy, a public relations professional, and Orpheos, a San Francisco police officer, have cared for a group of cats in Golden Gate Park for more than a year.
A network of volunteers feeds the cats in the park, Buffy says. She and Orpheos are assigned to deliver food once a week to one of the park’s many “feeding stations.” They frequently cover for other caretakers and make multiple visits per week.
The couple is dedicated. Even after working until 1:00 a.m. the night before, Orpheos still gets up early in the morning on their designated day. He and Buffy then walk two miles to the feeding station where the cats live.
Buffy says the operation is well organized through texts and emails. She’s only met the lead volunteer once.
Like Wagner and Ferguson, Buffy and Orpheos have two cats at home but consider the colony their extended family.
“We’re not ‘crazy cat people,’” Buffy says. “We just both believe strongly in helping innocent animals.”
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