Guy Feeds Stray Cats One Night — And Ends Up Saving Over 1,000 Of Them
“I have truly found my passion in life.”
Paul Santell was walking home from the train one night in New York City when he saw a stray cat sitting on the sidewalk. He happened to have a can of cat food on him, so he fed it to the cat, and the next night when he came across the same cat, he did the same thing. A few other cats appeared as well, so Santell fed them too — and had no idea back then how much this simple gesture would change his life.
Santell has always had a soft spot for cats, and after he started feeding a few of them on the streets, he started trying to think of other ways he could help them, too. He heard about trap-neuter-return programs (TNR), which helps control feral cat populations, and decided it might be worth looking into.
“I took a free class at the ASPCA's offices in Manhattan, and then got some traps and started fixing these guys, and things just took off from there,” Santell told The Dodo.
Now, Paul spends 30 hours a week feeding, trapping and rescuing feral and stray cats around the city, on top of working full-time at his regular job. He’s been at it for three years now, and has helped somewhere around 1,100 cats so far, and has no plans to stop any time soon.
“My nightly rounds of feedings are usually after midnight, and I trap any newcomers to my colonies during these late hours,” Santell said. “On weekends I try to check out new colonies at the request of other people in the community and see if I can help them. I rescue kittens as often as I can to get them off the street and adopted into forever homes. I work full-time and basically rescue full-time as well.”
Not only does Santell help feed and trap feral cats, but he also keeps a lookout for stray cats who aren’t feral, and who need help finding their way back into a forever home.
“Probably my favorite part is when I rescue an out-of-place, dirty, starving-looking, obvious former house cat,” Santell said. “The idea that they were neglected and abandoned, possibly thrown out of their home physically and locked out for good just hurts me to the core. So when I save these guys it is the greatest feeling in the world.”
After a while, Santell became known as “Paul the Cat Guy,” and set up Instagram and Facebook pages so that people could contact him whenever they came across a cat in need.
One of the most remarkable things about Santell as a rescuer is that he absolutely refuses to give up. If a cat gets away from him, he continues to try and help that cat until he succeeds. He’s not willing to let any of them slip through the cracks.
Santell once met a cat in his driveway, later named Pauly, who was incredibly skittish, and he immediately assumed he was feral. After a month or so he trapped Pauly and had him fixed and vaccinated, and planned to release him back around his driveway. But while Pauly was recovering, he got loose in the warehouse Santell was using for TNR. Santell set traps in the ceiling for weeks, constantly refilling them with fresh food, but he was somehow unable to find Pauly. Eventually, he decided to look behind the warehouse, just in case — and among a group of cats, he found Pauly, who had somehow managed to get out of the warehouse all on his own.
Unfortunately, Pauly continued to run from Santell, but he refused to give up. Santell attempted to retrap Pauly for three more months, until one night, Pauly finally decided he trusted Santell, and came right up to him, meowing like crazy — meaning sweet Pauly was actually a stray cat, who had been waiting for months and months for someone to care enough to help him off the streets.
“It was at this moment, approximately a year after I had first seen him in my driveway, and four months after he escaped the trap in the warehouse, that I discovered that he was a friendly cat,” Santell said. “I took him home and set him up in a large crate where he made ‘biscuits’ with his paws on the blanket, purred and head-butted me.”
Santell took Pauly to the vet to get checked out, and after a month or so he was finally adopted into a wonderful family, all thanks to Santell’s unwillingness to give up.
Of course, Santell also has seven rescue cats of his own at home: Gucci, Nino, Vita, Luca, Olivia, Milani and Onyx. He rescued Luca, Olivia and Milani on his own, and he trapped Onyx as a feral kitten, and she decided to stick around and become his.
Even though Santell has cats of his own at home, he also considers every cat in New York City his as well, and will continue to help every single one of them for the rest of his life, because he genuinely loves doing it.
“It would be a dream to do cat rescue and TNR as my primary, full-time job,” Santell said. “I have truly found my passion in life.”
If you’d like to help Paul the Cat Guy, you can check out his Amazon wish list.