Pier 70 is home to approximately 175 feral and stray cats and kittens. The colony began in 1980 when people would “dump” their unwanted cats and kittens at this location.
The colony, which is one of many throughout the city of Philadelphia, is nestled right up against the Delaware River, thus giving this colony the nickname, “River Kitty Cats”.
Feral cats are felines who were born in the wild; they have never lived in a home, nor have they had any contact with humans. Stray cats are felines who once lived in a home and have had contact by humans. Stray cats who are dumped or tossed out into the streets may become feral over time. Feral cats have an extremely hard time trusting humans and it is almost impossible for a feral cat to become domesticated.
30 years ago, the Pier 70 colony consisted of stray cats because they were cats that people just did not want anymore. However, throughout the years, these stray cats began reproducing “in the wild”, thus creating feral kittens.
The caretakers, which is a group of women who work their jobs during the day and come to the colony at night, provide the cats with food, water and hand-made shelters throughout the colony. These kind-hearted women use their own hard-earned money to take care of the River Kitty Cats. They also have memberships to surplus stores and often receive donations from supporters.
The caretakers are also responsible for controlling the colony population by trapping unaltered cats, taking them to a vet or clinic for spay or neuter and then releasing the cats back into the colony. Most often, the vet will snip a quarter inch the cat’s left ear to indicate that the cat has been altered. This lets the caretakers know who are the resident cats and who are the new cats. While at the vet or clinic, the cats will also receive rabies vaccinations. This entire process is known as Trap-Neuter-Release or TNR.
There are a couple of major issues that the River Kitty Cats face.
The pier is full of large amounts of trash which is littered in around the colony. I have found overturned shopping carts, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, tires, appliances and even a toilet. This trash can be extremely dangerous for the cats. The caretakers do what they can to clean up the pier, but people continue to litter the area.
The other major issue is the weather. This area is always cold because it sits right off of the river. Many cats have sadly frozen to death from the extreme low temperatures during the winter months. I have also noticed that the water in their bowls freeze to blocks of ice making it difficult for the cats to stay hydrated.
Through these photographs, I want you to see what it’s like to be an unwanted cat or kitten forced to live in deplorable and harsh weather conditions. When I go to bed at night, I often think of these poor cats who are out in the cold struggling to stay alive.
If it weren’t for irresponsible cat owners, these colonies would not exist, nor would these cats become the responsibility and anxiety of others.