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SATURDAY JULY 14 11am-3pm (Garden is open until 5pm or later) On Open Gardens Day we invite you to meet the insects and animals that work together with humans in our garden. The main focus of this day is to introduce the community to our compost bins -which are full of worms and other creatures- and encourage everyone to drop off their compostables.  Beekeepers, Feral Cat Colony Caretakers and a Master Composter will be on hand to show you our beehive, our feral cat apartment house and our compost bins,  We will show you the basics and have literature on feral cat care-taking and composting in NYC.


Participants are welcome to bring their compostables and questions about animals and insects in NYC Gardens – if you are interested you can help us turn the compost and bring home a bag of compost.


Everyone is invited to the upcoming workshop: Managing a Feral Cat Colony in a Garden: Community Relations on Saturday 10/18 1-4pm (rain or shine). Here is a chance to see an established, “managed” cat colony which is resident in a NYC Green Thumb community garden. We will discuss what we have learned about managing a TNR’d (Trap Neuter and Return) cat

Too hanging out in the garden

Too hanging out in the garden

colony and show methods which allow them to coexist with and benefit the garden by keeping it rodent free. We will also visit other nearby TNR shelters and feeding stations in the neighborhood, including a church, a park, a parking lot and apartment building basement.

Harley eating dinner

Additional information:

All the cats are spayed, neutered and vaccinated against rabies. The cats don’t reproduce or fight with each other. They fend off most other cat-newcomers and keep the garden rat-free.

Gardeners can rest assured that there are no rat-burrows in their garden plots or rats hiding in the compost heap. We can garden; hold events and parties anytime, day or night, with no fear of the “beady red eyes” or gnaw-marks on our tomatoes.

Harley and Creampuff eating dinner

Harley and Creampuff eating dinner

We’ll show you how we constructed and placed feeding stations, cat shelters, and discuss how we have involved other volunteers. Perhaps you’ll even meet the cats …if they come out from their sleeping places.

If you are thinking of starting a feral cat colony, we will distribute information on where and how you can get further training in becoming a certified TNR Feral Cat Colony Manager. See links below.

Other TNR colony managers are welcome; we don’t have all the answers, we can all learn from each other.

Informational Links:

Cocoa Bean watching over the compost bin

Cocoa Bean watching over the compost bin




Published: Friday, January 11, 2013, 6:09 PM Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2013, 5:31 PM


Harley is a member of the feral cat colony that lives at the Morris-Jumel Community Garden in Washington Heights.

The free-roaming cats that reside at a Washington Heights community garden can ride out the harsh winter in their new fancy high rise.

The insulated five-story “Kitty High Rise”  which echoes the style of the area’s historic brownstones  boasts robin’s blue fire escape-like ramps, a rooftop garden and a pergola where wisteria can climb.

“It’s just gorgeous and so functional,” said Sheila Massey, who manages the colony of 11 feral cats that live amid the rows of vegetable plots at the Morris-Jumel Community Garden and the untold number of strays in the surrounding area.

Until now, the cats have taken refuge from the cold in Styrofoam boxes that are filled with straw and hidden beneath a tarp in the back of the garden.

The cat-friendly garden was selected as one of eight locations for the stylish, innovative outdoor shelters designed by some of the city’s hottest architects.

Kitty High Rise was designed by Leslie Farrell, an animal enthusiast who created Architects for Animals to help raise awareness of the plight of the city’s explosive cat overpopulation crisis.

sheilaSheila Massey will manage the Kitty High Rise cat shelter, intent on keeping the feral cat colony at the Morris-Jumel Community Garden in Washington Heights warm through the winter. It was designed by architects to benefit the city’s homeless cat population.

Since cats need winter shelters to help protect them from freezing temperatures, for the third year in a row she’s asked some of the city’s top firms to voluntarily design shelters that were functional, warm and weatherproof.

“It’s a great way to draw attention to the problem and move the conversation forward,” Farrell said at a benefit this week for the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, where the unique shelters were unveiled to the public.

Kathryn Walton of The American Street Cat designed her shelter, which will be placed in a Brooklyn monastery, using insulated cat food cans and a reclaimed cedar frame.

The remaining shelters will be placed at a tennis club, a church, a park and a ballet company studio.

The exact locations will remain under the radar to prevent indoor cats being dumped, said Mike Phillips, community outreach coordinator for the feral cat program.

He said dumping is a growing and widespread problem; domesticated cats are often rejected by feral colonies and if un-neutered will continue to reproduce.

“If all of the cats abandoned to the street were neutered, or better yet, if no one would ever consider throwing a cat out on the street, there would be no need for The Feral Cat Initiative to even exist,” he said.

Experts estimate that tens of thousands of homeless, stray and free-roaming cats live on the streets, in alleyways, yard and abandoned lots throughout the city.

Phillips said Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only proven method to control them and reduce their numbers.

Under TNR rescuers can trap feral cats, have them spayed or neutered and return them to the same areas.

Once neutered, the cats no longer display nuisance behaviors such as fighting over mates, yowling in heat, rummaging through trash cans, spraying urine and producing multiple litters. Well fed, there is no need for them to scavenge for food.

Meanwhile, Massey said her garden cats earn their keep by steering the rats away.

“By spaying and neutering the cats, they become good citizens,” she said, and proposed the city adopt TNR as a method of rat control.

Still, despite the city’s cat overpopulation problem, there are currently no rescue groups or city agency that will come to trap and remove feral cats.  That means it’s up to the independent rescuers, or colony caretakers, like Massey, to help keep the crisis at bay.

Anyone can help. The NYC Feral Cat Initiative offers TNR Workshops and instructions on how to build a low-cost outdoor shelter.

To attend a workshop or learn more go to

Read more:


The Monte Calvario Colony is a group of feral cats named for the church next door that allows them to be fed in their parking lot.

These cats are un-adoptable and have been TNR ‘d (Trap, Neuter/Spay & Return). They live in and around the garden, and earn their keep by keeping rats out of the garden.

By the way, you can easily identify a cat that is part of a managed colony because after they are spayed/neutered and vacinated, they have their ear tipped. This is a world-wide practice for those caring for feral cats.

Here is a picture of Miss Betty and Cocoa Bean, litter-mates who are always together. They were probably born in the garden to Mamita, but like many teenage daughters, they tolerate, but don’t really like to hang out with their mom.

However, during the winter months, the cats snuggle together on cold nights in warm shelters filled with straw.  This year their shelters are set up in an abandoned play house in a nearby abandoned lot.

This colony is registered with and supported by the Mayor’s Alliance for Animals – Feral Cat Initative and is cared for by neighborhood and garden members, especially Sheila -who is followed by the felines who love her every time she walks down the street!

If you want to help care for these cats, please contact the garden morrisjumelgarden [at]

The Alliance also offers assistance to those having trouble caring for their pet(s) here.