Dirty Gaga and the Albacore Affair: How One Street Cat Got a New Lease on Life in the LES

Posted on: April 13th, 2015 at 10:19 am by

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Dirty Gaga on Ludlow St., Photo: Danielle Guercio

Thousands of New Yorkers follow @bodegacatsofinstagram, others contribute to the hashtag #bodegacats, and newcomer @brooklynbodegacats is an artful twist on the topic. It’s no secret, we love our shop cats for many reasons. It can be hard as an animal lover not to worry about the welfare of some cats, as I have seen more than a few looking rather thin in my day, and still more too chubby. One wonders what would happen in the off-chance that such a business would close. Sometimes, like last week, the question is answered, and this time it wasn’t pretty.

Dirty Cat (aka “Dirty Gaga”) has previously appeared on the pages of Bowery Boogie, and he was always one of my favorite shop cats. A boisterous, goofy, slightly skittish lil dude, I was treated to a loud greeting and some very enthusiastic head-butts every time I’d walk by with my pup. About ten days ago I was told that the shop he was at (a food distributor on Ludlow) was closing, and given assurances that he would be cared for, if not going with them to the new location.

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The golden kiss, Photo: Danielle Guercio

Life is funny sometimes, and as the small band of workers I’d walk by every day for four years loaded up their goods into trucks for the last time, they pled with me for a date. I laughed it off when I should have parlayed that into a solid inquiry about the future of the cat. As any woman can tell you, your mind is only thinking of how to get away when that conversation happens.

“D’Orro” and “Goldie” were some more of his pet names from residents of the block. Walking the same route two days later was a filled with sadness when I heard that familiar meow, this time full of terror, as Goldie the cat was clearly left behind.

He had taken up residence in a crack merely six inches wide between two Ludlow Street buildings, and was too scared to even poke his head out in the daytime. My boyfriend Andy and I spent two nights trying to trap this lil dude, and we couldn’t have done it without the help of Ron Castellano, local cat-tivist and restaurateur/developer. Ron has a reputation for helping get strays to safety and a future home, and he helped us set up a humane trap to snag D’Orro and facilitated his treatment at Cooper Square Veterinary Hospital. He’s also fostering the cat for the time being, and I am so grateful that people like Ron give an eff about these little guys.

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Dirty Gaga hiding in the crack, Photo: Danielle Guercio

The thing is, we could have all slept soundly and still helped in his adoption, had his previous “owners” reached out for help. It’s impossible to be ignorant about animal welfare in this day and age. It’s safe to say that leaving a housebroken cat accustomed to food, water, and shelter alone on a busy New York street isn’t kind and is in some cases criminal. It should not fall on the backs of kind neighbors to clean up after irresponsible caretakers who have no business owning a cat.

If you find yourself curious about the welfare of a neighbor’s pet, commercial or residential, consider calling Animal Control or contacting a cat rescue network in your area. If you cannot keep your animal for any reason, consider the following resources:

Though I might judge you for abandoning a pet outright, providing it with the tools to find a new home by reaching out is not shameful, it’s the right thing to do. There is literally no excuse to abandon an animal, let alone on city streets crowded with people, danger, and disease!

That being said, here’s a handy flowchart from yours truly to look at the next time you get the itch to adopt a cat!

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