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‘Cat Whisperer’ Looks After Yorktown ‘Pub Cats’

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Yorktown Pub server Cheryl Brown is known as the “cat whisperer.” She recently started the Yorktown Kitty Fund to solicit donations to pay for cat food for the colony of cats who live near the restaurant.

They call her the “cat whisperer.”

When Cheryl Brown, a server at Yorktown Pub, shows up for work, the cats come down from the hill and greet her. There is one that tries to jump in the car with her when she leaves work. They know her and trust her, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Brown has a special relationship with a pack of semi-feral cats that patrol the landscape around the restaurant. She oversees the cat food that they have come to know and expect. She checked on them when Sandy ravaged the East Coast and the York River spilled across Water Street.

You can find the cats on a cement stairwell that runs alongside the pub, chowing down on cat food from Brown and her co-workers, scraps from the restaurant and any rodent unlucky enough to find itself anywhere near the pub. The stairwell acts as a sort of living room and common space for the cats, who make the grounds surrounding the restaurant their home.

“The cats get attention all the time,” Brown said. “I’m an animal lover in general. It’s nice to come outside when things get stressful.”

There are over a dozen “pub cats,” and they’ve become such a fixture at the restaurant that tourists who visit Yorktown look for them in the summer months and comment on how they’ve grown, Brown said. The cats are also popular with locals and regulars. They can often be seen from a row of windows along one side of the restaurant, where it’s not uncommon to look up from a meal to see one of the cats gazing through the window. You might find one curled up underneath the warm engine of a recently parked car, but they’re great at slipping out before the car moves again.

The cats have a collection of personalities as diverse as their human counterparts inside the pub. Some of them are loners, keeping their distance, marking out vantage points in the narrow brick of the Pub’s parapet. Others saunter down the scuffed cement stairwell that doubles as their dinner table, eager to sniff and bask in the attention of the extended hand of a pub worker.

The landscape they call home appears brutal and worn out at first glance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth—the cats have staked out the land, and it is as much of a home as anywhere ever could be. When you’re outside, where the cars park, you’re a guest in their home—you might not realize it or even see them, but they’re likely watching you from their position, ensconced in grass or hiding on or around one of the buildings in the area.

Brown and her co-workers name the cats—swing by the pub and you’ll have a chance of meeting Eva, Homegirl, Dirty Wayne (known colloquially as DW), Bootsie, Little Phil, Crazy Mom and more. She started the Yorktown Kitty Fund recently to help generate money to pay for cat food, as she had been paying for it out of her own pocket. Anyone who is interested in donating to that cause can speak with Brown at the Yorktown Pub.

There are over a dozen cats living in the colony next to Yorktown Pub. The restaurant’s staff has looked after them for years.

In the past, when the cats have had new litters, Brown’s co-workers would take home new kittens. She said five or six employees have brought cats home. Left to their own devices, the cats would continue to pump out litters of kittens, so an initiative began around two months ago to help curb the population of feral cats in Yorktown by humanely capturing them and then getting them neutered or spayed. That effort, with the help of Ginny Lascara, owner of Yorktown’s Black Dog Gallery, has been a resounding success.

“We realized the numbers were getting out of hand,” Lascara said. “They say it’s good to spay or neuter the cats and put them back into the area where they know their food source. Having a stable cat colony keeps other cats from coming into the area.”

Lascara was able to find a home for some of the younger kittens, but she said that once a cat has been in the wild for six months or longer, they can’t ever be fully socialized as pets. By neutering or spaying the cats, they can gain control over the sometimes explosive population growth that can define feral cat colonies. The process involves catching the cats in a humanely rigged cage that does not cause them any physical discomfort. Once caught, they’re transported to a shelter where they are spayed or neutered for a $50 to $60 fee, which Lascara said is reasonable compared to what a vet would charge. The fee also includes a rabies shot and a quick check up.

The fee they pay to the shelter has come from donations from local residents and businesses, Brown said. All the females have already been spayed, but two male cats have managed to elude capture, as they’ve figured out what’s going on with the cage, Lascara said.

There is no shortage of comfortable vantage points for the “pub cats.”

There’s no need for new cats when Brown and her co-workers have a good thing going with the current pack. In addition to the enjoyment provided to customers and to the restaurant staff who need a quick break, Brown said there isn’t a rodent anywhere near the restaurant.

There has also never been any kind of incident with the cats being aggressive toward anyone, said Tiffany Mason, another server at Yorktown Pub.

“We’re all cat people,” Mason said. “When you get stressed you want to come out and get a breather, and the cats are there and they just want love.”

 

Photos by Gregory Connolly

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Posted by on December 17, 2012. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

20 Responses to ‘Cat Whisperer’ Looks After Yorktown ‘Pub Cats’

  1. Kristin Reply

    December 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    That’s right about feral cats becoming “tame”. The fact is, domestic cats are not wild animals! They will ALWAYS become tame in a home environment. This is the difference between “wild” i.e.: cougars, lynx, et alia- and “domestic” animals such as cattle, dogs and cats. I’ve adopted feral cats, in a matter of weeks they are virtually the same as a home raised pet. To state that they “never become tame” is pure baloney. Ask a veterinarian, or better yet a zoologist. Cats will never truly be wild – wild “acting” maybe, but not actually wild animals.

    • Bastette Reply

      December 24, 2012 at 12:01 am

      I think some feral cats can’t be socialized (tamed). I’ve had friends put a lot of time and devotion into trying, and eventually giving up. There’s a feral colony near where I work, and the organization that manages the colony (making sure they have enough to eat, get veterinary care when needed and that they’re all neutered), and believe me, if any of those cats show any signs of being tamable, they’re put into foster care until they’re social (with humans) enough to be adopted. And some just never get to that point. So they live out their lives in the managed colony. But I do agree that many ferals CAN be tamed.

  2. SA Reply

    December 22, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    It’s not always true that a feral cat can’t ever be socialized, but it does take awhile and loads of patience. I know someone who rescued two feral cats at about 1 year old or so, and it took six months but she was finally able to win them over and they’re happy indoor cats now. Rare, but it can happen. The ‘catch, neuter, and release’ programs are crucial!

  3. Yorktown Cat Rescuer Reply

    December 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Another suggestion for your cat fund. Go to vistaprint’s website and order cat (picture) business cards – front and back. You can put on there about your Pub Cat Fund and ask people to make a donation. When you give the customers their checks you can also leave them one of these cards. This will really be helpful and the customers will be more than happy to make a donation. Hopefully in the future your fund will be able to pay it forward and help other feral cats in the community. Best wishes!

  4. Yorktown Cat Rescuer Reply

    December 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    You have no idea how happy it makes me feel that the pub is finally having the cats spayed and neutered! I know that you all are trying. Please understand that I am not trying to be critical just frustrated that it has taken so long! I know that people have tried to help in the past and have been turned away. When someone tries to help it just means they care. We all want to see the cats have a great quality of life. And, keeping them from multiplying is a great start. There are outdoor feeding stations that can be purchased for feral cats as well as outdoor feral shelters or ones that can be made with little expense. There are lots of great resources online. The elements can be hard in Yorktown since there is so much wind off of the water. Please continue your good work! It sounds like you are headed in the right direction. You could also put cat fund cans on the tables at the pub with a nice note/picture about what you are trying to do. You will be surprised how much people love cats and how generous they can be. You could also mention that you have ones available for adoption. Best of luck and thanks for taking care of the cats!

  5. Concerned Citizen in Yorktown Reply

    December 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    To the Yorktown Cat Rescuer and mytwocents – Rather than criticizing, it would be most constructive if you would identify yourselves and help out with the current efforts for the cats at the Pub. I don’t think anybody currently involved thinks of themselves as an “expert” with cat rescue – just concerned people trying to do the right thing.

  6. Mary Reply

    December 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I just wanted to comment on this because some of the things i have read on here have truly upset me. When i started working here a year and a half ago, Cheryl introduced me to the cats and i was very worried for their well-being. I thought the same as a lot of others do: they werent being cared for properly, they were eating off the stairs, they looked dirty. After only a week of employment here i looked at the care for the cats in such a different light. Many people here, including me, do everything in our power to insure the cats are cared for properly and living the best and happiest life they can. Every single morning Cheryl comes into work early (off the clock) and feeds all of the cats, gives them clean water, and spends time with them. I have driven to Yorktown Beach on holidays and have seen Cheryl here, even when the pub is closed, to care for the cats. She has even driven down to the beach during hurricaines to check on them and make sure their shelter is in good condition. There have been many days where Cheryl walks down the road and some of the cats follow her so i jokingly started calling her “the cat whisperer” Cheryl even checks all of the cats for ticks and will sit with them, comforting them while she does everything within her power to get the ticks off. Even my house pets get ticks, even WITH their flea and tick monthly treatments. The cats here love us unconditionally because several years ago the people at the pub willingly began feeding and caring for them. I just wanted to say that i am very very proud of Cheryl for all she has done and continues to do for our cats. I also wanted to thank everyone for all of the nice comments, support, and donations.

  7. Yorktown Cat Rescuer Reply

    December 19, 2012 at 5:16 am

    I would like to challenge the Wydaily to do a follow up story as to the progress of the pub cats. Apparently they still have 2 male cats that haven’t been neutered. Will you please update us as to when this will be done? The YC animal control office has free traps available for use if contacted. They will even drop it off to them. Also, can the Wydaily give us an update as to what type of shelter the pub has available for the cats in the winter? And, when the pub expansion starts where will the cats live? I would also like to know if they plan on trying to get any of the cats adopted in the near future? And, what their game plan is regarding this? Thanks! We appreciate your reporting of this story!!

    • SERVER AT YTP Reply

      December 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

      “DO what you feel in your heart is right,
      for you will be criticized anyway”
      -Eleanor Roosevelt

      JUST WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT WE ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN!! the 2 males are getting fixed this week so they are taken care of!! I love these cats very much!! we are trying now since we have them all fixed to work with them to try and tame them to get them to a great home!! yes we have tried to put food bowls out for all of them but they fight over them and just becomes too much..sorry if it bothers people that they eat off the steps but that is how they get along and works for them. i know some people might think what we are doing is wrong but i feel we are really trying and i know it has taken a while to get it all together but we finally got the help we needed!! it hurst me to think that others think we dont take care of them. i have been using the donations we have recieved to get them all flea and tick meds. and food which mind you they go throw a 16lb bag every week. I know we can do a little better but we are getting there!!! THANK YOU to everyone who has helped us and saw we were having issuse and instead of bashing us decided to help. IT MEANS ALOT TO ME!!!

      When i first came here 4 years ago i was not part of the feeding and everything but now in the past 2 years i have stepped up and done everything i can to make there life a little better!! it does upset me that they cant go home with me i wish they could.. believe me 3 of them meet me at my car every morning and follow me to my car when i leave it breaks my heart, once i get my own house i will help out as many as i can.

      im sorry if some people think we are doing things wrong but im doing the best i can. Mind you, i am just a server working on tips and $2.13 an hour and right now it is really slow. come summer time i will build them little huts and do even more then what i am now.

      Im not asking for a pat on the back or a hand out but i feel like i have helped alot. And the cats are happier then they have ever been!!

      thank you for everyones input and i will try to do even more then i am doing to make everyone else a little happier. just a little upset that we have finally done something and people are still want to bash us. sorry if we have made others unhappy but hey aleast we are doing something.

  8. Kim Lenz Reply

    December 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for your input, mytwocents. We agree on the namecalling and apologize; that post has been taken down.

  9. mytwocents Reply

    December 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    panther33…you are just mean and downright rude. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but name calling is uncalled for. I am very surprised and disappointed that the WY Daily allowed that comment on here at all, but then I am beginning to question their judgment on several things, good writing being at the top of my list.

  10. mytwocents Reply

    December 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Good for you, Yorktown Cat Rescuer, for speaking the truth. Taking care of feral cats, especially in such a public area, is difficult. I would know as I have had my own colony for 7 years now. People rarely see the reality of what the cats deal with because they don’t hang around long enough. They think putting out a little food is all there is to it. Ha! There is much, much more to taking care of feral cats than that. The public could have benefitted from some good, ACCURATE information from a reputable source such as Alley Cat Allies, a national organization that works to help feral cats. People, you may love cats but don’t talk about what you don’t know anything about as though you are experts. It’s just ridiculous. And don’t call people names on here. That’s just juvenile.

  11. Cat Lover Reply

    December 18, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Feral cats can be tamed with lots of love and patience. However cats do become very fearful if they are born in this type of environment. Yorktown is a very hard place for feral cats. Please do your best to get these cats tamed and adopted!!

  12. negative not need... Reply

    December 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    It just bothers me to think that others think the pub is doing everything “wrong”…some of the older cats have been there for 10 years. Its all they know. They have shelter.. For cold and warm days oh and rainy ones too. They are feed everyday same times fresh water and the most attention they could ever ask for and freedom. It is awesome they have finally been able to get ahold on the fixing of them..THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HAS HELPED OUT!! Everyone has the opinion but mine is that they are doing a lot they saw it was getting way outta control and put a stop to it. Those cats are some of the happiest cats I have ever seen. Also I think its great that the servers have got together with people from the communty even in a tight economy and have figured out a way that works for them. I’m sure they would love to have everything alittle better but that will take time. :-) keep up the great work and don’t let anyone bring u down! IT IS AWESOME WHAT Y’ALL HAVE DONE SO FAR!

  13. Yorktown Cat Rescuer Reply

    December 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    The pub cats in Yorktown deserve to have proper shelter from the cold and heat. They also need to have food placed in clean containers and not just food thrown on the steps. I am glad that they have FINALLY made a sincere effort to have the cats spayed and neutered after several years of neglect. They were constantly having new litters of kittens even after several cat rescuers offered to help them with little or no cooperation from the pub or it’s staff. The pub cats do not have a good quality of life. They deserve better!!!

    • Yorktown Cat Rescuer Reply

      December 18, 2012 at 9:35 am

      I do know what I am talking about since I have 15 of the cats that have come from the Yorktown Pub that I have adopted. And, they are all indoor cats. I have also found homes for several others of them. I have tried for years to HELP with the cat problem there. I have spent thousands of dollars taking care of the fetal cats in Historic Yorktown. Several cat rescuers have also tried to help them over the years to get the cats spayed and neutered with little or no help from the pub or its staff. They just kept letting them multiply! I was the one that spent night after night trapping cats in Yorktown and finding them good homes. There is more to taking care of a cat than a little food on a sidewalk! Have you seen the shelter that they provide for the cats? Have you seen the people on the beach chase the cats or let their dogs chase them? Or the cats that have ear mites so bad that they have huge open cuts for months on end? Or the cats that have been killed by one of the neighbors dogs (3)? I am grateful that the pub is finally stepping up to the plate!!! I have begged York County for years to talk to the Pub about the cat problem. No one is trying to be negative!! When I read the article I was surprised at how little research was done. We all want the best for the cats! They deserve to have a good life. By the way – my cats don’t miss living at the Pub! Or being abused by the clientele in Historic Yorktown. I encourage you to spend some time taking care of the cats in Yorktown. Or even possibly adopting one. Cats are a real blessing. Have a Merry Christmas.

  14. Diane Smith Reply

    December 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    The Pub Cats are a wonderful bunch. I just love them!! I adopted one of the kittens and he is just a joy!! Thanks Cheryl, and Ginny and everyone helping this great bunch of kitties!! There is a place in Heaven for you!!

  15. It seems like an accurate story to me... Reply

    December 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I think folks who know feral cats will realize that the term pack isn’t any more negative than the more commonly used term colony.

    Good for all those at the Pub and in Yorktown who care for them in such a humane way.

  16. Meow Reply

    December 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks Cheryl! Thanks Ginny!

  17. mytwocents Reply

    December 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    It is untrue that after a cat has lived as a feral (the correct term for a “wild” cat) for six months it is not able to live as a pet. I have two ferals that became wonderful pets with time and patience on my part. I would not recommend this for all ferals and it is true most need to be released back to the site where their colony (NOT pack, for heaven’s sake) resides. Trap-Neuter-Release is the most humane practice for caring for feral cats and has been around for many, many years. For more information, check into Pawsitively Precious Adoptions in Williamsburg, a non-profit that is run by Brenda Dulski and adopts out the adoptable cats at 757-229-0578. Also look up Alley Cat Allies on the web. You really should have done your homework before writing this story. The cats deserve better than to be made to sound like a PACK. That term has very negative connotations and cats have enough problems being accepted into society like this as it is. Especially there in Yorktown where the local prosecutor would rather have them killed, and has seen to it that this happened, than neutered and released.

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