Animal Umbrella Messenger 
Fall 2001

Mary and Sylvester . . . by Mary Early


I would like you to meet Fitchburg's very own "Ice Cats", Mary and Sylvester. I met them in late October last year.
Two feral cats trying to survive in the woods behind the Fitchburg Civic Center. They were lucky in only one sense, because there were some wonderful and kind men working at the Civic Center, One in particular, Scott, had been feeding the 2 cats for going on 3 years!! The men were responsible for everything at the Civic Center including driving the Zamboni that clears off the ice. Scott started feeding the small black and white male 3 years ago. She was always around outside but he could not catch her, Sometimes she would be seen inside the Center, using the ice as her litter box or setting off the motion detectors. No one could catch her. Over the years she had several litters. When the men would find the litters they would bring the kittens to a local shelter. Two years ago, in the summer, she had a litter inside the Civic Center (the boiler room). One of the men, Dennis, told me he caught all the kittens from that litter except one. No matter how hard he tried he could not capture that little white kitten with the black cap and saddle. The little female now had a companion, the cat we call Sylvester. We were not sure if Sylvester is male or female. I started feeding these cats in late October. My husband made a feeding station in late November because I needed to keep their food dry and protected from the rain and snow. Everyday all through the long, cold and very snowy winter (North Central Mass had record snowfall) we continued to sustain these cats. Several times we had to pack down a path to the feeding station because the snow was too deep for them to walk through. Slowly, all their hiding places that they used to get out of the elements disappeared under the growing snow drifts and banks, One day I saw the mother cat (Mary) running across the very busy street from an apartment complex towards the Civic Center. After some detective work I discovered that they had found refuge in a storm drain that was at the bottom of a culvert, by the side of that busy highway. .

Mary and Sylvester

The storm drain was like a cave when there was just snow, but then as spring approached the culvert started to fill with water, from the melting snow and heavy rains. The brook in the woods behind the Civic Center flooded and almost washed away the feeding station. It seemed like nothing was going our way. I had been in touch with The Animal Umbrella since early December, the President, Annamarie Taylor directed me in our efforts to try to help these poor feral cats. Scott and I had called shelters across the state, none would take feral cats. The Animal Umbrella is the only shelter in the state that would take feral cats, but they were desperately full and very few adoptions take place in the winter. Finally in Spring our luck changed. Annamarie told us to trap the cats and then guided us through that procedure. We caught the mother cat (Mary) on the first try but Sylvester gave us a run for our money. I had to then condition him to use the trap as his feeding station. This took over two weeks and finally early one morning we caught Sylvester. Mary and Sylvester are now reunited in their large, safe cage at The Animal Umbrella, where they are slowly learning to trust humans and hopefully will be able to go to a loving home of their own someday ... My thanks to the Fitchburg Civic Center staff, especially the animal rescue SWAT team of Scott, Leo, Omer, Dennis and Dave ... A very special THANK YOU to The Animal Umbrella, without whom this story would not have a happy ending for our "Ice Cats"

After this article was written, Svlvester who had turned out to be a pregnant female was temporarily fostered by one of our volunteers to allow her to give birth. Unfortunately, her six kittens died one by one and a week later Sylvester died as well as she had developed the wet form of FIP, a terminal cat disease that often strikes young cats. Mary, her mother is at the shelter in excellent conditions. We would like to thank Mary and Scott and everyone inv6lved in helping and rescuing these two feral cats for their generosity and perseverance.