The Coney Island Cat Crisis: Josie And The Neighborhood Cats


Josie Marrero sometimes loves cats more than she loves people.

Every month, she spends $400 on veterinarian bills, $300 on cat food, $130 on kitty litter, and the rest of her saved income on personal groceries.

“I pay basic rent and utilities. Everything else goes to the cats,” Josie says.

As the founder of Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, she has made it her life mission to help the stray and feral cats in Southern Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella is a nonprofit, no-kill, all-volunteer rescue organization.

With her team of six dedicated volunteers, Josie has been helping stray and feral cats across Shore Parkway and Coney Island since the group’s inception in 2011.

“It keeps snowballing. It gets worse every year,” she says. “The lack of compassion towards the plight of the cats on the Coney Island boardwalk is currently a crisis.”

Up and down the entire boardwalk, from Ocean Parkway to West 33rd Street, Josie counts that there are at least 100 pockets of cat colonies. A colony can have anywhere from three to 25 cats. In the past two and a half years, Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella has successfully relocated 10 to 15 cats from the Coney Island Boardwalk.

But now, they face an additional problem. Several abandoned Coney Island parking lots – a favored home of many feral felines – are in the process of being bulldozed, and with the winter chill in full-swing, many of the stray cats that have made these lots their sanctuary will again have to relocate. Already, the bulldozing has started at Surf Avenue and West 33rd Street.

“It’s a little jungle. They’re going to kill a lot of cats,” Josie says. “I’ve been reaching out with no success to help these cats get relocated or even sheltered, since demolition and construction are brutally leaving them exposed and without the help of their caretakers.”

According to the group’s Facebook page, Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella is currently looking for more foster homes, recovery sites, and volunteers. In its description online, Josie writes, “We are not a shelter, and cannot just take in cats unless we have a foster home available. We rely on individual rescuers to help us help them with fostering while we assist with vetting, rehabilitation, and adoption measures.”

Still, more than anything, Josie says they need recovery space for cats after their TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) initiative. Even if there is no promise of adoption readily available, the Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella works with local veterinarians to spay and neuter the strays. After the procedure, the cats need a safe haven where they can relax and work off their anesthesia, usually for three to five days.

Financially, that’s more than the group can currently afford. Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella applied for tax-exempt 501(c)3 status in January of last year and is hoping to have that status confirmed by the end of this month. That could help in fundraising, as well as saving some scratch on provisions for the animals.

In the meantime, Josie plans to strengthen the networking between various rescue groups of Southern Brooklyn. She hopes that they’ll work together, convening over the same mission to work for a common good cause.

And, she says she will continue to place strays with new owners.

“Adopt a cat. She will grow on you,” Josie says. “One minute, it’s just a cat. The next, she’s part of your family. When cats connect with you, they’ll truly make you feel better. They’ll make you smile. They’ll change your whole life.”

She invites those who want to help to help the cats fight the winter months to purchase hay, straw, or pillow cases for warm bedding. She also welcomes new volunteers. To contact Josie or get involved with the organization, please email or visit their Facebook page.


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