By Sabina Mollot
Normally for City Critters, a cat rescue and adoption group, the idea is to find a “forever home” for the felines who are kept at a local adoption space at a Petco shop in Kips Bay. However, this time it’s the organization itself that needs a home — albeit a temporary one — due to the Petco store being set to close next month.
Volunteers had known about the pending closure for a while and had arranged to simply set up their cages full of cats in need of adoption at another Petco store that was being built about 20 blocks north. However, as with most construction projects, there have been delays and that location isn’t expected to open until July. So now, City Critters is finding itself in need of a place to stay for at least a couple of months, preferably in the same neighborhood. “We need something temporary,” said one of the organization’s longtime volunteers, Jordana Serebrenik, “like a pop-up shop. We don’t need a huge storefront on 34th Street. We’d be okay in a 400-square-foot space.”
Meanwhile, she explained, the two-month gap between Petcos is happening during a critical time for City Critters to be able to show its animals to potential owners with a significant amount of funding at stake.
The reason is that from May 31-June 1, City Critters is scheduled to hold what is expected to be its biggest adoption event of the year. The organization also participated in event, which is held in nine states by Maddie’s Fund, last year at Union Square, and wound up getting 80 cats adopted. Maddie’s Fund structures the event so that members of the public get to bring pets home without having to pay any adoption fees, but in exchange for not charging them, participating pet groups like City Critters get subsidies that are significantly more money than what they would have made in fees.
“City Critters is being asked to, and would like to intake more cats,” said Serebrenik, “but we cannot do so without knowing that we have the ability to house and show the cats.” Having a space that’s public, rather than just foster homes, is crucial to that process, said Serebrenik, so potential adopters can see the cats, and, during hours when volunteers are there, interact with them and learn about adopting. City Critters has relied on Petco, which is located on Second Avenue between 31st and 32nd Street, for 15 years for the space to do this. Generally, eight cats are showed during the week, while around 20 are shown on weekends, after being delivered from foster homes or vets’ offices.
While Petco has offered other stores to use temporarily, those locations are already utilized by other animal rescue groups and additionally, staying local would enable City Critters to take advantage of Kips Bay area volunteers and foster owners, said Serebrenik.
It was at that Petco, where Serebrenik, a Kips Bay resident who now runs a business catching cats for owners and getting them into carriers for vet visits, first spotted the City Critters outpost and decided to volunteer. She’d previously been a lawyer but decided to stop practicing after 10 years. Then one day, when walking past the Petco store, she spotted the cats in their cages, lying on hammocks. Serebrenik recalled that she thought, “What better way to purge my soul of litigation than to clean litter boxes?”
This was seven years ago, and Serebrenik said throughout that time, Petco has been very generous with its space with City Critters. As soon as the store’s management learned of the delay in the new location’s opening, which was late in March, City Critters was informed, she said. The delay, she added, “is no fault of their own. It’s just circumstances.”
However, with City Critters now preoccupied with finding a new adoption center, this
has meant there’s been less time to promote the available cats and kittens and generate interest in adoptions in time for the Maddie’s Fund event.
“We are frantic,” said Serebrenik. “We don’t want to miss out on the single most important events for animals to get placed and agencies get money.”
Although the group has been able to steadily find homes for cats and kittens over the years, the challenge has been that there are always more. Sometimes, the group gets custody of cats that have been left in apartments when owners move and leave without them. City Critters will typically get tipped off by a building’s super or a neighbor who knows that an animal has been left behind.
“It happens more often than you’d want it to happen,” said Serebrenik, who’s heard of a couple of recent instances of cats being abandoned in Stuyvesant Town. Other times, the group will take in cats that have been left outside when there’s no evidence that anyone’s looking for them. Most of the time though, volunteers will find themselves having to take custody of cats that have been given up due to reasons such as allergies or an owner dying or moving to a place where there are no pets allowed.
“City Critters is focused on helping animals before they end up in a perilous situation,” said Serebrenik, “like being let out in a 12-degree polar vortex or taken by Animal Control, where their fate is hopefully okay but questionable.”
Petco meanwhile, reiterated that City Critters could use another Manhattan store if it can’t find the Kips Bay area space it wants.
“We’ve had a great relationship with City Critters since we opened the Kips Bay store,” said Lisa Stark, a rep for the company, “and we want to maintain that relationship.”
For the time being, hours at the Kips Bay Petco when cats are on view with a City Critters volunteer on hand are Saturday and Sunday from noon-6 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.