Real Caregivers of New Jersey: Nicole from Essex County

Nicole from Essex County

Were you always a cat lover?

YES.  I was (as my Mom likes to quote Lady Gaga) “born this way!” I begged for a cat for as long as I could talk, but couldn’t get my parents on board until the summer after 3rd grade. We finally adopted Lagerfeld, who was truly the best cat ever. He lived almost 18 years, and left my Mom and I cat lovers for eternity. I have adopted every cat since, in his honor. He taught me about unconditional love in all ways. I still miss him and speak of him regularly.

How did you get started being a colony caregiver?

5 years ago on Thanksgiving Day, a beautiful fluffy cat was standing on my doorstep. We literally delayed turkey dinner to look at the cat through the window, and of course put food out immediately. She started coming back every day for months, until one day when she didn’t. I never found out what happened to her, but she awakened the desire for my family to have cats both indoors and out. There was no turning back.

I would love to share credit. My 12 year old daughter Madison is as involved in the care of our [self made] colony as I am, and to be truthful, even my husband and next door neighbors have fallen in love with our crew. We are so fortunate to be able to provide these sweet cats with an outdoor life like they have.  They have fresh shelters, heated bowls, 2 feedings a day, lots of humans swooning over them, and LOVE! I wish I … could have more land, and I could take more cats on! Alas, I am in my little home with a backyard full. No complaints!

How many cats do you take care of?  How many have been TNR’d?

I have three indoor cats (all 3 are rescues but 2 specifically are formal ferals having a second chance at life) and we have four outdoor cats.  ALL TNR’d!

What are the best and worst parts of taking care of your crew?

The best part is looking out the window & seeing them in my yard, just hanging out. Not waiting for food or water, but just simply being there to relax. Why?? Because they don’t have to be there – the whole area is their playground. My indoor cats are a joy, but something about my outdoor guys is different.  When they’re in the yard, it means a lot, because they can be anywhere.  We feel like they choose to be part of the  family, and that makes us all feel like we are succeeding in making them feel loved and safe. The worst part is worrying about them.  If ever a day goes by when I don’t see one of my crew, I worry.  A lot.  That is the only negative I can think of.

How do your neighbors feel about the cats?

I have neighbors on one side who actually help me feed the cats – my yard isn’t huge, and at one point I was worried about territory struggles with all the females. My next door neighbors have been putting food and water out to add another feeding location, and I think they’re terrific for that. The neighbors on the other side are not thrilled, but they have not complained.  I don’t know what on earth I would do if they had a problem with any of my cats.

How did you hear about CPAW?

I found CPAW on Instagram (@cpawnjpurr), and they have helped me SO much. I am educated about feral cats, which even as a cat lover, I had not been.  I am an advocate for feral cats now, and I pass along information to anyone who will listen.

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If you or someone you know is a Community Cat Caregiver in New Jersey and would like to be featured on our site, please email