For the past few weeks, a storm has been brewing in Chicago’s cat rescue community over the situation at Hawthorne Racetrack. While the battle was waging on social media, the Hawthorne Cat Coalition was hard at work behind the scenes working to create a workable action plan for the nearly 40 feral cats living at the track.
As the cold weather has been settling in around Chicago this week, the Hawthorne Cat Coalition has been hard at work setting up additional shelters and feeding stations at the \track. On Monday, November 17th, the group was onsite distributing 20 new insulated shelters and four feeding stations around the backstretch of the track.
Working with track representatives, the shelters and feeding stations have been placed in some of the natural shelter areas – trailers and between buildings – to provide cats extra protection from the weather.
Until a few weeks ago, few of us knew anything about colonies of feral cats that have been living at Hawthorne Race Track. That all changed when the long time caregiver and the track had a falling out and it appeared that the cats were getting forgotten in the shuffle. Two feeding stations had been set up while the coalition worked on a plan for the track.
According to an action plan released by Jenny Schlueter of Tree House, enough food for around 40 cats is being set out around 9 each morning. Hawthorne is providing the dry food and Tree House has donated a year’s supply of wet food that will be administered by the Hawthorne Cat Coalition team. They’ll also work to track the number of cat on the site.
Some of the debate that has come up through social media efforts is that the groups now on site weren’t trapping yet. According to Schlueter, there is a good reason for that -
We are in the “trapping rehearsal stage” because the cats are still adjusting to new schedules and caretakers. Until the cats are comfortable with the new plan, it isn’t efficient or safe to trap them. As soon as the cats are reliably eating in the unset traps, the Coalition will trap them, focusing on the trailer feeding station near Cheeto’s reported location, along with the trailers where the mom and older kittens are located.
Cheeto is a blind cat that has been part of the debate. According to Schlueter, the Hawthorne Cat Coalition has interviewed over a dozen people at Hawthorne Racetrack and no one has ever seen Cheeto. The group is working to look for Cheeto and any other unaltered cats, sick or injured cats that may need their help.
The only socialized cats found so far have been owned barn cats on the property. Here’s where I stand on the situation. I’ve been a supporter of Tree House for 23 years going back to my first rescue. I’ve known Jenny and others at Tree House for years. They oversee several hundred colonies around Chicago.
Triple R Pets has worked for years in the suburbs doing the same work being done by Tree House. They are working in conjunction with PAWS Chicago – a group with vast resources. These groups know what they are doing and spend the time assessing and working in feral cat communities in and around Chicago. They’ve been working to make sure their plan does the most good once it was created.
If you’d like to help, monetary donations to support the efforts of the Hawthorne Cat Coalition, are being accepted here. Hawthorne has also established a donation center at its Guest Services Center in the grandstands. Read my interview with Jenny here.
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