West Side Cat Rescue

When Kevin and Melissa Gardner of Five Points Bakery first decided to build a pop-up ice cream trailer on the property, I can pretty much guess that they never thought that it would end up housing cats and kittens. But that’s exactly what the trailer has become – a safe haven for homeless cats and kittens.

The idea for West Side Cat Rescue is that of Jamie Mulligan, whose daughter came across an abandoned kitten on the West Side in 2016. She soon learned that there was an abandoned lot in the neighborhood, where there were a number of stray and feral cats. It was then that she decided that she needed to be proactive about the disheartening situation. Thus, she began placing the cats in cages, to get them neutered. She also took some in and began feeding the cats. Before long, she realized that she had the early-on formation of a shelter of sorts, located on the first floor of her house.

Jamie’s daughter Alessandra Celotto created the “W” logo: “We are West Siders – we wanted to incorporate the street element of community cat life… it’s a rough hard life.” – Jamie

Eventually, this grassroots shelter begat an official non-profit 501c3 called West Side Cat Rescue. The only piece of the puzzle that was really missing, was finding a better way to get the cats and the kittens noticed. When she came across a “For Lease” sign on the Five Points trailer, she immediately realized the potential. So she called Kevin, and before long the two had struck up an arrangement.

“Creating magical experiences is what Five Points Bakery is all about,” said Kevin. “When I see people with their faces pressed up against the glass of West Side Cat Rescue’s cat trailer with a grin from ear to ear, I know we just did it again, and before they even stepped in the door.”

And that’s exactly what happened to me, the first time that I saw a clowder of felines perched and playing inside the trailer, back in April. At the point, there was a QR code on a fairly nondescript piece of paper in the window, so I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. What I did know, was that the animals looked content, well fed, groomed, and happy.

Eventually, I noticed that a proper sign was hung on the cat shack, which is when I decided to text the phone number on the door.

After leaving a message, Jaimie returned my call. We set up a time to chat, which, happens to be moments ago. After congratulating Jamie on this heartfelt undertaking, I asked her about the rescue.

“Once my eyes were open to the problem, I couldn’t look away,” Jamie told me. “At first I learned all about trap, neuter, release, which is the first step. Eventually, the trailer turned out to be the perfect spot to shelter the cats, because of the foot traffic. People love interacting with the cats. It’s brought something really wonderful to the neighborhood. Right now there are 16 cats housed inside. I take my time to integrate all of the cats prior to housing them in the trailer, so they already know each other and they all get along. There are some kittens in there too. I don’t have to acclimate them – the adults will put them in their place if they misbehave.”

To date, Jamie has placed 7 cats from this shelter-trailer. On select weekends she sets up crates on the yellow ledges outside, where she puts the kittens. That strategy has resulted in the placement of 13 kittens. For those who adopt, there is a rigorous vetting process that is 6-pages long.

Inside the rescue trailer

“I take the time with every single cat,” said Jamie. “To make sure that they are going to a forever home. These are all indoor cats now, although harness and leash training is OK.”

If you’re wondering how Jamie can do all of this on her own, while also taking care of numerous other cats at her own home… she does have help.

“It’s all about getting the routine down,” she explained. “Dr. Elsey’s donates palettes of cat litter. Purina donates some food. Elmwood Pet Supplies gives us cost on items. Then there are the volunteers and the foster parents who are the backbone of any rescue. Most of the time, it’s me and my 20-year old daughter, Alessandra Celotto. Councilman Rivera has been gracious to give us some funding. I’ve been reaching out to other districts for funding as well, to start a city-wide program to curb the stray and feral cat populations. So far, I’ve gotten commitments from Ellicott, North, and Delaware. I’m anticipating that the other districts will also come onboard. This would be a community cat program. Avid cat lovers Peter and Ellen Reese have committed to matching City donations dollar-for-dollar towards to the city-wide program. And I am hoping that next spring I will have a mobile spay-neuter unit up and running, to help the underserved communities.”

Currently, Jamie is spending all of her time developing this program. Previous to taking all of this on, she worked as a Histotechnologist (for the past 20 years). This cat rescue gig is relatively new to Jamie, but she is certainly helping to address the stray and feral cat problem that exists in Buffalo. She’s doing it all one step at a time, although I can tell you right now, they are pretty huge steps… all in the name of love, for cats.

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