By Jen Bakken
DELANO, MN “Come on kitties, time to eat,” said Ellie Fossell. “Here kitties, here kitty, kitty.”
As a resident of Delano Crossings senior apartments, Fossell has become known as “the cat lady” because of her efforts to care for stray cats in the area.
On the heated sidewalk outside the front door of Delano Crossings is a dish of cat food, bowl of water, and a makeshift bed made out of a plastic tub and blanket all for the stray cats Fossell has grown to love.
Growing up in Iowa, she always loved animals. For 10 years, Loretto was her home, but in July 2007, Fossell moved to Delano.
“After some surgery, stairs were too hard for me,” she said. “So, I moved here to Delano Crossings.”
With her cane in hand, she will take the elevator to the main level and feed her cats two or three times each day.
Though they run from most people, the strays have learned to trust Fossell. They come when she calls them, and one cat in particular will even allow her to pick it up.
A black cat nicknamed Star, because of a white star on its chest, has developed an obvious bond with her.
“I just love the black one.” she smiled. “I call it my cat. I’ll go outside pet it, pick it up, and it won’t leave me alone.”
She would love to adopt Star, but can’t afford to take it to a veterinary clinic for tests, shots, and neutering.
Living on a fixed income is difficult for many seniors, including Fossell, but Star would be a welcomed companion to her.
After losing her son to diabetes complications in September 2007, she has found living alone difficult at times. Her other son lives in Seattle which makes visits difficult.
The cost to prepare Star for adoption varies, and Fossell has been doing research and seeking help to give her feline friend a home.
Her favorite stray cat is definetly a Star to her, but there are at least four other strays wandering in the area. There were more, but two have been killed on St. Peter Avenue, which saddens Fossell.
It’s rumored that a few residents have set live traps to catch the strays and take them to the humane society.
“I worry about what happens to them there,” she said. “Do they ever find families or are they put down? Are they turned away because the shelters are full?”
Sara Zabel from Lake Rebecca Veterinary Clinic, said there are many things to watch for with stray cats.
“They pretty much need to be checked out from head to tail,” she said. “They could have rabies, infections, flees, ear mites, or many other things.”
While some strays can adjust to becoming pets rather quickly, Zabel admits that others just can’t.
“One thing people can do if they find a stray, is look for a collar or tag,” she said. “Some might be micro chipped and can be brought in it to be scanned at no charge.”
Care should be taken in handling strays, she said. “Cat bites can be nasty, and sometimes people are really taking a risk feeding strays.”
According to www.feralcatproject.org, the offical definition of feral is, “living in a wild state after domestication.”
Many believe that feral or free-roaming cats are better off dead than living a natural outdoor lifestyle. Some feel it is more humane to trap and kill the cat before it can suffer from other things or be hit by a car.
Those involved with the Feral Cat Project and Fossell herself, disagree. They feel these strays should not only be fed, but helped and have every right to live.
In fact, Fossell is not the only Delano Crossings resident to feel this way. Some will bring leftovers to the strays, and the felines have feasted on everything from potatoes and gravy to grilled shrimp.
“I think they eat better than I do,” laughed Fossell.
For more information on how you can help stray cats, visit www.feralcatproject, or contact Crossroads Animal Shelter at (763) 684-1234.
“I just love those cats,” Fossell said, “and look forward to seeing them and watching them every day. While visiting my sister out of town, I told everyone to take care of them for me.”