The founder of an animal rescue said cats aren't just a passion for Willie, they're his whole life.
Willie Ortiz, a scrap metal collector, has been feeding stray and feral cats in Hartford, Connecticut for 22 years and has never missed a feeding. He said he was first inspired all those years ago to help the local cats after he saw people ignoring a stray kitten that was crying for food and couldn’t bear to look the other way like everyone else.
Every morning, Willie leaves his house at 6am armed with cans of sardines and cat food and makes his rounds so that he can stick to the feeding schedule. After many years of feedings, his charges have reached numbers of nearly 70, and a GoFundMe page made in his honor explains,
“Presently he feeds 16 colonies of stray and feral cats, a total of 68 cats, every night, 365 days a year and has never missed a night in 22 years.”
After the initial encounter with the hungry cat, he began feeding several others behind his friend’s auto body shop, and his then-coworker donated $40 to help with the costs of food. News of his good deed traveled to those animal activists and residents who told him about where they spotted other cats in need. Today, his daily routine takes him all through Hartford and on 14 different stops.
His ‘job’ now is collecting scrap metal everyday, which he sells to fund his operation for the cats. The task is anything but cheap; every 10 days, Willie spends $200 on Friskies shredded food alone. The food is essential to his “clients” because some of them don’t have teeth and find it hard to chew chunky or dry food. Not everyone understands Willie’s passion for the cats, and he told Courant,
“I do this because I know no one likes the cats…. People ask me why I feed them every day, or tell me I feed them too much,” Ortiz said. “You eat every day, no? You get three meals; they eat once every 24 hours.”
Though he is now 76, Willie continues to do this work because he knows it’s necessary for ‘his’ cats to remain strong while they face the outside world everyday. He adores his cats and they adore him in return, and he even checks on their health periodically when he drops off food. In addition to feeding them, he pays for them to be spayed and neutered and will take them to the vet and buy medication if any of them look sickly. It’s important to him to have them fixed in order to control the population and lessen the amount of cats on the streets for the future.
The elderly man, who has also been happily married for 52 years and is a grandfather of four, says he has a keen sense for which of the cats are adoptable and has helped rehome many in the past. He has photo albums filled with cats that found forever homes with addresses and phone numbers scrawled on the back. Robert Faltus, owner of Freedom Paws Rescue, which has partnered with Willie, said,
“We’ve helped hundreds of cats find homes, but there’s always more work to be done.”
Willie agrees and has said that he will continue to do this work as long as God wants him to. If you would like to donate to his ongoing GoFundMe page to help feed and care for the cats, you can do so here.
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