Meghan Dunn writes Meet Instagram’s Paul the Cat Guy:
Astoria, New York (CNN) — Paul Santell spends at least 30 hours each week feeding and trapping stray cats throughout New York City’s boroughs.
It’s a mission that sort of fell in his lap five years ago but has now earned him the moniker “Paul the Cat Guy.”
“When I moved to Queens, I didn’t realize there were so many cats,” Santell said. “I knew nothing about animal rescue.”
In the United States, there are 30 to 40 million stray or feral cats roaming outside and only about 2% of them have been spayed or neutered. These community cats produce around 80% of the kittens born in the US each year, adding to the overpopulation concern.
On his way home each night, Santell began noticing strays living in poor conditions. He started to feed one of them. That quickly became two cats, then three. Before he knew it, he was feeding a whole colony.
“After about two months of feeding them, I said, ‘You know what? I want to do more to help them.'”
Santell attended an ASPCA class, where he learned about Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR—defined as the humane and effective approach for managing community cats. Cats are trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated. After recovery, the cats are released back where they were found or, if they’re friendly, adopted.
“You learn how to use a trap. You understand what colony cats are. And once you get certified, you’re able to use the free spay-neuter service at the ASPCA,” Santell said.