Pat Frederick has had more than her fair share of health problems. She suffers from congestive heart failure, kidney disease, gout, colitis, and osteoporosis. However, that does not stop Frederick from caring for nearly 80 stray cats who live in different colonies in Germantown, Philadelphia.
“I just love them, and I know that no one else would take care of them,” Frederick said. “I enjoy being with them and protecting them. I know I’m helping them, but it’s helping me because it gives me a purpose.”
Frederick began caring for the strays about eight years ago when she moved back to Philadelphia from Chicago so her parents could help her as she underwent medical treatments. While Frederick should have been focusing on herself, she couldn’t stop thinking about the skinny, malnourished cats hanging around her neighborhood.
“I felt sorry for them,” Frederick said. “They didn’t really have anyone to take care of them, and no one was feeding them. As a matter of fact, people had been poisoning them and killing them because they were upset that the cats were breaking into their garbage bags and eating the garbage.”
Frederick had experience with feral cats when her 15-year-old cat Phoebe died back in Chicago, she had adopted two feral cats, Winston and Harry.
“The emergency vet called me and told me about two cats they had trapped on a farm out in the suburbs, and they thought I would be a good mother for the cats,” Frederick said. “I had never heard about feral cats.”
Frederick rescued the two cats and brought them to live with her inside her apartment. It took Winston a year before he allowed Frederick to touch him, and Harry nearly four years to seek out affection. Frederick adored them, and it was worth the wait. Both Winston and Harry lived with her until they both died of old age. “They taught me how to appreciate feral cats,” she said.
When Frederick returned to Germantown, she began leaving out food and water for the stray cats. That was when she met a woman who helped her trap the strays, and get them vaccinated, spayed and neutered. Frederick tried to find homes for the friendly cats because she believes they have a harder time surviving on the streets.
“I try to get the ones who are not afraid of people off the streets so they won’t be hurt,” Frederick said, explaining that people will sometimes turn on the homeless animals. “I’ve had cats who were taken by the paws and thrown into the air, and BB guns shot at them.”
Frederick does not try to rehome the ones who are afraid of people. Frederick believes that they have a much stronger chance of surviving than the friendly ones.
“If they’re [fully] feral, they’ll just run away from the people, so I’m not as concerned for their safety,” Frederick said.
Frederick spends several hours each day to care for her stray cats, who live in 11 different locations around Germantown.
“It takes about two hours to get all the trays of food together for all the cats — I give them dry and also wet food,” Frederick said. “And it takes about three to four hours to feed everyone.”
The work is physically demanding — there’s a lot of walking up and down stairs and hills, Frederick explained. “Usually, after I’ve gone to a couple locations, I’m out of breath,” she said. “So I take a little break, then get up and [keep] doing it again.”
In addition to the physical challenges, Frederick struggles to pay for everything. She does accept donations and borrows money from her father while using her own money to pay for the cats’ care.
“I take out money to pay for the medication for my heart, but besides that, I don’t buy anything,” Frederick said. “I don’t do anything and I don’t go anywhere. I cut my own hair because I don’t have the money so — I could spend the money to do those kinds of things, but then I wouldn’t have money to have cat food.”
Frederick not only cares for the strays in her local colonies, but she also volunteered with the Pennsylvania SPCA and Best Friends Animal Society.
Aine Doley, former head of The Best Friends Community Cat Program, said that she’s amazed by Frederick’s passion and determination. “She fought through her sickness to volunteer and trap, even once ending up in the hospital during a mass trapping,” Doley said. “She never let it stop her from helping these cats.”
“Pat is one of those people who dedicates herself 110 percent,” Kris Papiernik and Kia Griffin, cat rescuers and the women behind Kolony Kats, said. “Always going above and beyond. Without Pat, so many cats would be overbreeding, starving, and struggling to survive on the streets. She is a true hero.”
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