GoFundMe Campaign Helps Grandfather Care for Stray Cats

For the past 20 years, Willie Ortiz has been looking after stray cats in his hometown of Hartford. Now, you can help him continue his work feeding and caring for these homeless pets.

Every city has it’s own hometown hero. We all have people in our community of whom we are proud. But Hartford, Connecticut, takes the cake this week with their own own home town hero, Willie Ortiz.

Ortiz is a father, grandfather, veteran, and animal lover. About twenty years ago, Ortiz noticed that his hometown had a problem with feral and stray cats. He decided to deal with the situation. He started feeding strays, gaining their trust, capturing them and spaying/neutering. As of right now, he feeds 16 separate colonies of stray and feral cats. That’s about 68 cats in total.

Related: 5 Awesome Spay and Neuter Feral Cat Programs

The thing about cat colonies is that they aren’t static; they are constantly changing, growing and relocating. Willie’s cats are incredibly healthy though; he makes sure they get what they need to make life as good as possible. This includes visits to the vet for injured and sick cats, medicine when it can be useful, and of course, spaying and neutering. Spaying and neutering stray cats is not only something that helps with the cat overpopulation in general; it’s also a great way to ensure the cats are healthier, and live a longer life.

Ortiz has a really simple schedule. At around 6pm, armed with only a headlamp and some cat food, Ortiz gets into his car and drives to the 16 different cat colonies throughout Hartford and East Hartford. In each of the colonies, he puts out food and watches the cats eat. He looks who’s hungry – pregnant cats eat more, so once he notices that a cat is unusually hungry, he picks her up to check. If yes, she is pregnant, he takes her with him. This gives the cat a safe space to have the kittens. Once the cat has given birth, Ortiz brings her to the vet to be spayed and then puts her back into her colony, while the kittens are put up for adoption.

Related: TNR: What is It And How Does It Help Feral Cats?

The process of feeding all his colonies, checking the cats, recognizing new cats and making sure everyone’s healthy and happy takes Ortiz about 3 and a half hours every day. Ortiz has not missed a single day of this despite inclement weather and his own health issues. He loves his cats, and in return the cats of Hartford love him.

Not only does Ortiz invest a lot of time in his cats, however; feeding 68 cats every day costs money. Ortiz spends his days collecting scrap metal to sell in order to pay for the cat food that he buys for his neighbourhood friends. His cats have particular food needs, and Ortiz has perfected the art of taking care of them. Everyone in Hartford is in awe of Ortiz’s passion; the local vets and animal rescue shelters do what they can to help him, but, as Roberta Faltus, owner of Freedom Paws Rescue, put it “[working this these cats] is Willie’s life.”

Willie Ortiz is no overnight star. He’s been doing this since the 90s, and people have slowly been taking noticed. Last year, Kathleen Schlentz set up a GoFundMe for Ortiz, so he can buy cat food. More than $25,000 dollars has been donated to Ortiz since then, and it’s still going strong since then.

If you’d like to donate and help Ortiz, visit the GoFundMe page.

Elisabeth Fillmore lives in Portland, OR with her dog, Callisto, and her cat, Lavinia. She’s an excited hiker, a budding gardener, and an avid reader.

Elisabeth Fillmore
Elisabeth Fillmore

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