Hyde Parkers protect cats from the cold

Community members volunteer to help cats find homes.

By Preston Thomas

A volunteer organization called Cat Helpers posted an urgent call on Marketplace for volunteers in preparation for yesterday’s wind chill of –40 degrees Fahrenheit. The message was directed at potential cat fosterers and adopters in Hyde Park, as well as anyone interested in building shelters, giving cats food and water, or helping deliver them to the organization PAWS for medical care.

The dangerously low temperatures are particularly hostile for Hyde Park’s felines, so volunteers dedicated to finding shelters and permanent homes for stray cats are working with a particular sense of urgency.

Fourth-year Stephanie Grach and her roommates volunteer for Hyde Park Cats, which, like Cat Helpers, seeks to match cats with fosterers and adopters.

“We wanted to help out with the cats that are around the neighborhood here, because there are quite a few,” Grach said. “[The goal is] to find all of the cats that are not feral—ones that want to be in a home—and place them, at the very least, in foster homes. That can be fairly temporary… It’s a really great situation for people that are at the University only temporarily.”

The pet store Parker’s, at East 55th Street and South Kenwood Avenue, occasionally assists in fostering efforts and also accepts donations on behalf of Hyde Park Cats.

“For people that can’t foster, they can donate through Parker’s…or directly through Hyde Park Cats. In the case of feral cats, they actually have volunteers who go and feed the colonies,” Grach said.

Cat Helpers is operated by a woman who goes by “Cathelper” on Marketplace, who has posted numerous listings on Marketplace seeking individuals interested in fostering or adopting cats.

The woman declined to comment for this article, but Grach confirmed that “Cathelper” is not a student but rather a permanent resident of Hyde Park who sometimes works in tandem with Hyde Park Cats.

“[The leader of Cat Helpers] has an interesting relationship with Hyde Park Cats,” Grach said. “She does foster on behalf of Hyde Park Cats, but she also runs her own individual [service] and…those are what her Marketplace posts tend to be.”

Currently, Cat Helpers has 29 posts on Marketplace seeking volunteers, fosterers, and adopters. Her latest post on Saturday displays a photo of a cat without a permanent residence and is titled, “Friendly big gold tabby boy Lawrence wants a lap to cuddle in.”