Condition of Feral Cats Living at Hawthorne Racetrack Remains Mysterious

Cat and horse in close up

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Approximately forty feral and stray cats make their home on the backside of the Hawthorne Racetrack in Stickney, Illinois. For the past seven years Carrie Gobernatz, the National News Editor for Horseback Magazine has lovingingly tended to these kitties, spending $130 a week out of her own pocket to feed them. Gobernatz has spent over $47,000 for their food, but this amount doesn’t include the cost of any necessary veterinary care.

To say that Gobernatz adores these kitties and is concerned about their welfare would be a huge understatement. The cats have grown to trust her. Whenever they saw her appear around their seven feeding stations, they would rush out to greet her; some of them even rubbing up against her.

However, several weeks ago, out of the blue, Gobernatz was informed by racetrack owner Tim Carey that he had decided to cut the number of feeding stations down from seven to two, leaving many cats without access to food and water. Because the racetrack covers an extensive area Gobernatz was heartbroken and extremely worried that many of the cats were at risk of starvation.

Explaining why they decided to reduce the number of feeding stations at the track, Hawthorne Racetrack released a statement. They claimed that Gobernatz placed food in the barn areas which attracted skunks, opossums, raccoons and rats which seriously endangered the health of the Thoroughbred race horses and it was time for a parting of the ways.

The truth is that Gobernatz built individual relationships with the kitties. Over the years she developed individualized special kinships with several of the cats; one in particular named Cheeto. Cheeto is blind and requires antibiotics which Gobernatz administered. Since his territory is located at a distance from the two allotted feeding stations it would be extremely hard for him to find food. Naturally Gobernatz was concerned about Cheeto’s welfare. One day when she spotted him she immediately offered to trap him to remove him from the track to care for him but she was denied permission.

According to an article in Steve Daleís Pet World, to ensure that the cats would be cared for, the racetrack and Tree House Humane Society, PAWS Chicago and Triple R Pets formed a coalition to keep the two stations open where they would be fed daily. And while that may sound like a win-win situation; if it were true, Gobernatz would be singing a different tune. She would be both thrilled and relieved that the cats were being fed.

However the controversy surrounding these feral cats continues. I recently spoke with Gobernatz on the phone. She is very upset and concerned about the cats because when the bustling activity is going on during the day at the track, it frightens them, and they won’t readily come out to eat. She has learned that their food is being removed at night when the track is quiet. Does this make any sense? And no one has yet reported that Cheeto has been sighted. What make matters even worse is that the rescue groups are proclaiming that feral cats can’t live indoors without suffering stress illnesses.

But Gobernatz is wiser. She knows her kitties. During the time she was permitted on the racetrack grounds, this devoted cat lover placed a huge number of feral cats into permanent loving homes where they are living the good life – indoors. In fact, she continues to receive offers from folks from around the country wanting to adopt these cats.

There are always two sides to a story – perhaps even three if the cats could speak. However this writer admires the way in which Carrie Gobernatz has cared for these kitties over the years. I strongly believe that if in reality things were the way the racetrack is painting them, Gobernatz wouldn’t be continuing to find ways to to make sure these cats weren’t going hungry.

This writer also remains curious as to why Gobernatz wasn’t given permission to trap Cheeto on the spot. Why is she being banned from visiting the track to find out what is really happening with these cats? Is there something to hide? Why do the cats living at the Hawthorne Racetrack continue to be shrouded in mystery?

You can help by signing a petition which has reached close to 37,000 signatures.

Since all the facts haven’t yet been revealed, I will continue to update this story as I learn more about it. I trust that cat lovers will want to know.

(see Carrie’s comment below for background information on this video)

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

72 thoughts on “Condition of Feral Cats Living at Hawthorne Racetrack Remains Mysterious”

  1. Can I ask why you are still posting that link to a petition to support her and her manipulative cyber-bullying against the business-owner and so many others?

    Perhaps you’d like to edit this article, with another–it’s topic being a retraction.

    You might also note from those two photos of her “Rueben”, that in order to take them from those vantage-points she would have had to be much nearer to that cat than taking them during a “drive by” from a service-road because she was already banned, as she constantly claims. (Unless, for one of them, she was standing on the roof of a truck or suspended from a mobile-crane with a zoom-lens as she drove-by.) They may have even been taken only moments apart with the image-quality edited later, the watering-dish merely cropped-out in one of them.

  2. Of these two photos of her “Rueben”, the first link for the December 12th one where she claims and tells the whole world that this cat is suffering and in pain,

    And this one of the very same cat taken at nearly the very same time, note the size and position of foliage and litter on the ground, the only thing changed seems to be the removal of what appears to be a watering-dish behind the tree,

    Why is one photo posted as a recent desperate plea for someone to vet this poor suffering cat, and the other posted a month earlier, November 10th, says absolutely nothing (if you read the comments) about this cat suffering and needing vet care?

    The more you correlate her comments with her photos, the more you see the true nature of Gobernatz.

    1. Thanks John for visiting and commenting. Any future comment that you make will be published immediately without moderation. What may have happened is that because you included two links, the application which detects spam believed that your comment was a spam comment and therefore held it for moderation. I hope that you don’t mind that this happened but you may be aware that there is a lot of spam on the Internet and this site in fact gets about 1000 spam comments every day. Your comment, however, is very much appreciated and I hope that you return to comment again.

  3. Isn’t it interesting that there’s always some excuse of why the cats that needed vet-care, during the time that Gobernatz was supposed to be caring for them, is now suddenly the fault of Hawthorne. I particularly like her posting photos taken of the cats during the time she was caring for them (like her recently posted photo of her “Ruben”, the photo taken last spring), and is now blaming everyone else for the state of the cats’ health. The cats didn’t get that way overnight, they got that way from Gobernatz’s values and “care”.

    (Example: She also invents the existence of more “Cheetos” to cover-up why the blind one was known by her and others for 2 years yet she did nothing for it, other than throwing food at it–telling all others, she’d take care of it.)

    Isn’t it interesting that the outrageous histrionics about getting the cats into loving homes NOW was not done during the 7 years that Gobernatz was allowed to care for them? If Gobernatz’s self-documented care of these cats is any indication of what kind of homes she approves of, they are safer at Hawthorne to be trampled by horses one day. It was good enough for Gobernatz to leave them there without vet-care for 7 years, but suddenly it’s not an okay environment for them?

    And isn’t even more interesting that the cats weren’t being sterilized during the 7 years that Gobernatz was supposedly taking care of the situation. She was using the Hawthorne property as her personal little cat-breeding program without vetting the cats, only feeding them. No different than any mentally-ill cat-hoarder or a puppy-mill that is shut-down for the very same kind of “concern” for animals.

    “The real story about Saving the Hawthorne Cats”

    1. Of Gobernatz’s cats, either still at or previously taken from Hawthorne, their photos posted at this album of hers,

      I count approximately 31(?) different cats.

      I count only 7 with tipped-ears. What a nice track-record of being a credible and “licensed” TNR caretaker.

      Thank-you, Gobernatz, for so clearly documenting your very own negligent cat-hoarding activity! No wonder they wanted you out of there, you were only making matters worse and worse as each year went on. What was it going to be for next year, your demanding of 14 feeding-stations? Eventually taking-over their barns so you could breed even more feral cats on their property? If it was me and I saw what was going on, I’d have had the police cart you away and off of my property 5 years ago. The owners of Hawthorne were being astoundingly patient, and foolish for allowing the situation to last this long.

      Who knew that she’d have willingly shared all this wonderful documentation to prove she’s a manipulative cat-hoarding liar. Can’t take it back now, Gobernatz, you posted them for all the world to see.

      I hope that horse-magazine that she works for gets wind of this.

    2. Oh BS she just cares….I’m sure you have money vested with the owners. Blood money. she loves animals you don’t

  4. Thank you Michael…Carrie please consider working with, and not against these people, I know the cats and you are bonded to each other. I know you are passionate about this, but this passion has turned into revenge and slander, which pushes you even farther away from your goal of seeing them again..The cats would love to see you again.. the only way that will ever happen is if you shut down that site that slanders them and calmly and professionally, stop trying to get people to attack them… and privately try to work with them, after the slandering dies down.. if this cannot happen.. then you will have to accept the way things are now, which could be much much worse. That is the bottom line here. As of now they just think you are a trouble making crazy person. They most likely will not want to work with you now, but the way you are going about things, assures it.

  5. Lucy is right .. you are never going to get back in going about things the way you are, by harassing and slandering.. you will never get back in there , sorry, thank god the rescues are in the picture or NO one but Hawthorne would be in there. I dont understand why you keep slandering the rescues.

  6. Of course Carrie is emotional. It is not just time or money caretakers invest,but our hearts as well.It is time they were more reasonable and let her get the cats,especially any special needs like Cheeto. The horseracing industry is already under scrutiny as the cruelty towards the horses is horrible.I suggest they allow Carrie access before all the skeletons fall out of their own closets. Carrie,contact Alleycat Allies,it is .org. I signed and shared petition. Good luck.

  7. The problem as I see it is if the track owner and his buddies won’t talk with Carrie- how can she ever possibly get any lines of communication open? While it may be true- and I stress the word “may” here, how can this ever be resolved if Carrie is not permitted on the grounds? Phone calls are useless also- it would be far too easy for the track owner to just hang up and end the conversation! Just my humble opinion here!

  8. David Coursey. You are a moron . you don’t even know the facts. I’m sure you’re part of Hawthorne you money hungry asses…..animal haters.. Unless they make you money !!!

  9. i don’t believe the video is new and believe it dates from the beginning of this circus. Why was a blind cat that is now so precious not removed long ago? How much TNR was done?

    Rescue is based on an emotion — our love for animals — but that well-intentioned emotion can get people in trouble sometimes.

      1. David, The video was done recently when I was still allowed on the property just prior to me being banned. I was banned because I showed up at the track with WGN NEWS and Fox News. That was 7 days after I had to feed in only 2 stations instead of 7 and many of my cats were suffering. And my emotions protect and rescue animals all over the globe, I am not in any trouble.

    1. Cheeto along with all my cats are “PRECIOUS” and he was not there long ago. And all 37 cats were TNRed and registered with Cook County. I did a ton of rescue work back there too. The owner Tim Carey should have been charged many times over for all the NEGLECT HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR. Our laws need to protect animals more but now people all over the globe know what he has done.
      He will pay one way or another.

  10. I must agree with Michael when he wrote “being banned is the modern way to shut people up”. As far as I am concerned no matter what side of the story folks believe, if everything was as “hotsy totsy” as some folks say, why would Carrie be banned from visiting the cats, and finding Cheeto so he can be trapped and cared for? It makes no sense to me at all.

    Wouldn’t this end the strife and upset? It seems to me that if Carrie was permitted to visit- all of this upset would fade away- once she knows that the cats ARE being cared for and well fed. JUST my humble opinion!

    1. She’s going to have to work that one out with the owner of Hawthorne. She needs to repair her relationship with him. No one has the power to let her on that property but him.

    2. I agree, Jo.
      Compromises need to be made to stop this.
      If Carrie could be permitted to do a “walk through”, even with escort, every week or so to visit the cats and see that they are cared for, I’m sure her anxiety level would greatly decrease. Also, if Cheeto is found, she should be permitted to remove him.
      I can’t fault her for not having removed a blind cat from the colony before. Blind cats adjust well as long as their routine and environment aren’t disrupted. Removing his feeder from the area he was used to is cruel in my opinion.

  11. When the story became public, I immediately started posting, complaining/calling the race track and many shelters. After following this story, I now have different questions. Why was Cheeta, a blind cat, not trapped before Carrie was refused access to the grounds? How long has a blind cat been living there before the other shelters intervened? As a colony caretaker, I have to agree, the cats living at the track get used to the daily track activity just as other cats get used to cars, dogs barking, people walking. No food should be left out after darkness – it attracts rodents and other wild animals that can be a threat to any cat. Obvious Carrie is concerned over the cats- how many cats has she trapped thus far from behind the fence?

  12. Wow, and yes Greg is speaking the truth. I suspect Carrie’s emotion has taken over and she has said a lot of things based on anger that just aren’t true. None of the rescues are getting donations from Hawthorne. The cats are being fed. The rescues have absolutely no power to get her back on the track. That’s between her and the owner. Let’s clarify that…OWNER of the property. It’s like your neighbor knocking on your day and telling you they don’t like how you’re handling things in your yard and they’re going to take over. Everyone needs to stop acting like lunatics and start thinking about the cats.

    1. Greg is speaking the truth ? I don’t think so. He is a creep and that blind Cheeto was not there 2 years ago. We have had other orange cats we have called Cheeto. Arguing with total strangers is ridiculous. And Lucy, the rescues are in fact getting donations from Hawthorne and Jim Miller says that in the radio interview yesterday morning on Steve Dales show on WGN. And all the cats are not getting fed. They are not feeding in all the stations and are saying the cats will find the food. I was the only one caring for the cats these 7 years and had to buy a racehorse and get a racing license to stay on the property so I could care for the cats there. Do you know how many horses I found homes for that were going to be put to sleep because they were not winning races ?? I’m glad to be away from this CRUELTY they call a business where profit comes before anything or anyone.

    2. you obviously are not speaking the truth or caring about the cats , all you care about it “Their property”. Lucy we don’t want to hear from you, you’re obviously as heartless as they are. must be related to them.. just go away you cat haters

      1. Actually I’m not a cat hater. I’ve worked in rescue a long time. I’m not trying to be obnoxious. Getting back in there has to go through the owner. I feed colonies at locations that someone else owns. Sometimes you have to really suck up to be allowed to continue. The only way to help the cats is to make up with the owner. No matter how much you despise him.

  13. Oooops. Except that you are being lied-to by yet another successful and manipulative self-victimization freak.

    Ask Gobernatz why she allowed a blind cat to remain in a dangerous situation for 2 years? Ask Gobernatz why those cats weren’t sterilized?

    You just love being manipulated (and in-turn manipulating all others) by these people, don’t you.

    Guess why none of those 3 other agencies will have anything to do with Gobernatz? The same reason that the owners of Hawthorne cut-off her access to their property.

    Side with the manipulative attention-whore criminal who manipulates everyone and that’s what you are too.

    1. Cheeto was a newer feral Greg DUMB DUMB, he was not there for 2 years. And I had all 37 cats TNR’ed and registered with Cook County, Triple R Pets helped with that part DUMB DUMB. And I worked with all 3 rescues for 7 years and had no problems till now. Here’s a letter from Collette at Triple R Pets that she wrote me late August when I was asking for some help with trapping some new ferals and I had just taken in a litter of kittens. Collette wrote back that she was too busy to help me. Here’s her letter.:—–Original Message—–
      From: Collette Walker
      To: Carrie Gobematz
      Cc: Kinga
      Sent: Fri, Aug 22, 2014 12:42 pm
      Subject: Re: Contact Us


      I have seen the rapport you have with the cats at Hawthorne. I and other volunteers have only been successful in trapping cats when you were on the scene with us. We all agreed that you are better off trapping by yourself and that our time is wasted at Hawthorne.
      Do you still have the two traps that Triple R Pets donated to you? You could use those to trap.

      RRR volunteers are overwhelmed with trapping requests as we near the end of kitten season. Many of our caretakers are seniors or disabled or have no means of transport and we are devoting our limited resources to them.

      Good luck at Hawthorne. I know you are doing a lot of good there.


      Sent from my iPhone

      1. I went to your propaganda facebook page to find the original posts from the people that were helping you to feed the cats TWO YEARS AGO where they talked about you pointing out Cheeto to them and told them about “your” blind cat TWO YEARS AGO; but surprise surprise, you deleted those posts from your facebook page. How effingly convenient for a manipulative attention-whore to do that.

        I’m not the only one to have read those posts that you deleted. Why do you think so many know you are a consummate MANIPULATIVE LIAR now?

        Watch everything and everyone you’ve ever known in your life just now quietly walk away from your pathetic kind. That’ll be fun, and so deserved.

        1. I was still allowed on the property when I had my trap and saw Cheeto under a trailer by his empty bowls. Security would NOT let me take him or feed him because I was being forced to feed in 2 areas only and he was not in those areas. My daughter video taped the incident. I called The Anti Cruelty Society and they came to my home twice and said they could go to Hawthorne and talk to them about what they did. That was a crime to do that. Now he can’t be found at all. And for 7 years I put food in those 7 locations with no complaints. AND the horse owners have cats and put food out in the barns and don’t take it up at night.

        2. Greg farrins. what a piece of s*** you are to talk to a woman like that..God I hope you don’t own any animals and you obviously work or are associated with Hawthorne.I hope the worst for you karma is a b**** This woman loves those cats. You money hungry bitches

        3. Greg, you are a nasty troll and a sh*t. You are banned. If you want to write polite, sensible and well argued comments that is fine but as you simply want to insult and disseminate biased propaganda you are unwanted here. Go away and annoy someone else.

  14. Are Alley Cat Allies and/or Best Friends Animal Society advocating for these cats? If not, they need to be contacted. And just to set matters straight, it is a FELONY to abuse, neglect, or harm ANY cat. The perpetrators need to be apprehended, prosecuted, imprisoned, fined, and educated immediately.

    1. I got a call back from Becky Robinson and she was involved and stepped out after Treehouse and Triple R Pets were there, I don’t know what happened behind closed doors.

  15. I am also banned from the site and Triple R Pets. They do not want any negative comments. If your asking questions, you will be ban too! What are they hiding!

  16. This whole thing is also a mystery to me and some of it just doesn’t jive. Carrie, bless your heart, my hat is totally off to you for staying strong through this whole thing. I hope you will continue to do what you believe in until you can get some much needed assistance and cooperation.

    1. I know the rescues are getting many donations and the welfare of each cat should be a PRIORITY. I had homes for many of those cats and Jenny from Treehouse knew that and was going to help. Now they are not even feeding all of them and where’s Cheeto ? He knows my voice and will come to me, if they really cared they would allow me to try and find him. It just makes NO SENSE. When they suffer SO DO I.

      1. Carrie have u tried going bk under the cover of darkness and begging security to let u in :-/ they all have a job to do and so do u but surly they also have hearts

        1. Security is in that video. How they could stop me from taking a sick cat off their property I will never know. The security manager Dennis Taylor is really bad news. I am not allowed on that property.

          1. I, also, believe that I would sit my happy ass at the State Attorney’s Office and demand prosecution for the abusers.
            I might even gather a group of people to go with me.
            God, how I miss those “sit ins” from the 60’s and 70’s.

      2. Carrie have u tried going bk under the cover of darkness and begging security to let u in :-/ they all have a job to do and so do u but surly they also have hearts

  17. Here’s the video of Hawthorne’s Security stopping me from taking Cheeto to the vet when he was sitting right under the trailer waiting for me. I was not even allowed to feed him, I had Clavamox in his wet food. And because Cheeto was not in my 2 newly restricted feeding areas I could not take him to the vet or feed him. Tim Carey last month told me he wanted ALL THE CATS OUT.I explained that many cats would starve and he said “they would find food elsewhere”. After 7 days of many of my cats starving I went to the track with the media and then I banned from the track altogether. Title of the YOUTUBE video is Hawthorne Racetrack Cruelty To Cats

  18. Good for you, Carrie.
    Make as much noise as you can. Get attention from all available media.
    Contact rescue groups, Alley Cats Org, anyone who will listen.

  19. Every cats life matters to me. Hawthorne and the rescues are all making blanket statements like : ” All the cats are being fed and well cared for ” That is a lie, they do not even know where all the cats are. And I know they are not even putting food in Cheeto’s feeding station let alone trapping him to get him vet care. Collette from Triple R Pets said ” Cheeto will have to find another feeding station ” Cheeto is blind and sick. Hawthorne should have been charged when they stopped me from trapping Cheeto when he was sitting next to his empty foods bowls waiting for me. They wouldn’t even let me feed him. That is CRUELTY on a HUGE SCALE. My 11 yr old daughter video taped the whole incident. Who would do such a thing ? Tim Carey the owner could care less and Tim Becker the backside manager who told ME he “HATES those damn CATS” and said ” the coyotes would take care of the cats” Treehouse and Triple R Pets are allowing Tim Becker the cat hater to feed the cats everyday, why in the hell would they do that ??? and Triple R Pets has a volunteer that comes once a week.And then they take the food away at night. This is all wrong. I’m not going away till I know those cats are SAFE and ALL FED.

  20. I don’t understand, either, why Carrie was forbidden to trap and remove Cheeto either.
    And, she can’t visit the track at all now?
    Very, very suspicious…
    Well, unless I had been served with a trespass warning, guess what I would be doing?
    Even under warning, take another guess.

  21. This whole story is mysterious. If the problem is wildlife eating the ferals food then let the ferals be removed and rehomed. That makes sense. To just cut them off from the human they trust and refuse to help the cats they prove what kind of heartless people they really are. I am hoping that Cheeto is found alive and they are able to help him. Sending prayers to all cats and people involved.

  22. Seems like I am barred from their facebook page, these liars are animal haters, why are they allowed to even be near any animal is beyond me.

      1. Why are you not allowing the cats to be fed at their serving stations, more than the two that you are allowing, and what about the blind cat, is that one still alive or is it so hungry it has died? What the hell is going on in your mind that uou can do this to sentient animals? I do not believe the story about other animals moving in, this is nature iof other animals move in, not the fact that cats are there, get a brain will you. If there is any vermin, it is human not animal.

  23. This is just another example of how hard it is to get business interested in treating stray and feral cats humanely. There is a constant battle between business which generally wants rid of feral cats and kind people who care about their welfare. It was ever thus.

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