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)