This is the feel-good story of Willie Ortez, a senior citizen approaching 80 years old (different sources give different ages) who has made it his life’s mission to care for several colonies of feral and stray cats in the Hartford, Connecticut area. His saga began many years ago when he saw people denying food to a hungry kitten.
Willie made the news when word got out back in 2016 that he would collect and sell scrap metal, regardless of the weather or how he felt. A GoFundMe set up in 2016 by Kathleen Schlentz, who heard his story, has already raised almost $283,000 and people are still donating to his cause. Kathleen says
He is a Veteran of the U. S. Army, a husband of 55 years to his wife Alaja, father of two, and grandfather of four. He loves all animals, but recognized the problem with the feral and stray cat population in and around the Hartford and East Hartford areas. When he started this 26 years ago he didn’t know this was to be his mission in life.
Presently he feeds 16 colonies of feral and stray cats, every single night, only missing nights when conditions would endanger the cats. “If it snows more than three inches, I don’t go because I don’t want them getting their bellies wet and cold,” he says. “But I’ll go the next morning and feed them double.”
Willie has made friends with a lot of businesses in the area who save scrap metal and contact him to pick it up, where he then places metal he believes will bring in more money on Craigslist for the cats. The rest he sells for scrap.
Each night, starting at around 6 p.m., Willie starts his feeding routine to roughly 16 colonies and 68 cats in need of food. He watches them eat and observes their routine. Many a time Willie has spotted a pregnant cat and picked her up and taken her to a safe place with his friend Roberta to have her kittens. Roberta sees mom and her kittens are vetted. The kittens are then adopted out, as is the mother if she can be tamed enough.
Willie also finds friendly cats who have been abandoned and Roberta finds home for them as well. Willie says his goal is to slow down the unwanted cat population as quickly as possible as this is the only way to cut down on the number of unwanted cats.
While the life expectancy of a feral cat is said to be only around five years, Willie says there are cats he’s been feeding for 15 years or longer.
Donations made to the GoFundMe campaign will be used to help keep the cats fed, secure his mission for years to come, and allow him to get more cats spayed, neutered, vaccinated and fed — all of which costs at least $76.00 per cat.
To read more on Willie Ortez simply google “Willie Ortez cat caregiver.” Quite a few photos are also posted on the GoFundMe webpage.