Pier 70 cat colony purrs on

Local cat lovers have devoted years to helping feral and stray felines within a Pennsport shopping district.

By Joseph Myers 

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 24 | Posted Jan. 31, 2013

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Elly Scoblink and others have given their time and money to help the Pier 70 cats.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

As she bonded with three cats and waited for two more to complete her customary quintet Tuesday, Diana D’Ambrosio made her affection apparent. 

“I love these animals,” the resident of the 1300 block of McKean Street said as she prepared food for the trio. “They are my children.”

The East Passyunk Crossing dweller has visited the felines for two years, nourishing them and tending to their space adjacent to the parking lot at Walmart, 1675 S. Columbus Blvd. The beneficiaries constitute only a fraction of the feral and stray specimens whom she and her peers have assisted over the last four decades, with strategies to improve the colony members’ lives through key partnerships as their top tactics.

D’Ambrosio’s proxy progenies competed with seagulls as they consumed their late-morning meal at one of the 10 feeding stations that sate as many as 175 cats. With delighted bellies, they headed for a fenced area to rest by the Delaware River, the body of water responsible for their nickname, the River Kitty Cats.

“The colony began in the late 1980s, I believe, so this area, which is undoubtedly the most populous local one for the animals, is now in its fourth decade of being a haven for them” Teresa Reed said at the main nutritional stop, where as many as 45 cats, representing the largest subsection, dine. “It started with people just dumping them here and not caring about the consequences.”

With roughly 10 years of commitment to the Pennsport post, the inhabitant of the 400 block of Durfor Street laments the disregard so many have had for the felines, whose descendants are classified as feral because of their in-the-wild births. The Humane Society of the United States estimates the nation’s feral and stray cat population at 50 million, and since pregnancies can occur when females are as young as 5 months old, Reed and their allies have become disciples of the Trap-Neuter-Return philosophy on population control.

They have benefited the last two years from free-roaming cat spay/neuter grants through PetSmart Charities, endowments that have permitted them to aid as many as 700 meowing acquaintances each year. As Philadelphia might have as many as 300,000 feral and stray critters, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the allocations and an affiliation with the Pennsylvania chapter’s spay and neuter clinic, dubbed “The Club,” have meant the assistants have had to welcome few new faces.

The established colonists and the recent arrivals whom they have brought for procedures also have received rabies vaccinations and ear-tippings, which involve the snipping of a quarter inch of their left ear. That practice has become the universally-recognized sign indicating trap-neuter-return status and separates veterans from the new residents.

“We all know our colonies,” Reed, whose nightly ventures allow her to develop the clowder’s trust, said as a half a dozen denizens responded to her popping open a wet food can. “We all look out for their welfare and see that they suffer no harm.”

the whitman figure acts as the main trapper for the Pier 70 populace and noted that new dropoffs usually dominate the ranks of those who are adoptable because of their recent roles as domesticated companions. She typically holds such cats for two weeks while seeking abodes for them and commends her close friend Elly Scoblink for falling hard for two former colony occupants.

“These are beautiful creatures,” the resident of the 100 block of Tasker Street said as she and her Rottweiler/Doberman mix prepared to play with the assembled bunch. “We all enjoy caring for them despite whatever opposition we receive.”

The Pennsport personality recently became a trapper. With nine years of treks to the shopping center area, which she said used to attract dog packs, she has noticed some people still object to the animals’ presence, but she and Reed, who claim that Walmart once had a role in the disappearance of two cats, do not have to count the business giant as a foe.

“I don’t know anything about past interactions between management and the handlers,” store manager Frank Pellicori said. “I’ve been here since 2011, and we’ve had no problems. We’ve let them do what they need to do to tend to the cats.”

That often has involved cleaning massive amounts of debris from passers-by, with the rubbish giving Reed even more cause to be a diligent attendant.

“Trash complicates matters, as life at this end of the colony is the harshest because of the proximity to the temperatures from the Delaware River,” she said. “Many of the cats have frozen to death, and that has meant our needing to bury them.”

While many of the colony constituents eagerly fraternized with D’Ambrosio, Reed and Scoblink, others secluded themselves in heavily foliaged areas, focusing more on sleep than interaction. Reed, who hopes to land a third grant from the pet store’s altruistic arm, maintains data on the cats and has observed that upper respiratory tract infections head the small list of afflictions from which they suffer and that because of spaying and neutering, few males have wounds one might expect from competing for mates.

“We have a very manageable system here, but there is still a bit of trapping to do,” Reed said. “This area and Whitman, where I oversee another colony, has fluctuating numbers, so everyone is striving to gain control over how many cats we care for and what kind of comfort we can provide for them.”

She and her fellow enthusiasts have memberships to surplus stores and often receive donations from supporters who likewise want the River Kitty Cats, with names such as Speckles and Silvia, to thrive. 

“They are such good cats,” D’Ambrosio, who always brings her cats a chicken once a week, said as the seagulls, whom Reed also aids, finally flew away and let the little ones eat, said.

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Comments 1 - 24 of 24
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1. Linn Swartz said... on Jan 31, 2013 at 03:36PM

“Finally, a very good story about the caregivers who spend their time, money and devotion to helping the helpless animals. I do not know any of the caregivers personally, but I have met Ellie & Teresa at the Pier and they were very informative about the Feral Cats in my neighborhood, and I am glad that all the cats in my colony are now vaccinated and fixed and now all my neighbors are happy as well, because no more kittens and the smell and fighting among intact males have ceased. I only wish that there were more people like these 3 ladies who are not afraid to stand up and do whatever it takes, no matter what bullcrap they have to take from others who do not care or approve. Thank you”

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2. Ed Bright said... on Jan 31, 2013 at 09:13PM

“Teresa, Ellie, Dee, Linda and all the other feeders down at the pier, have done an admirable job at trying to give these guys/gals a little slice of compassion not afforded to them by the scum who threw them down there. Unfortunately, all though well intended, this article will bring more scum to this area of the Delaware which is already way too dirty with complacency and ignorance. A concern of mine is what happens to all the cats if the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation gets there way, as they are the new owners who are developing the site and have expressed there intent to not include the cats in there final plan, without an answer as to WHAT happens to the cats. One day we will ALL wake up and ALL the Cats of Pier 70 will not be purring any more. THEY WILL BE GONE! Lets ALL wake up ahead of time and get some answers from the people who now have the KEYS to the property along with the FATE of the cats.”

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3. Anna said... on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:26PM

“I agree, there are people who toss their pets out and it is with the kindness and tireless efforts of dedicated animal lovers that these cats survive. I have seen the cats at Walmart for many years and have met some of the cartakers. I have met Teresa and another woman who were tending to the cats when they discovered that there were 2 gulls that were struck by a car and both wings were bloody and limp. What I saw next amazed me, they blocked traffic in the lot and managed to capture both gulls and placed them into a carrier. They went back to tending to the cats and were placing makeshift shelters in an area of the Pier that was flooded out by a recent storm. I was curious as to what they were doing, so I went over and talked to them for a few minutes. The Injured Gulls were going to be taken to a Wildlife Rehab. Mind you, that day was freezing, but animal lovers are like the postman, they deliver in all kinds of weather. Thanks for sharing this story with us readers, it gives us hope that there is still a Humane Race”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 1, 2013 at 02:53AM

“I too, took care of a colony of cats along the waterfront, not far from the Walmart cats, but a corporation has purchased the land and without notice, all the shelters were gone along with feeding bowls. Me and a few others spent our own money buying bowls and shelters and in a flash they were gone along with the cats. I know that the cats along the waterfront have a long history there and if anyone did their research, they would know that. The homeless cats have become homeless. What a Shame”

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5. Bill said... on Feb 1, 2013 at 03:26AM

“I enjoyed reading this story, even though I do not own a pet, this makes you feel good that people are out there doing good and trying to make a difference. Hats Off to all people who do this everyday, you give the voiceless a voice. I would like to make a donation to help with the cost of food, where can I send it and whom should I send it to.”

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6. TJ said... on Feb 1, 2013 at 05:17AM

“I know of many colonies around the South Philly area and it is very disturbing to know that there are so many cats thrown into the streets by heartless people. If it were not for the TNR Program, there would most likely be thousands more. If a female cat can reproduce at the age of 5-6 months and she has a litter of 2 or more and then her offspring does the same, there would be too many, you do the math. The large numbers of cats roaming the city did not happen by itself or overnight. I ran into a woman trapping at a colony in South Philly and while we were discussing the number increase, she said to me, 10 to 15 years ago, there were Dog Packs and not many free roaming cats, I thought about it and yes, I can recall. So if it were not for TNR and dedicated volunteers who care for the needs of these discarded cats, this city would be knee deep in cats. Heavy Fines should be imposed on those caught throwing their cats out like trash. There are low cost clinics, one as low as $10.00, to vaccinate and sterilize cats, there are no excuses, you have money for beer and cigarettes.”

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7. catlover said... on Feb 1, 2013 at 05:38AM

“I also feed at several small colonies around the south philly area and what I can not understand is all the threats to people who spend their own time and money to provide for these homeless cats. You have some COWARDS, who tamper with the food or shelters that someone has placed for the cats and try acting like they own the neighborhood. I am so glad I am not alone in this everyday struggle to provide for cats that, through no fault of their own, are forced to live in the cruel conditions outside not to mention the cruel intent some inhuman poor excuse of a person, may have in store for them.”

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8. J.F.G. said... on Feb 1, 2013 at 06:26AM

“I do not know the woman in the picture, but I have met Ms. Reed. I was starting to believe that she herself, lived among the cats at the colony in the Whitman Plaza. Everytime I rode by she was there either trapping, picking up trash or just trying to organize the shelters. I began a conversation with her and found out about Trap, Neuter, Return. I proceeded to ask her about the life the cats had living there and she bluntly told me, if you really want to know what it is like, try living like one for 24 hours, in the same conditions they have too. During the conversation, she said she had met people who inspired her and that she credits them for everything she does for cats living in colonies. Many people have been caring for cats in colonies, spending their own money on Clinic costs, Food and Shelters, and the the only benefit they get, is knowing that the cats will be sheltered in bad weather and their bellies would be full. What stood out while we ended the conversation, I asked her if she would accept a check to help with food and she said, some people do not like to give money, so if you prefer, you can donate can or dry food, the cats aren't picky. Unusual person, so I am urging anyone who knows of someone that takes care of cats, lend them some support.”

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9. s. gray said... on Feb 2, 2013 at 01:35PM

“Oh great now some wack job will got set the kitties on fire”

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10. Voice for the Voiceless said... on Feb 3, 2013 at 05:12PM

“I do not think this story will cause "some wack job to go set the kitties on fire". Cruel Acts have been happening to cats all over this city before this story. This Story was to inform the public about the Devotion and Commitment, that some people still have toward the helpless and homeless cats. Ignorant pet owners, who have abandoned their pets to the cruel streets of Philadelphia are the CAUSE of the Cat Overpopulation and Sadly, it is the Cats that suffer. With the aid of TNRM (Trap, Neuter,Return, Manage), it will HUMANELY put a end to the reproduction cycle, instead of MURDERING THESE INNOCENT CREATURES THAT THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, HAVE FOUND THEMSELVES THE VICTIMS OF A CRUEL SOCIETY. We spend millions of dollars to house criminals who have murdered and have commited unbelievable acts, but PETS are PUT TO DEATH because of overcrowding at the shelters. When the shelters for Women & Children become overcrowed, are we going to start to EUTHANIZE them as well.”

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11. C.A.T.S said... on Feb 3, 2013 at 05:48PM

“A Special Thank You To Ellie S., Dee P., Linda S., and Ed M., who have Maintained this colony over the years. The Cats would not have made it without your Support. Congratulations on the Donated Camera's, this will surely put a curb on the people who try to dump their cats. FINES/IMPRISONMENT, FINALLY.”

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12. Annoyed said... on Feb 3, 2013 at 09:34PM

“I have visited the Pier 70 cats over the years and enjoyed watching them eat among the gulls. I have also been following the plans that D.R.W.C. has for the Piers and was curious to know how they were going to incorporate the cats. I have emailed them several times and recieved no reply and the information that was on their site has vanished. I spoke to several feeders at the pier and nobody knows nothing. You would think that would be a concern, before it becomes a problem. The people that have dedicated so many years to these cats should see where the cats stand in this big picture.”

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13. Cat Woman said... on Feb 4, 2013 at 04:25PM

“Irresponsible humans have put the cats on the streets, but the cats are blamed and suffer the consequences. TNRM improves their quality of live and decreases the population by preventing the births of kittens. Managed feral cat colonies "grow" because irresponsible cruel huimans discard unwanted pets as casually as they discard yesterday's trash. But cats [and dogs] are sentient creatures that have a right to live. Feral cat trappers and caretakers help them to live out their lives under better conditions. The cats are sterilized, vaccinated, and cared for. All this is paid for by the trappers/caretakers. For more info about TNRM see Killing, maiming, disfiguring any cat or dog or abandoning any animal are violations of the Pennsylvania laws against animal cruelty. For more about animal cruelty laws and feral cats see (Animal Legal Defense Fund).”

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14. Cat Woman said... on Feb 4, 2013 at 04:37PM

“The Pier 70 cats are in jeopardy because the land on which they live is to be converted into a public park and riverfront trail. This has not been widely publicized. After the land was purchased, the developers claimed that they would search for a new safe site where the cats can be relocated and tended to, but there has been no news since then. This is a promise that must be kept. Philadelphia is never going to be a "no kill city" as long as the lives of feral cats are considered expendable. Gandhi said: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man." What does that say about our 'moral progress'...or lack of it?'

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15. CAT LADY said... on Feb 7, 2013 at 01:36PM

“I would like to give a shout out to Dee P...Hey Dee...this story was a positive story and a compliment to all of you volunteers out there over the years who help out these cats! It was a positive story to help all of you out for donations! Food, shelter, hay, blankets, medical are you going around threatening The Review and me!??? The one who asked Joe to do the article? You are worried about what will happen to the cats as a result of this article?!..Are you kidding me!!??? Why don't you take down your YOU TUBE VIDEO FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD TO SEE THAT YOU POSTED ON THAT SITE YEARS AGO THEN THAT THE PUBLIC CAN SEE EVERYDAY INSTEAD OF WORRYING ABOUT A 1 PAGE WEEKLY ARTICLE!...YOU DON'T OWN THE COLONY! IF A GOOD STORY IS PRINTED FOR THEM TO HELP YOU OUT THE BE APPRECIATIVE! FREEDOM OF SPEECH DEE! GET OVER YOURSELF!...IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO THEM IT'S NOT BECAUSE OF THE S.P.R. MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE OF YOUR YOU TUBE VIDEO! SO WHY DON'T YOU REMOVE IT!”

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16. CAT LADY said... on Feb 7, 2013 at 01:46PM

“As far as SETTING THE CATS ON FIRE!!???? Are you serious!!???? Is that the only intelligent thought you could say in response to this article!!!???....Unfortunately bad things happens to all animals in this City! Homeless or with their Owners!....As far as the revitilization of the one has heard anything and I am sure the caregivers of this colony will make sure that all of these cats are relocated safely to another colony or to a home or they will create another colony!...I am sure they are already working on that if and when it happens! This article again was to promote positivity for these cats, educate and help the volunteers with donations! SHAME ON ALL OF YOU WOULD DEMANDED THE S.P.R. NOT PRINT THIS ARTICLE!...AND THREATEN THEM!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?....MOVE YOUR EGOS OUT OF THE WAY! FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE PRESS! THANK YOU JOE FOR THIS GREAT ARTICLE! AND TAKING THE TIME TO GIVE THESE CATS AND CAREGIVERS THE PRAISE AND ATTENTION THEY DESERVE!”

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17. C.A.T.S said... on Feb 7, 2013 at 09:42PM

“WARNING! Local Woman was caught on video Dumping her cat at a colony and is facing charges, along with a $500.00 fine. IT IS ABOUT TIME”

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18. Linn said... on Feb 8, 2013 at 09:50PM

“Comment # 16 (CAT LADY) AMEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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19. Thomas J Barnes said... on Feb 15, 2013 at 08:06AM

“Feed them, feed them; that's all people know is to feed them. Who cleans up the poo???That's why Philladelphia is such a nasty place...”

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20. Linn said... on Feb 16, 2013 at 11:41AM

“Comment # 19 Yes, those caretakers should really clean up after the cats that leave Beer Bottles and Snack Bags all over the Pier, as well as teach the cats to pick up the Dog Crap that Dog Owners deposit there. Your comment does not surprise anyone, since you have a connection to someone who sits on the Board of a Civic Association in Pennsport. Say Hello to Katherine and Margaret.”

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21. Anonymous said... on Nov 4, 2014 at 03:43PM

“I'm very angry about these criminally deranged cat psychopaths. The city of Philadelphia opened a "green space" through there, without any warning whatsoever, and I got bit by a tic back there and now I have permanent brain damage, I'm struggling for my life, I'm aspirating food and liquids into my lungs and having trouble breathing, I have trouble balancing and walking and I've been fighting for my life for over a year now because of these deranged bleeding-heart morons that are creating a HOT ZONE of extremely Fatal life threatening diseases by dumping a massive amount of cats along a river where tics are extremely common. Tics spread so many disease that we have no test for and the special interest groups have blocked proper testing and recognition of just one of the numerous strains of lyme disease, not to mention babesia and bartonella 44 strains that are not able to be tested all extremely difficult to cure. These people need to be arrested an put into prison for reckless murder”

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22. Anonymous said... on Nov 4, 2014 at 03:49PM

“and the city needs to exterminate all the cats there. My life is over because these deranged animal psychopaths place the lives of cats over that of humans, and because the mayor is a reckless idiot to allow this to continue to happen when he gets photographed with these lunatics without warning people of the dangers of this death trap attractive nuisance he opened.”

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23. Anonymous said... on Nov 4, 2014 at 04:07PM

“And By the way, these cats carry and spread bartonella and anything else from a tic, and thanks to our corporate takeover of everything, cats get treated better than humans. I have seen that cats are given months of zithromax for bartonella, just on the suspicion, meanwhile, try getting diagnosed with a tic infection in our medical system, and try to get months of zithromax. It's nearly impossible. You have to go 500 miles to a tic doctor who can not take insurance, and you have to pay $600. And since these cats are all getting massive amounts of human antibiotics and their owners turn around and let them run the streets again, they're guaranteed to have drug resistant infections.”

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24. Anonymous said... on Apr 17, 2015 at 09:41PM

“Ellie, Diana and Teresa, I just wanted to say thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. As for the person with the "tic" issue, are you serious??! You make absolutely no sense. First off, these are "feral" cats, they do not have owners. Who repeatedly dump them back on the streets!! These volunteers, trap, spay and neuter these cats, which keeps the "feral" cat population down! Without their help, Philadelphia streets would be heavily populated with feral cats! I guess you think we should eliminate the deer population as well?? After all deer tics are responsible for Lyme Disease!! Omg, you wrote "these people need to ( in prison, for reckless murder!!?? Wow, maybe you need to live inside a bubble, inside a padded cell!!!!


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