Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feline infestation on Hendry Street

Hendry Street was in the news a few months ago as the foreclosure epicenter in Boston, Dorchester in particular. There are a number of boarded up three deckers on this short street running between Bowdoin and Clarkson off Meeting House Hill. Things are looking up, as amply documented by Boston's newspaper of record. It's not the most lively of streets, but it's not the most forlorn either.

We were passing through Meeting House Hill the other day and noticed an abundance of cats prowling the neighborhood. They were of all ages, all sizes, all breeds and in every condition of health, from sleek coats covering well-exercised muscles to mangy fleabags with rat-bitten ears. We paid twelve dollars to Melonia Tattenbaum to watch the corner of of Coleman Street, which bisects Hendry, for an hour and take a feline census. We provided a ruled notepad with the columns marked off with various characteristics she might observe.

Forty-seven individual cats darted through the intersection, some more than once but only three more than three times. According to the statistics the majority were mixed breed tabbies with shaggy coats and 71% had the frayed, notched ears one expects in street-fighting, territorial cats. We used the Hoffman scale of cat body mass index, eyeballed by Miss Tattenbaum after an introductory training session on the specifics, to gauge the relative caloric intake and nutritional status of the cats she observed. Based on her observations of the cats' thigh and neck muscle mass (which are admittedly unscientific and uncalibrated from her unobtrusive distance) the cats around Hendry Street seem to be subsisting on approximately 750 calories a day. She took photos on her cellular phone and examination of these led experts to conclude that the neighborhoods cats are consuming at minimum one high protein source per day (be it mouse or small rat) but the majority of their nutritional intake is provided by starchy foodstuffs. Street veterinarians familiar with feral feline populations extrapolate that this would be made up of pasta, bread, potato, or biscuit, probably taken from household trash left out overnight.

Most of the cats had a sheen to their fur easily captured by the low resolution of the cell phone's lens. Everyone involved in the census agreed that this would indicate a diet higher in fat content than a diet consisting of local rodent populations would allow. Is someone putting out saucers of milk in the Hendry Street neighborhood?

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