Many communities have a large number of stray animals on their streets, and it’s always inspiring to see people step up to help them, whether it’s by adopting them or just making sure they have a place to spend the night.
We have to give special praise to one man, who has dedicated the past three decades of his life going above-and-beyond to help the stray cats in his neighborhood.
Willie Ortiz is a 79-year-old US Army veteran who loves animals. He’s originally from Puerto Rico, but has lived in East Hartford, Connecticut for the past few decades… and has seen how many stray cats live in the community.
He knew he couldn’t take all the cats in himself, but instead of ignoring the problem he knew he had to help. Not only were these homeless cats starving and alone, but they were often abused by locals.
“I saw a lot of stray cats, and people were pushing them and kicking them,” Willie told The Dodo.
“They need help. I want to make sure they have food and that they stay healthy.”
He started going around town and feeding the cats first thing every morning. He also got them medical help when they needed it, and helped reduce the stray population by getting them spayed and neutered.
He also helped protect them from the cold winters by building “cubby holes,” and getting shelter for cats about to deliver babies.
Soon he was caring for over 70 stray cats. Most remarkably, he was paying for all the food himself, from the money he made collecting discarded scrap metal.
But he didn’t have to do it alone—soon others were inspired by his mission and chipped in to help out.
Willie’s friend Kathleen Schlentz set up a GoFundMe page where people can donate money to help him and his mission. The fundraiser is ongoing and has raised over $283,000.
“I have never met a more committed person – Willie unknowingly inspires me in so many ways,” Kathleen wrote. “Knowing him has made my life better, just by doing what he does so effortlessly. He is a loving, caring, and honest man who believes very strongly in God and all of his goodness, despite the pain and sadness he sees.”
She writes that the stray cats Willie cares for usually live around 15 years or longer, far beyond the life expectancy of a street cat.
A stray cat population can be a hard problem to deal with, but it’s clear that Willie, all on his own, has made a big difference in slowing and reducing the number of stray cats—and has made life infinitely better for these homeless felines.
Thank you, Willie! We hope you will keep helping these cats for years to come, and inspire others to care.
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