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With: Latonya ‘Sassee’ Walker, Claire Corey, Stuart Siet and Tara Green.
Directors: Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

There is a bitter irony at work in The Cat Rescuers that makes it more than just a ‘cat person’s perfect night-in movie. This profile of four New Yorkers who give their time, money and emotion to caring for a small fraction of the street cats of The Big Apple is certainly for animal lovers of every kind, but it also highlights a world in which people who feel a compassionate bond for and behave with empathy and dedication towards another species are the exception. And that’s a bit sad.

Over 500,000 strays live wild in NYC, most unsterilized, resulting in litter after litter of kittens that exponentially add to the problem, if they survive at all. Building sites, backyards, alleyways and sewers become their domain, predominantly abandoned pets left by owners whose situations have changed. The Cat Rescuers does not sugar coat the life of the big city feral, with scenes depicting the bloody aftermath of tomcat territoriality and the baby-making destiny of female felines.

The Cat Rescuers themselves offer a diverse cross-section of New York types. Single-mum Latonya ‘Sassee’ Walker is well-known in her suburb for her boisterous and beautiful personality, which plays well with the cats she rescues and cares for; Claire Corey is a married thirty-something, investing effort and emotion to save and rehouse her charges; Stuart Siet is a middle-aged FDNY techie, whose cat-rescuing duties start at 3am; and, Tara Green is a single woman for whom cat rescue has helped reconcile and refocus a troubled past.

Precisely balancing their narrative between a spayed-and-neutered advocacy agenda and a portrait of unique human beings, directors Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence are afforded all-access status into the lives of their real-world protagonists. Their film frontloads scenes one expects from a documentary called The Cat Rescuers, yet a slow-burn shift in focus reveals the rescued become the rescuers in a very profound way.

The Cat Rescuers is verite documentary making in its purest and most effectively engaging form. The hope is that the film may inspire action and change; local governments need to budget for and enforce neutering campaigns, while volunteer groups and organisations like Animal Care Centres of NYC must be allocated increased funding. 

As much as it is a cat’s tale, The Cat Rescuers is also a moving study in good humanity (see also Jesse Alk’s canine counterpoint doco, Pariah Dog); a heartfelt ode to those who share the world with respect and love for all creatures, great and small.

Learn more about the efforts of The Cat Rescuers at the film's official website.

NEVER BUY A PET. Adopt from one of the following organisations in your country: R.S.P.C.A. Australia; R.S.P.C.A. United Kingdom; A.S.P.C.A. United States; S.P.C.A. New Zealand; Tierheim Germany; Société Protectrice Animaux France; Italy Animal Rescue; Adopt A Pet, South Africa.

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