There’s no denying the good works being performed by the people chronicled in the documentary “The Cat Rescuers” — so much so that a viewer might wish the movie did more to address the problem those people battle on a daily basis.
It’s estimated, the movie tells us, that there are some 500,000 abandoned, stray and feral cats living on the streets, alleyways and open lots of New York City — as many as live in apartments and houses with loving owners. Some are left behind by uncaring owners, while others breed new litters of kittens regularly because they haven’t been spayed or neutered.
Cat lovers are hesitant to bring unwanted cats into Animal Care & Control, the city agency that deals with the overflow cat population, because they are known to euthanize cats who aren’t adopted or are difficult to handle. So many cats on the street are cared for by a loose network of volunteers, who spend their own money to feed, temporarily shelter and sometimes get veterinary aid for these felines.
Directors Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence follow four of these volunteers as they patrol their neighborhoods in Brooklyn, helping street cats. There’s Sassee, who sets traps from her car and houses them in her apartment. There’s Claire, whose cat care becomes an expensive proposition, and a worry for her husband. There’s Stu, a fire department radio engineer who spends his early mornings setting food out for 20 to 25 cats a day. And there’s Tara, who rescues cats because two cats once saved her life when she was at a low point in life.
The filmmakers make some efforts to show the reluctance for officials to take the issue seriously. (Eric Davis, the borough president of Brooklyn, comes off as a glad-handing jerk when a vaunted “animal summit” becomes a talky waste of time.) There’s not much here about the scope of pet overpopulation, so “The Cat Rescuers” remains a small, charming story that stays strictly on the street level.
‘The Cat Rescuers’
Opened July 5 in select cities; opens Friday, September 6, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas (Salt Lake City). Not rated, but probably PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 87 minutes.