Sunday night, I was driving home from camping on the Turnpike. I slowed to pay a toll at the Bird Road plaza and noticed a little grey kitty by the plaza service station. A woman was standing outside, talking on her phone, and didn't seem to notice the cat. The cat was on the sidewalk all of five feet from where cars whiz by as they go to pay their tolls. And she had a bit of a belly. Obviously, I was concerned.
After I paid my toll, I pulled over into the parking lot right after the toll booths and walked behind the building to go back to where the cat was. On my way, I noticed two more cats - both small, one calico, the other looking very much like a relative of the first grey cat I saw.
Assessing the situation, I realized that they must live there. To go west, they'd have to cross six lanes of traffic. To go east, they'd suffer a 30-foot fall into a large body canal, as seen in the picture. Obviously, neither are very likely. So they live there! At a toll plaza! How sad!
Isn't it strange where cats take to living? In the past, I've seen cats living in the outdoor/garden section of stores, on two occasions (once at a Target, once.. or was it twice? at a Home Depot). Somehow the cats ended up hanging around these places and were lucky enough to be "adopted" by the employees. Both cats I saw had food and water dishes behind the outdoor cash register area. They spent their time hanging out amongst the pots of plants and trees for sale. Is that not just the sweetest, cutest thing?
Back to the Turnpike cats. There's is a row of bushes lining the, um, how to say... well, the big piece of cement you'd have to crawl over to jump into the water. There are a couple of little islands of grass with trees in them. There's a long, gravel-filled alleyway on the east side of the building. Not ideal, for sure, and it was loud there - but I guess if they got used to that, it wasn't such a bad place.. Assuming they were finding a way to eat, of course.
I went back to my car to scrounge for cat food (yes, as a cat lady, I keep tins of food in my car for precisely this situation) and found one. I went back to where the kitties seemed to be hanging out and looked around, trying to figure out where I should put the food down. Then I saw a big food dish and a freshly filled water dish.
Another emotion joined the sadness I felt for the kitties for living at a freaking toll plaza; a teary-eyed gratefulness for the kindness that people are capable of. Someone, whether it's a toll booth operator, a state trooper, or a turnpike-commuting cat lady (who knows?) is taking time out of their day to fill the food dish and give those kitties fresh water every day. It's part of their daily routine, helping some unfortunate little critters. That makes me happy.
I'll make sure I stop by to do keep tabs on that grey kitty's belly.. Hopefully it's just the kindness making her belly fat, not kittens.
In other animal news, Balu caught a raccoon eating out of the cats' dish last night - in the house! I ran out in time to see it beeline for the back fence, pausing to look at back at us while standing on its back legs, assessing if we were enough of a threat to climb that fence, I'm sure. Uff, those are some cute little creatures!