Rest In Peace Obama


I first encountered Obama perched on the rafters of my gutted third-floor attic nine years ago. He looked me over for a minute before leaping onto another beam and disappearing. My new house was his house apparently, except he didn’t have to pay the mortgage. Rumor on 91st is, that he was abandoned at one year old by a tenant who moved out, forcing him to fend for himself on the streets.  He had a rough start, but found his place as the official “watchdog” of 91st Street, patrolling the block day and night. Whenever he needed a break, he’d seek refuge on my porch for a well-deserved rest.

My Italian kicked in. I started feeding him. He would even sneak into the house and go straight to the kitchen sometimes, blending in with my two indoor cats Fivey and Cookie. Obama had quite the appetite!


But Obama wasn’t just my cat, he was everyone’s cat on Beach 91. He brought joy and smiles to so many of the neighbors and was a beloved part of our community. He spent time at Eric’s house with his other cat friends Van Gogh (RIP), Williamina and Junnie (RIP). He stopped by Simon’s house for tuna treats. Obama would make his rounds to the Beach 91st Street Community Garden, where he’d get pets from Jill and other gardeners. Bridget would pass by on her bike and stop to say hi to Obama. He touched the hearts of so many folks on 91st and beyond.

Due to his widespread popularity and extensive territory patrol, he acquired several names. While I called him Obama, the children named him Oreo. And many neighbors knew him as Obie.

At this time, I was inexperienced in the realm of feral cats. Thanks to Obama, I became familiar with Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR). In TNR, cats and colonies undergo humane trapping, sterilization, vaccination, and ear tipping, and are then returned to their original territory. This practice helps in population control and promotes a healthier, safer life for feral cats. I’m thankful to Obama for introducing me to this invaluable knowledge. He was my first TNR – we did such a good job together!

Obama was very special to me. Our bond was strong.  Despite my desire to take him in, I already had two cats, and my home was still undergoing renovations. As winter approached, I realized that a heated cat house was essential! This decision brought unexpected attention to Obama – he became internet famous!! approached me to share the story of street cats like Obama, the importance of TNR, and the need for winter care.

Some years passed and Obama’s wild adventures on the streets began to catch up with him. When I found out that my animal-loving neighbors, Lynn and Tommy, had taken Obama in, I was overjoyed! Obama finally found his forever home. The indoor/outdoor setup suited him perfectly, giving him the best of both worlds.

Obama passed away peacefully on April 3, 2024, in the care of Lynn and Tommy. He was about 12 years old. Lynn came by the day before and told me Obama was ready to pass on. She invited me to her house to say goodbye. We cried. I’m so grateful for the opportunity my neighbor gave me to see him that day. I loved this cat so much, he was a unique individual with lots of personality. He’d been through so much, he was strong. Obama taught me important lessons about resilience and that there is beauty found in life’s challenges. He had a calm and content side too.  I am thinking of him now on the blue pillow cushion, on my porch, purring in the warm sun.

To learn more about how you can help feral street cats, check out this column I wrote about Obama in 2016.

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