NEW JERSEY – A Canada goose who had been injured by a chain link fence has been recuperating with a colony of feral cats in Kearny, who have completely accepted him as one of their own.
Len Twist, who oversees this particular cat colony, was tending to the felines on June 6 when he stumbled upon the gosling trapped in the fence. The goose had apparently been fighting to get free for several hours, and his foot was hurt in the struggle. Twist was able to finally free the bird, but he was clearly injured.
“He was the size of a pigeon and still had his downy feathers,” said Twist. He placed the gosling in the cat house with a bowl of cat food as his goose family — mom, dad and five siblings — stood by.
“The cats didn’t bother him and finally they were eating out of the same bowl,” said Twist who named the bird Trooper.
Just two days later, Trooper was gone and Twist had high hopes that the short stay had been enough for the gosling to recuperate.
The next day, however, Trooper was back.
In the month since that time, he has grown to enjoy the food and the company, regularly coming and going between the cats and his goose family.
The cats are often spotted meandering with Trooper in tow through the yard along the Hackensack River, with the Pulaski Skyway as their backdrop. The cats are each named after local officials and employees, and have their own personalities to match, Twist stated. The mayor’s namesake, Big Al; Cardoso (in honor of Councilman Albino Cardoso); and Fatima (named for a town employee), have all taken a special liking to having Trooper.
In the beginning, Trooper dragged his injured foot behind him, like Chester from “Gunsmoke,” Twist stated. He is now the size of a butterball turkey and has completely lost his downy feathers. The damage to his foot is thankfully minimal, although he still walks with a slight hitch as he makes his way through the cats, honking as he goes.
During the first initial weeks, Trooper’s family came with him, but stood off in the yard away from the felines.
“About two weeks ago, Trooper started coming on his own to hang out with the cats and share their meal,” stated Twist. Trooper’s favorite food seems to be Kibbles ‘n Bits.
Monu Sohal, who is the person who runs the Trap, Neuter and Release program in neighboring Lyndhurst, explains that Trooper’s story is example of how animals can co-exist.
Back in 2016, Pete Marra, who is head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, authored “Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer.” The book mounts evidence that free-ranging cats are killing birds and other various animals by the billions.
Sohal went on to explain that the book was calamitous for Trap, Neuter and Release programs. The programs, which are run by certified colony keepers, create a partnership with local shelters to neuter and spay cats. The cats are then either placed back into the feral cat population, or adopted. The ultimate goal is to reduce the size of feral populations. Residents opposed to such colonies, however, claim that the book proved that the cat colonies are wiping out the bird population.
Full-grown geese are actually formidable birds that cats might actually find threatening, however, Trooper was as small as a pigeon, injured and could not fly when he entered the cat colony, said Twist.
“I think the story of Trooper can teach us something about how animals can co-exist,” stated Sohal.