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Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

Local business owner provides ‘cat-tastic’ care for stray felines.


By Makayla Leitten and Rose Fennessy

Brockport, NY– Sad eyes peer out from behind the bars of crates where cats with drooped ears and frail paws are being treated for their illnesses and injuries. In another room, healthy cats play with their toys and one another while others seclude themselves within the cat trees, avoiding the wild antics. This is Mr. Grey’s Strays, where dozens of cats and kittens wait for their forever homes.  

Mr. Grey’s Strays, located on East Avenue, houses stray cats from Brockport and the surrounding areas. Owner Joane Traber first started the business after an encounter with an elderly woman in the winter of 2013.  

Chalkboard welcome sign that greets visitors at Mr. Grey’s Strays in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Makayla Leitten)

“I first met a lady that was walking in the wintertime up the sidewalk, and she had a walker,” said Traber. “I asked her where she was going and she told me she was going up here on the corner to feed cats…And I convinced her to let me feed them the rest of the winter, so she didn’t get hurt falling or anything.” 

Traber started feeding the cats regularly during the winter, which started a connection that would change her life and eventually turn into a business.  

“There was a huge snowstorm one day and one of the cats that came always in the very beginning didn’t come,” said Traber. “I couldn’t believe that I cared about something that I’ve never touched before, that I’ve never had any kind of interaction, except for when I called him, he came.” 

From then on, Traber continued to pursue her newfound passion by researching ways to help treat the cats. After only a short few months, in 2014, Traber founded Mr. Grey’s Strays,which Traber had named after a particular stray cat she had tended to and eventually adopted, Mr. Grey.  

The organization provides a variety of ways to treat stray cats, one of the more popular and effective ones being Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR).  

“TNVR is we trap them, we spay and neuter them, we vaccinate them, and then we release them. We ear-tip them so we know exactly which cat we did and which cat we didn’t do,” said Traber. 

Using the TNVR method helps to lower the stray cat population, along with the number of stray cats that find shelter in one place. The vacuum effect, according to Traber occurs when stray cats in one area are removed, or constantly fed, creating a safe space for more stray cats. By using TNVR, the cats that are treated and released will “colonize” that one area, defending their space and keeping other strays away.

 “It’s a proven fact if they’re spayed and neutered, they don’t multiply and that same group will kind of stay put in that one area,” said Traber.  

Cats being treated and recovering at Mr. Grey’s Strays in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Makayla Leitten)

Not only does Traber TNVR these cats, but she nurses them back to health. Stray cats come into the rescue with many health issues, some more severe than others.  

“Almost all my cats that come in from outdoors come in with something. A cold, ear mites, worms, dehydration, skinny. I think the thing that keeps my head above water is that I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said Traber.  

Along with treating and rehabilitating stray cats, Mr. Grey’s Strays offers a “Kitty Play Visit” for potential adopters or for those who would simply like to interact with cats. For $15, a family of no more than four can visit and play with over 80 adoptable cats and kittens. If a potential adopter would like to continue with the adoption process, there are a few steps to take to be approved.  

“We check vet records, make sure you have a vet, we call references, we check with colleges and apartment complexes and if there are any concerns or thought processes, we will do a video chat and have them take their phone and show us their house and where they live,” said Traber. “You’re only pre-approved at that point. Then you have to come to meet me.”

When applicants meet with Traber, she tries to get a sense if they are a good fit for adoption. 

“I believe I have a pretty good sense over who I like and who I don’t like,” said Traber. “I chit-chat a lot, and when I’m gabbing, it’s amazing what comes out of somebody’s mouth.” 

Rosie, a cat at Mr. Grey’s Strays in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Makayla Leitten)

Those who do pass the application process can take home a cat of their choosing and provide them with a new home. For those not yet ready to make a lifelong commitment to a cat, a foster program is also offered. As rewarding as the process may be for the new cat parent, Traber has difficulty with letting go. She describes it as being bittersweet.  

“April, who is a special needs cat, got adopted and I was crying that I’m going to miss her and thinking, oh my word, she’s going to have a real home,” said Traber. “I’m not a real home, I’m just like a stepping stone to get to that real home.” 

After almost a decade of being a business owner, Traber has established her name as “the woman who could trap the un-trappable”. However, Traber is unsure of what the future may be for her business and the present and future felines who need her services.  

“At this point of my life, I’m always worried over what am I going to do with all these cats,” said Traber. “I’m hoping that somebody else steps up and wants to take it over and I’m hoping that when the time comes, if I get too tired or this is too much, that I’m able to get all these cats good homes.” 

Mr. Grey’s Strays and its owner weave a tapestry of rescue and recovery, providing a safe haven for the stray cats of Brockport who are waiting for their forever home.  

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