Arthur Burrell, 57, remembered by his widow Yolanda Bell as “Cat Daddy” and by others as “The Cat Man” of Chicago’s West Side, noted for his cheerful nature and sense of humor as well as for his love of cats, died from heart disease on October 9, 2014.
A U.S. Army veteran and employee of Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, Burrell “got started in feline rescue when he took in two tiny kittens he’d found on the street,” recalled Julie Falconer of the Humane Society of the U.S. magazine Animal Sheltering. Those two were the first of eight rescued cats who eventually shared the Burrell/Bell family home. Burrell also fed and monitored the condition of feral cats in the neighborhood.
HSUS Pets for Life team members Annette Bellezzo and Kris Badillo met Burrell “a few years back, while knocking on doors in North Lawndale, a neighborhood that struggles with poverty, foreclosures, and drug-related crime,” Falconer continued.
That was the beginning of a productive partnership. “In the two years the Pets for Life team knew him, Burrell rescued 51 cats and kittens from the streets,” Falconer wrote. “Pets for Life provided him with flea and tick medications and other supplies and helped sterilize and find homes for the kittens he found. In turn, Burrell introduced the team to pet owners in the community and spread the word about the program to other cat caretakers.”
Recalled Bell, “Everybody in the neighborhood knew him as ‘the cat man.’ Neighbors would knock on his door or stop him in the street, asking for help placing kittens, assistance getting pet food or advice on cat care.”
Hospitalized at the end of August 2014, Burrell “started sketching out plans for a program he called Caring About Felines Everywhere. The CAFE program, he wrote in his notebook, would ‘get stray cats off the street and get them spayed/neutered,’” Falconer said. “It would share information with people about cat care and help owners in underserved areas with food and veterinary care. It would find homes for friendly strays.”
“He was so happy before he died,” Bell remembered, “because he thought he was really going to get a chance to do something” for the cats.
Finished Falconer, “He already had.”
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