The Cats of Parliament Hill Blog
Klaus J. Gerken
Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, North America, Planet Earth,
the Sol Planetary system, the "Milky Way" Galaxy, the Local cluster of Galaxies,
the Universe, and whatever is beyond or ever was before.
Latest update: 25 January 2013
25 February 2013: The Cats Sanctuary was closed and dismantled 12 January 2013 after the last four cats were adopted.
1 February 2012: The 2011 Update by Brian Caines has now been posted.
20 September 2011: All new updates to the The Cats of Parliament Hill are available
on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150405879209554&set=o.10150154879045652&type=1#!/pages/The-Cats-of-Parliament-Hill/10150154879045652
13 January 2011: I have posted some messages from Brian Caines with previously
unseen historical photographs of the cats.
31 December 2010: I have posted an update on the cats by Brian Caines.
18 July 2009: Since I am updating this blog so rarely these days, if anyone
would like to be put on a mailing list advising of updates, just send an
email to kgerken@synapse,net with the subject: "CPH ML add" and I will do so.
Please under no circumstances abandon cats or kittens on the Hill or by the
Cat Sanctuary. The cats will not readily accept newcomers and for the most
part chase them away. Nor is it a given new cats will find the Sanctuary in
search of shelter and food. Most abandoned cats are very disorientated and
will just randomly wander off finding starvation and death - especially in the
winter. If you can no longer care for your cat, please take her to the Humane
Society where she can be well taken care of and put up for adoption. This is
what we do for any abandoned cat we find. And it causes us great grief when we
cannot capture one - which happens way too often. And if you give kittens as
a gift for Christmas, ensure the person or the household you give them to can
provide for them. If not, then you should reconsider your priorities. No
kitten deserves to be abandoned like an unwanted toy. Owning a pet is a
serious responsibiliy. If you don't share that feeling, you shouldn't own a
pet. It's as simple as that. Abandoning your pet is a criminal offence with
up to 2 years in jail. Perhaps you who would be so callous should think about
that. Treat your pets well, and they will reward you with unconditional love
for the rest of their lives. Should we all care so much as they care for us.
Klaus J. Gerken
Before you abandon a pet you can no longer care for, please contact these
Previous logs are available at the Library and Archives Canada:
All photographs by Klaus J. Gerken unless otherwise stated.
Comments are always welcome:
Please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
(We reserve the right to publish any comments on this blog).
I would like to invite anyone who has recollections or photographs of the
colony before the present condos were built; especially any recollections
or photographs of Irene Desormeaux before Rene Chartrand took over caring
for the cats, or even prior to that, to send them to email@example.com .
We are trying to establish a definitive history of the cat colony for a book
to be published in the next year or so.
A Brief History of the Cats of Parliament Hill
There is a story that Colonel By brought hundreds of cats
with him when he built the Rideau Canal in 1826, to take care
of the rodent population, but unfortunately that cannot be
confirmed. What can be confirmed is that cats were employed
in the Parliament Building (as in many other building) as pest
control until 1955 when they were replaced by chemicals. Until
1970 ground keepers fed the cats in various locations, when
Irene Desormeaux began feeding the cats where the existing
colony now resides. Rene Chartrand began helping her in the
mid-nineteen eighties and began building some wooden structures
(some of which can still be seen) for the cats to keep warm in.
In 1987 when Irene passed on to take care of stray cats in a
greater colony beyond this world, Rene took over and loyally
fed the cats to this day. In 1997 Rene and a friend built the
existing structures. Brian Caines began helping about that time,
and I began helping out in 2003. That year brian and I decided
to put together a support team to ensure that Rene would be ok
(he's in his mid-eighties now) and that the cats would always
be well provided for. We now have a team of eight caregivers
who volunteer their time to this amazing cause.
The cast of characters:
Irene Desormeaux (Who started it all in the 1970's)
Rene Chartrand (Who took over when Irene passed on in 1987 and maintained
the colony till he retired November 2008 -- he built the
shelters in 1997.)
The Volunteers 2008 (in alphabetical order):
Leyla Di Cori
Klaus J. Gerken
& Christ Oliver - Author of "Fish Lecan, Maria Dorfinkley et les Chats de la
Colline du Parlement" and the blog below:
The Alta Vista Animal Hospital (For medical care).
Purina for cat food.
And a host of many others.
And the cats:
Current residents (2012)
Spot (Integrated 2004)
Max (Integrated 2005)
*Brownie: adopted by one of the volunteers for medical reasons
*Brunette: lost 2009 to old age
*The white mother: killed by a dog Nov 2011
*Snowball (AKA Six Toes - lives with the white mother on the east side of the Hill) - Adopted 2010
*Blackie (adopted 2010 by one of the volunteers for medical reasons)
*Coco (RIP 2005)
*LePune (Lost 2003 and perhaps sister to Brunette and Lulu)
*Big Mama (RIP 1985? to 2006)
*Thumbelina (Adopted by Sebastien Bador 2008)
*Kid Jr (lost 2006)
*Bruno (2003/4 - adopted by myself Feb 2004 - and flourishing)
*Blanchette (lost in 2003)
*Lulu (lost 2004 and sister to Brunette)
*Smokey and her three kittens living in the West Block ( put up for adoption
fall 2004 because they could not integrate, no matter how much Smokey tried)
*Monty (lost 2004)
*The black and white we never got to name who only stayed a month (summer 2004)
*Samantha (Lost Nov 2004)
*Shadow (Integrated 2005 - but probably there earlier and the father of
Smokey's kittens)) - Put up for adoption March 2008 because of special
*Penelope (Abandoned Christmas 2005 - taken to the Humane Society Feb 2006)
*Lillian-Wentworth (Integrated 2007 - Believed stolen from the colony Spring 2008))
*Phoebe (The new white - taken to the HS by Brian and Laura 18 June 2007)
*Hero (15 years old - abandoned - taken to the HS for adoption)
*Mike the cabbie (Abandoned July 2007 - Named by Joanne Stanbridge) - Taken
to the Humane Society 24 July 2005.
*Great Tiger (abandoned in the heaviest snowfall of the winter - rescued
by Laura and taken to the Humane Society for adoption - March 2008)
Bugsy (Betsy) (2008) Hangs out with the whites.
And so many others who just walk in and out or are adopted when we can catch them.
Cats In The Media:
Attached YouTube video- search under Japanese TV visits Cats of Parliament Hill
In my July 2010 cat update I mentioned that a Japanese crew from Sekai Fushigi Hakken TV were on the Hill to film the cats
for a popular game show. They filmed in Banff, Ottawa, Quebec City, Peggy's Cove, but funnily enough, not PEI. The cats
were invited to participate and they jumped at the chance. I have no idea what I'm saying nor could I figure out the rules
of the game. Let's just say the show seems somewhat more complicated than “Wheel of Fortune”.
Thanks to Bill Owen and Noriko of Eyestir http://www.eyestir.com/ for adapting the one hour show and uploading the program
CBC Television: Doc Zone
For those of you who were unable to watch the CBC Television documentary Cat Crazed when it was broadcast in early 2011, it
is now available on their website:
It is also a documentary selection on Qantas if you are lucky enough to be going to or coming from Australia.
North Country Public Radio (NPR)
Three volunteers were interviewed by Todd Moe for the NCPR in early September.
China Travel Channel
In mid-September, a Chinese television network filmed at the sanctuary as part of a program on Ottawa. Catherine, a
visitor told me she saw it on a local Chinese website and sent it to me. In her e-mail she wrote: Also, I want to share
one sentence that the lady said about you: "This great uncle is very, very, very kind even though there is a lot of cat
hair on his coat. I believe, not only those lovely cats like him, but also women should like him". I am sure she meant
Randy when she said that.
The cat segment starts at the beginning of the episode (at 45 second mark), and lasts for just over four minutes. The
complete program is quite interesting and shows some of Ottawa’s nicer neighbourhoods.
In addition the cats were filmed for TV Ontario, Azteca TV (Mexico) and the History Channel. I will send you the link
to the programs if they are uploaded to the net. In addition articles on the sanctuary appeared in The Age (Melbourne,
Australia) and Vice magazine.
GELIEBTE KATZE (All About Cats)
In early 2011 this German cat magazine contacted us for a story on the cats. I provided the background information and
Klaus provided all the photographs except the large one of the Parliament Buildings which was provided by
Dreamstime.com/Balendrian. Klaus asked that his 150 Euro photographer’s fee be donated to the Italian cat care
organization, Lega Pro Animale (LPA) whose work is supported by Geliebtz Katze. The LPA Spay Day was held April, 2011
when 84 females were spayed and 57 male cats neutered.
A couple of cat sites that may interest you:
Purr-n-Furr UK http://www.purr-n-fur.org.uk/index.html
Google “Cats of Parliament Hill”, on Home Page for a 2010 article on the sanctuary.
Pierre's Alley Cats Society http://pierresalleycats.org/
Learn about Pierre, a good friend of Rene, and his work with cats living on the Navy Dockyards in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
You can also find The Cats of Parliament Hill on Facebook
Book on Parliament Hill:
Don Nixon, a former Public Works Hill employee, has written a history of Parliament Hill entitled The Other Side of the
It is available at Lulu.com. It has the most in-depth and researched information on the cat sanctuary available. I
certainly learned more about the colony than I thought possible. Here’s the link:
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." -- Anatole France
The Cat Sanctuary was closed and dismantled 12 January 2013 after the last four cats were
adopted. There will no longer be any updates. The Cat Sanctuary on Parliament Hill is a part
of Canada's past history now.
20 September 2011: All new updates to the The Cats of Parliament Hill are available on Facebook at:
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