Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day a Harsh Reminder, Irony in Loews Hotel Artwork

Artwork throughout Loews Portofino depicting beautiful landscape and outdoor cats
(see the cat at bottom of painting)
On this Earth Day, sadly I was not in the mind frame to celebrate. I had wanted to attend an Earth event at the Miami Zoo. But just one photo of a happy zoo animal in commune with the earth speared daggers through my heart.  My mind immediately pondered over the continuing saga of the Loews Hotel cats. 

Since becoming a caretaker and educator about outdoor, TNRMd community cats, I quickly observed and learned that these cats form a bond with the earth, their environment and their caretakers. When thinking about it carefully, these cats have it all-- food, shelter, attention and affection from caretakers and freedom. The freedom to roam, run, climb trees, take naps under a shady tree or on rock slab overlooking the bay or in a field of grass lazily watching crickets and other insects scaling blades of grass.

Cats were domesticated over 4000 years ago in Ancient Egypt and became part of the family, part of everyday life, some indoors, some outdoors.

Ironically this fact is punctuated in the artwork throughout the Loews Portofino hotel. Paintwork of the outdoor landscape -- beautifully manicured lawns, lush vegetation, grassy hills with a crown of trees, ornate urns, a regal gentleman posing, and in each image is a cat! I was so impressed by this branding when I first visited the hotel in May 2011. The slogan "Loews Loves Pets",  the artwork of upper class residents outdoors with cats, indoor cats and dogs as hotel guests and the recent peaceful coexistence of outdoor cats all supporting the brand in unison.  As a marketing professional, this was brilliant.

Artwork at entrance of Portofino in the anteroom to main lobby

Tragically the outdoor cats have been ripped away from the only home they knew.  Today, they are traumatized. Some don't eat fearful of the unknown, or whether to trust humans again. Bernie, on his way to a new home, was vomiting violently. He was transported back to the foster mother. The road to relocation is a long, painful journey and some cats may not survive. We know this from experience. But we press on.

 That fear is like a cancer. Compassionate employees, some who were caretakers and many others who rallied and supported the effort, live under constant threat and intimidation.  A longtime employee, Galena, was reportedly fired from Loews Royal Pacific for feeding the cats. She worked there for 12 years.  Naturally the media want to speak with caretakers, with employees to shed more light on the truth. But after Galena’s firing, employees are more fearful than ever after warnings from Loews not to speak to anyone about the cats or feed them while trapping continues or risk losing their jobs.   I know what it is like to work under this intimidation, and when an employer’s actions go against my values. It’s no longer a job. It’s hell. 
Volunteers who are actively bailing out the Loews Hotel cats from animal services, tiredly seeking and placing the cats in foster homes, and the preoccupation for vet care for a number of injured cats, have reached their breaking point. All this on top of their full-time jobs, on top of their other volunteer work in rescuing non Loews TNRd cats, on top of their own families and responsibilities—it’s overwhelming.
How can one or two men in power inflict so much pain and suffering upon innocent animals and people?  We know the answer. History is plagued with examples.
Universal's Cat in the Hat will no longer lift the corners of my mouth with fond childhood memories. It is now a negative anchor of the injured Cat in the Trap, these cats which I consider to be like barnyard pet cats.
This is one of the lowest  points in our efforts to overturn ignorance and discrimination. But I refuse to end on a sad note. There is always hope for the future because we keep fighting through education. Only through education will we enlighten minds and uplift hearts. Soon I’ll be sharing a happy story about Charlie, a cat dumped in my neighborhood. After months, I gained his trust that eventually I could pet him and pick him up in my arms. Halt! For my heart leaps with false hope. Not all affectionate, outdoor cats adapt to the boundaries of indoor environment. But his story is only the beginning of a new journey. Stay tuned.
Thank you all for your continued support and prayers for the Loews Hotel cats.


  1. Such a heartfelt and sad post... these cats have become so beloved to not just us, but the whole world. And I agree with you, we must not let a couple of callous bullies at Loews bring us down... we will continue our steadfast efforts to educate communities on the true facts about outdoor cats and I pray one day they all can survive peacefully without prejudice or incrimination.

  2. Christine - although we may not win this particular battle, we win the war. The Loews cats can help educate the public about community cats and TNR programs. We can fight to change the outdated policy recommendation of the Florida Dept. of Health. We can reach out to other businesses who might be willing to support a managed cat colony. These kitties deserve that much!

  3. David Bartek, Regional Director of Operations and Paul Whetsell, CEO of Loews Hotels are nothing but ignorant corporate bullies. Loews will officially become a cat killing machine for perpetuity because we know they wll always have cats. ALSO, there are neighborhoods all around. What if they trap someone's pet cat? The three cats recently trapped on Loews were not part of the original colony. Turns out they are friendly. What if they are someone's PET CAT?

  4. Thank you Vicki! You are absolutely right! We will Win the War because awareness is raised, policies and laws will be changed, we are getting more calls about how to care for outdoor community cats everywhere!


  5. Thanks for that post and like you said, as sad as all this is about the poor cats, maybe you have educated some people about the feral cats and that they can make such good pets. I have 20 of them here and they are the best cats. I would give anything to help those cats down there but I don't have anywhere to shut them up until they get used to their new home. Thanks for the update even if it is sad.