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10

Caroline Ewen, the Wealthy Cat Lady of East Harlem

Caroline Ewen was a serious cat lady in New York City. An original member of the Society to Befriend Domestic Animals, she worked to support a cat shelter and a nocturnal project to euthanize stray cats. But her claim to fame was that she kept between 80 and 180 cats in her own three-story brownstone home. The neighbors weren't happy at all, mainly due to the noise. They complained for years.

In August 1904, two of Caroline’s neighbors at 103 and 107 East 101st Street petitioned the Board of Health regarding the nightly concerts of 80 or more fat and sassy cats sheltered in the woman’s three-stone brownstone at 105 East 101st Street. “It is not that we object to Miss Ewan’s humane impulses in caring for all the stray and homeless felines of the neighborhood, but the noise of her pets is something wonderful,” the petitioners said. “It is enough to drive a strong man with a newly-signed pledge in the pocket to drink.”

According to petitioners Jacob Thorman and J. Kaplan, “There are bass cats and soprano cats, tenor cats and contraite cats, but there is no feline to drill them and make them sing in unison or harmony. I am fond of good music, but I do not consider eighty cats singing in eighty keys and eighty kinds of time good music.” 

Ewen was forced to move elsewhere, but she continued to advocate for stray and unwanted cats for the rest of her life, and even after her death. Read about the devoted cat lady of East Harlem at The Hatching Cat. -via Strange Company


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