Neighbors’ team effort saves cat from cold

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BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Tasha the cat is warm and safe now, but that was not the case for several frigid hours Thursday night.

“I was literally sick to my stomach,” said Lori Frey, a volunteer at Focus on Ferals, the nonprofit shelter that ultimately took in Tasha. “I couldn’t believe that somebody would do that to any animal in the temperatures we had.”

The story began unfolding Thursday afternoon in the Van Singel Farms neighborhood near 68th Street and Byron Center Avenue in Byron Township.

“I was shocked,” said Rafeal Lael, who lives in the neighborhood. “I was like, ‘What is she doing?’”

Lael was snowblowing his driveway when he spotted what he thought was a woman abandoning a cat outside in zero-degree weather. The scene was captured on his porch surveillance camera, with the video showing what appeared to be a person dropping a cat on the ground and then turning and walking away.

The cat ran away and Lael posted about the incident on the Nextdoor neighborhood app. Jim Marsh, another Van Singel Farms neighbor, saw the Nextdoor message and went out searching for the cat.

“I have two little girls,” said Marsh, who also has a wife who’s a lifelong cat lover.

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After circling the neighborhood several times, he spotted the cat in a neighbor’s driveway but couldn’t get it to come to him. He grabbed a can of tuna from home and tried again.

“My wife said, ‘You have to get (the cat) because if you don’t, it will die tonight,’” Marsh recalled.

He was on his last pass through the neighborhood, about to call it quits, when he caught a glimpse of the cat’s eyes, reflecting off his headlights.

“I literally belly crawled up to it like a soldier. I shimmied my way up the driveway with the can of tuna in front of me,” Marsh described.

As soon as the cat dipped its head to smell the tuna, Marsh was able to grab it.  

His daughters named the cat Tasha and the family turned it over to Focus on Ferals, a cat shelter on Clyde Park Avenue SW south of 76th Street. The shelter helps 400 cats a year through adoptions and its trap, neuter and release program. Focus on Ferals, which operates on volunteers and donations, also provides portable shelters free-of-charge for people looking after outdoor cats.

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Lori Frey, who volunteers at Focus on Ferals, said Tasha came in with a fresh leg wound but will recover.

“Tasha’s going to find a good home. We’re going to make sure of it,” Frey said. “She is so sweet. Even after everything that has happened to her, you can pick her up, you can love her, she purrs.”

If you’re interested in adopting Tasha, you can reach the shelter at or through its website or Facebook page.

Meanwhile, another neighbor posted a message on Nextdoor Friday afternoon that might clear up the mystery.

“The ‘woman’ referred to is my … daughter who absolutely loves cats and animals,” the father wrote. “Let me solve everyone’s mystery by giving you a timeline of events.”

He went on to explain that he sent an email to the Van Singel Lake Association Thursday afternoon letting everyone know that a cat had wandered into his garage, which was open because he was warming up the family’s car.

“We had no idea which direction the cat came from,” he wrote. “My daughter sat holding the cat in our garage wrapped in blankets and towels for a couple hours. We did not bring the cat into our home because I have a severe allergy to cats.”

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He went on to explain that he sent an additional follow-up email to the association with a picture of the cat. That’s when another neighbor identified a house the cat may belong to.

“While walked (sic) with the cat, as she approached the intersection of Pleasant Hill Drive and Van Singel Lake Drive, the cat jumped from her arms and ran… My daughter lost sight of the cat but assumed it recognized its home and returned there. She said multiple homes in that area had their garage doors opening and again, assumed the cat ran home.”

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