The Queen of Street Cats
New York City has more than a million feral felines. One Queens resident has a humane—and controversial—plan to save them all.
Photos by Brad Horrigan
No one opens a can of cat food quite like Debi Romano. Gracefully, she peels back the metal lid and dumps the mushy contents onto a pile of dry cat food. With mesmerizing speed, she opens and dumps cans like a seasoned assembly line worker, tossing the empties into a plastic bag.
Working out of the trunk of her red Camaro, she puts the food into disposable containers and places them under dumpsters and cars, near fences and building crawl spaces. Romano spends four hours every night hitting five Queens neighborhoods and feeding upwards of 100 street cats. She goes through $2,000 of cat food a month, and puts forty dollars worth of gas in her car every other day.
When she was twelve, her mother predicted she would become “that crazy cat lady.” Now fifty-four, she probably is New York’s ultimate one. The last time she skipped a night’s feeding rounds was during Hurricane Sandy, and only because she physically couldn’t leave her house in Queens Village.
Defying the st…