Just a stone’s throw from where important decisions are made each day affecting the future of Canadians, there is a colony of stray cats who sit and wait patiently for their good friend, 81-year-old Rene Chartrand, "The Cat Man" of Parliament Hill.
Every day, no matter the weather, Rene travels across town from his small apartment to carry out his labour of love and kindness for the 26 spayed and neutered stray cats who call Parliament Hill their home. Spry and fit, Rene’s eyes twinkle with delight as he patiently identifies each of his furry charges by name. And in turn, you can hear the soft rumbling purrs and see that they return his affection as they crowd around his feet and rub up gently against his legs.
My son, Pierce and I had a chance to meet "The Cat Man" in person, and learned of his great love and devotion to his feline friends. For over 16 years, Rene has faithfully cared for his charges, and estimates that it cost nearly $6,000 a year to provide them with food, litter, veterinary care and to make sure that the little houses he has built for them are kept in good repair. Rene donates his time and energy, and often his own money, while coins dropped into a donation box help pay for the rest.
Rene says originally cats were kept in and around Parliament Hill to keep down the population of rats and mice, but over the years a colony began to establish. He first learned of the cats from an elderly neighbour, Irene Desormeaux, who lived in his apartment building and used to care for them. Up until her death in 1987, Rene helped her and for the last sixteen years, has assumed the mantle of responsibility.
Rene says that he will carry on with his responsibilities until he is no longer able, but that he was worried about what would happen to his four-footed friends, when he was no longer able to care for them. During our visit, we made a donation to help pay for food and veterinary care and told him that whenever he or the cats needed us, we would be there for them.
We are also pleased to announce that after careful consideration, Rene Chartrand will be the recipient of The Humane Society of Canada’s coveted Heroes for Animals Award recognizing Rene’s lifetime achievement in caring for animals.