Staten Island resident Thomas Doerbecker has loved animals his whole life. So, when an opportunity to save stray cats at work arrived, his boss knew just the man to call.

Long story short: Cats don’t belong on or near train tracks. There’s heavy machinery, loud noises, and fast-moving vehicles coming from every which way. Not ideal for our feline friends. But stray cats can’t always help where they wander. That’s why they need our help.

In late 2017, transit workers were having a hard time luring a stray cat out of Brooklyn subway tunnels on Thanksgiving weekend.

After two weeks without success, subway maintenance supervisor Thomas Doerbecker was called onto the scene to try his hand at saving the stubborn kitty. Not only did he already have 27 years of experience with MTA New York City Transit, but he and his wife have been fostering animals for nearly half a decade, according to the New York Post. 

Doerbecker brought a spring trap and a little cat food to Brooklyn and rescued his first of “maybe 50” cats, also according to the Post. That started a trend: He’s been called in by work supervisors more and more to coax cats out of similar scary situations. 

Small kitten stands in middle of train tracks
Credit: Courtesy of MTA New York City / Marc A. Hermann

And his successful rescues are not solely based on luck and cat-food bribery. He’s taken multiple trap-neuter-return classes at a local shelter in order to safely do just that: After rescuing the cats from the subway tunnels and rail yards, he arranges for them to be neutered and then releases them back into the city. 

But for the dozens of rescue cats, adoption is also always possible, if Doerbecker feels it’s right. 

“I’ll get them fixed and release them back. If they’re trainable, and they’re not feral or wild, and I think they could be adopted out … I’ll try to get them adopted,” Doerbecker told the Post.

He’s already taken a couple of rail yard rescues into his own home: Peanut and Rusty make up two of the 13 total cats in the Doerbecker family. 


Looking to build your own cat family? Be sure to check out our article for first-time cat owners.