Else Baldwin Village cat

This cat rules Baldwin Village

Spend enough time in Baldwin Village and you're bound to catch a glimpse of Elsa, a semi-feral ginger tabby who presides over the neighbourhood from the stoop of the shuttered Yung Sing Pastry Shop. Elsa has roamed Baldwin Village for fourteen years, and has held the post of resident mouser for twelve. Her territory spans Baldwin Street between Beverly and McCaul and reaches all the way up to College. "This is her fiefdom," says a resident. "I've never seen another cat try to cross her."

The closest thing Elsa has to an owner is the Ko family, the (former) owners of Yung Sing. They regularly feed her, groom her, and take her to the vet. Elsa spends much of her time curled up on their front porch. "She's definitely an outdoor cat," laughs Mr. Ko. The Kos themselves have never had a name for her; they've always simply referred to her as their "little yellow friend." They often take her for bike rides, letting her perch on the crossbar with her paws on the handles.

Neighbourhood reaction to Elsa is mixed. Restaurant owners love that she keeps the mice away, while waitstaff dread having to shoo her from patios and doorways. (One local waiter rolls up his sleeve to reveal an impressive Elsa-inflicted scar.) However, the residents I spoke to all seem quite fond of her; Mr. Ko, for his part, swears that she keeps the raccoons at bay.

Considering the amount of time that Elsa has spent as a semi-feral cat, she is in remarkably good health. In addition to regular attention from the Kos and a steady diet of small critters and table scraps, she receives frequent treats and visits from neighbourhood residents, whose call her everything from "Elsa" to "Caramel" to "Brian." Whatever you call her, it's obvious that she hasn't let old age slow her down; she's still alert, still curious, still insistently affectionate. Passerby still fuss over her, and she still relishes the attention.

Her life may not always be easy, but Elsa's story is proof that a little affection can make a world of difference in the life of a feral cat. Torontonians may have been decried in recent weeks as uncaring and unfriendly, but if a scrappy orange kitten can live for fourteen years on the kindness of strangers, we're doing something right.

Writing and photo by Emma Marcon


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