There are cats around the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the home of one of the biggest radio telescopes in the world (second-largest, to be exact). Lots of cats! And kittens, of course. And they need your help.

After Hurricane Maria, which is the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico, caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean in September 2017, a lot of local people took shelter in the Arecibo Observatory. And the cats did the same! 

But long before the Hurricane Maria, Arecibo Observatory has long been known for its felines. The cat rescue effort originally started with Alessondra Springmann, better known as Sondy, a rocket scientist studying asteroids and comets, now at the University of Arizona’s Lunar & Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. From 2012 to 2014, she worked as a data analyst with the Planetary Radar Science Group who made asteroid and comet radar observations there. Springmann helped to capture, neuter/spay and find loving homes for the cats. She also created the Twitter account of  Arecibo Observatory’s local cat rescue organization, @ObservatoryCats. She says “I am a professional cat herder as well as an astronomer” on her about page.

But after she left her work at the observatory, virtually nobody kept helping to take care of the cats. So the cats kept reproducing and their number increased in every year.

Then, Flaviane Venditti, a researcher at the observatory, decided to do something about that and with the help of her colleagues, who have been feeding the cats, set up a fundraising campaign via GoFundMe, “Helping Arecibo Observatory Cats”.

The campaign text goes like:

“Since hurricane Maria, we have a family of cats that have called the observatory their home. The staff have been actively taking care of them and feeding them. But we want to keep the population under control, so we want to spay them and make sure they are healthy. We are working with the San Francisco de Assis Veterinarian Hospital to take care of all the kitties. We wanted to open this to any former Arecibo Observatory employees and friends, or cat lovers, to help us take care of the kitties.”

“The money will go to necessary surgeries needed for the cats as well as food. Spaying/neutering costs $95, and they recommend to keep the cat indoors for 7 days after the surgery. We can’t keep them in our homes, so boarding is another $15/day. They are also being vaccinated and dewormed. Some cats (especially females), might also need painkillers and antibiotics after the surgery. If the cat is healthy, and no extra treatment and lab tests are needed, the average cost per cat is $200-$250.”

“Once we finish taking care of our Space kitties, we plan to also start taking care of the cats nearby the Observatory (we see many on the road that leads to the Observatory!)”

Arecibo Observatory

Arecibo Observatory radio telescope
Arecibo Observatory radio telescope

Operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET (Metropolitan University, Puerto Rico), the Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope in the municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. For more than 50 years, the observatory’s 1,000-foot (305-meter) radio telescope was the world’s largest single-aperture telescope, from its completion in 1963 until July 2016 when the Five hundred meter (1,640 feet) Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China was completed. It is used in three major areas of research: radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy. 


M. Özgür Nevres

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