A cat controversy is brewing in Sunnyside, Queens, as some residents say felines are being mistreated. NY1's Cindi Avila filed the following report.
Anita DiSarli organized a rally in Sunnyside Saturday to alert the public to what she calls a problem of animal abuse by some area store managers.
She says they house cats, but intentionally keep food away from them so they will be more eager to catch mice.
"They starve cats; they don't feed them," said DiSarli. "You can shop anywhere else but the 99-cent store and National Liquidators."
DiSarli was one of two women who recently rescued a cat named Mickey from a 99-cent store on Queens Boulevard.
DiSarli says when they got the four-year old cat his eyes were barely open. Her veterinarian told her the cat's eyes were only part of the problem.
"She said they are a little jaundice. He's been indoors night and day and they use him strictly as a mouser," DiSarli said the vet told her. "They do not feed him."
The owner of the 99-cent store denied that he kept cats in the store. But an employee confirmed that he gave DiSarli the cat.
Mickey, the cat, now lives with George Constance and has allegedly doubled in weight, going from six to 12 pounds in just under a month. Constance says the cat has also come out of his shell.
"Friendly as hell, sleeps next to my leg, climbs on my chest," said Constance. "He's been so starved for attention."
Those at the rally say they actually don't mind stores having cats. What they do mind is how they say they are being treated.
"You have to feed the cat and bring it to a vet when it's sick," said DiSarli.
"I feel there's a moral responsibility for people who house cats and dogs to take care of them," said protester Craig Scmitterer.
The manager at National Liquidators said there are no cats in the store – saying it is illegal to do so. He also showed NY1 his extermination record. He said the store is serviced twice a month.
But those at the rally said they do not believe he was telling the truth.
"These people are worse than animals because animals love you unconditionally and people are just cruel," said protester Victoria Saljanin.