MTA worker has saved dozens of cats from tracks, rail yards

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He’s the purr-fect man for the job.

Subway maintenance supervisor Thomas Doerbecker has made it his business to rescue stray cats from Big Apple rail yards — plucking dozens of imperiled kitties out of harm’s way over the years.

He’s even kept a couple for himself.

“We’ll catch them, I’ll get them fixed and release them back,” Doerbecker told The Post. “If they’re good, you know, 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 out.”

Doerbecker said he got into the cat-catching business in 2017, when he was at work on Thanksgiving weekend when management came to him with an unusual request.

Transit workers had failed to lure a stray cat out of Brooklyn’s cavernous subways for two weeks, his boss said. Could the 27-year MTA veteran lend a hand?

“My boss knew that I take care of cats, so he said you want to go try? I said, yeah, I’ll go try,” Doerbecker, 56, recalled earlier this month.

“I brought a trap, a humane trap, like they use to catch raccoons and stuff like that. Just baited it with some cat food and put it out there. He went in and we caught him.”

Since the 2017 rescue, transit bosses have called on Doerbecker to secure stray cats from subway tracks another two or three times, by his count.

He’s saved “maybe 50” at the rail yard where he works in Sunset Park.

“I don’t want to see a cat running on a track that has trains running on it. Sooner or later they get hit,” he said.

“They get nervous. They’ll run and hide if a train comes, but they’re like a cat in the street. A stray cat in the street, sooner or later it’s going to get run over.”

One of the cats that Doerbecker has saved.
One of the cats that Doerbecker has saved.
Michael Dalton

Doerbecker, who lives with his wife on Staten Island, said she shares his love of animals. The pair have been fostering rescue kittens for more than half a decade.

He said he uses a spring trap to catch the cats.

Doerbecker prepared himself for the task by taking “trap, neuter, release” classes at an animal rescue center.

“They teach you how to catch,” he said. “They tell you what kind of trap to use. They’ll tell you how to do it, but it’s basically common sense.”

His family’s current litter consists of seven fosters plus six cats of their own.

Two of those felines are rail yard rescues named Peanut and Rusty, the latter for his red fur rather than the rusted rails from which he was saved.

“You got loose cats all around,” Doerbecker said of the transit system and its properties.

“It’s trucks running around. The trains running around. People driving high-lows. Heavy equipment around. I’ve seen cats run over and stuff like that. It’s not a real great environment for an animal.”

Two stray cats found on subway tracks.
Two stray cats found on subway tracks.
MTA New York City Transit

After saving the cats from the yard, Doerbecker tries to find them a new home.

“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,” he said.

The lifelong pet lover kept dogs, cats, turtles, snakes, birds and fish as a “little kid” in Greenpoint — so helping animals to safety comes naturally.

“I like to help animals,” he said. “I’ve had animals all my life.”

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Kimberly Wilson

Kimberly Wilson

Kimberly Wilson is the author of the Top Stories and International News section of Newzinto.

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