Meet Paul the Cat Guy of Instagram

It is a mission that falls into his arms five years ago but has now earned him the Paul the Cat Guy monument.

"When I moved to Queens, I did not realize there were so many cats," Santell said. "I knew nothing about rescuing animals."

As he leaves every night, Santell began to perceive the strays living in bad conditions. She started eating one of them. This quickly became two cats, then three. Before he knew it, he fed an entire colony.

"After about two months of feeding, I said," Do you know what? I want to do more to help. "

Santell attended an ASPCA class where he learned about Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR-defined as the human and effective approach to managing community cats. Cats are trapped and transported to a veterinarian to be fed or sterilized and vaccinated. After rehabilitation, cats are released again where they were found or, if friendly, adopted.

"You know how to use a trap, you understand what cats are in the colonies and once you get certified, you are able to use the free urinary tract service in ASPCA," said Santell.

A female cat may have an average of 180 kittens during its life, so cat fixation significantly reduces the stray population. Studies show that TNR improves the life of wild cats, helps their relationships with people living near them and reduces colony size over time.

From 2014, Santell actively responds to reports of wild cats, pregnant cats and stray kittens. It has helped about 2,000 cats and does not plan to stop shortly.

Every night after work, he travels around Queens, feeding the three cat colonies he manages. And on weekends, she traps stray cats across the city and adopts social cats.

"That's all about cats," said Santell. "I want to have a better life, they deserve better."

Santell has gained a great presence of social media as Paul the Cat Guy at Instagram and shares his nonprofit work with his fans. He also advertises his adopted cats and receives requests from locals who need help with a stray cat in their neighborhood.

Earlier this year, she responded to a call for a sick cat living on an alley in the Bronx. After being trapped, Santell realized that it could be adopted.

"We were not sure it would become social," he said. "But it just blossomed in this joke, rolling around the cat."

The cat, called Lucy, now lives in Manhattan with her new owner.

"Knowing where Lucy comes from and what has passed, I feel a further responsibility to make sure she is happy and healthy and feels safe," said Belinda Luu, her adopters. "I'm so grateful that Paul found Lucy."

A handful of volunteers help Santell promote and transport cats. But it is largely a man-function, doing this work in addition to full-time work.

"Many times people ask me" love cats? "Santell said," What I like most about anything else is to save lives. It is the biggest feeling in the world ".

CNN's Meghan Dunn talked to Santell about his work. Below is a version of their conversation.

CNN: How much time do you spend on your non-profit efforts?

Paul Santell: This is the endless job. It can be 24 hours a day. It may be 365. Just when I think I've finished my work, I have another request to go somewhere else. I have a full-time working union. And a full-time trap. On a particular weekend, I put it anywhere between maybe six to 12 hours trapping myself.

The CNN hero Paul Santell

During the week you have to tend to wild cats in the traps in the morning, you should give them fresh food and water. Then I kiss kittens. Then I go through social media. People want to adopt. I give them requests. Then, responding to the requests, "You have a colony here. Okay, you need help." I see if I can advise them. If not, add it to TNR's list of projects. And then I make my colony at night. You do not stop.

CNN: Also, encourage and help others to take on TNR projects.

Santell: I like to inspire others to make at least their blocks, their yard, their parents' yard. Just spread the word. This is really the goal of all bailouts because we are overloaded with requests and we all just want to help all cats. So, most people who can teach through social media and direct online messages, text messages or go out in the field and teach you how to do TNR. In this way, if everyone did their own yard, their block, their area, imagine if 1,000 people did it in relation to two dozen people in a single neighborhood – the population would be under control.

CNN: How does your adoption process work?

Santell: When a cat I trap is really friendly, I never put it back out after the examination process. I put them for approval. I consider myself very strict when it comes to adoption patterns. We are looking for a stable forever home.

It is so difficult for me to save them from abroad. I spend so much trouble and time getting them out of the situation (so I'm not going) to deliver them where they are not in an ideal situation. When one of our cats goes to a home forever, it is the biggest feeling in the world.

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