“Muffin,” calls Yvette Anderson. “Muffff-in,” she says, making kissy sounds.
One by one, the heads appear.
Muffin One, Muffin Two and Tiger come out of the corners of the boarded-up East Baltimore housing project near Johns Hopkins Hospital where they live and trot toward Anderson, who carries plastic bags full of cat food and a Sprite bottle full of water which she feeds them.
“They really are a stress-reliever,” she said.
Anderson, 52, has been feeding the cats in the neighborhood for five years — as long as she has lived here. She even constructed little shelters with straw and plastic bins where they can sleep when it’s cold out.
Under a city ordinance enacted under Mayor Sheila Dixon, Anderson is considered a feral cat “keeper” — someone who regularly feeds the animals. Before that, residents who fed strays were often fined for doing so.
Cats need help — just like people do, Anderson said. And, she said, “I’d rather deal with animals than people.”
Most of the cats she tends to in East Baltimore have clipped ears — signifying they have been neutered and vaccinated against rabies.
There are five cats that live outside her own building, and then the three cats here outside this complex, which is largely abandoned. She has four cats of her own at home. One of them, “Mommy,” was homeless at the same time Anderson herself had no place to live.
“I think I have one cat that was even homeless when I was homeless,” Anderson said. Five years ago, she had no place to live — and it became a challenge to find a place to stay where she could bring her cat. That cat, she says, is her road dog, her running buddy.