The Birchmere is a legendary music venue in Alexandria, VA, just outside the nation’s capital. It first opened in 1966, and has since then launched the careers of such musical luminaries as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dave Matthews, Vince Gill, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and k.d. Lang – and these are just a few of the artists counted as good friends of the Birchmere.
Last month, I went to the Birchmere to see Kris Kristofferson. I had a huge crush on him as a teenager, but had never seen him perform live. Given that he’s 82 years old, I figured I’d better take this opportunity before he stopped touring. I didn’t expect to also encounter a wonderful community cat program as part of the experience!
When Devon Cain first started taking care of the cats in 2013, it was an established colony of nine cats. Four members have since been lost. “Boo and Little G disappeared, Red Radley was hurt and re-trapped (it turned out that she had breast cancer and had to be euthanized), and Radley was found lying on the concrete at the site,” said Devon. “I brought Rex home.” The remaining four cats were re-trapped last year and received updated, long term rabies shots. The cats have all been TNR’d (trap-neuter-return.)
Devon moved to Richmond in 2018, “but not before making sure there were enough people to care for the cats,” she says.
There are now several compassionate and reliable people in the community who are caring for the cats on a daily basis. The colony is located next to the Birchmere, and the music hall has been highly supportive. They even allow caretakers to collect donations and sell art work during concerts.
“Ginny and Pat, who also do the art/donation nights at the Birchmere, are mainstays, along with Susan B who does scheduling for weekend care,” Devon told me. “There are always about eight to eleven people who help even if someone has to move or leave for other reasons.”
“The Birchmere cats are very, very lucky compared to most animals that are abandoned or born feral,” says Devon.
Devon is passionate about community cats in general. “The Birchmere cat colony is in a good location and has a source of income, but other cat colonies are not as fortunate,” she adds. “Please donate to organizations where you live that support feral and community cats, especially if they provide TNR services that prevent cats from procreating and thus causing more potential suffering. Please consider adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue group. Please return them to the shelter or rescue group if you cannot care for them for whatever reason.”