'The Cat Rescuers' review: A portrait of New York's street cats and their loyal humans

New York’s cat lovers are probably familiar with the feeling of wanting to help out the city’s many stray felines, but Rob Fruchtman and Steven Lawrence’s modest, effective documentary “The Cat Rescuers” captures the peculiar anxiety of not being able to help all of them.

'The Cat Rescuers' review: A portrait of New York's street cats and their loyal humans

The film focuses on the brave, sometimes eccentric souls who have devoted their lives to caring for the city’s cat population. As we watch their often heroic efforts, we get the nauseating sense that whatever they do will never be enough.

In many cases, these people catch the animals, then arrange to have them spayed and vaccinated, before releasing them back out into the streets. There probably aren’t enough prospective owners for these cats, and many of the animals brought to shelters wind up being euthanized; the film’s most heart-rending sequence involves watching different people from all walks of life bringing their beloved pets to one such shelter, in the full knowledge that these creatures, if they can’t find a home, will eventually be killed.

This is a fascinating, difficult topic — one that has a lot to do with the measure of our own humanity, and with the role such creatures can play in the social fabric of a community — and while “The Cat Rescuers” movingly portrays the unique individuals committed to helping these cats, it doesn’t quite tackle the full complexity of this subject. Still, no animal lover should be surprised to find themselves holding back tears while watching this documentary.

‘The Cat Rescuers’

Not rated. 1 hour 27 minutes.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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