Rossana Ceruzzi has loved animals ever since she was a child growing up in Rome, Italy. So it's no surprise that every day, she pays a visit to the cat sanctuary she founded on Roosevelt Island.

It's the largest of three cat sanctuaries run by the Wildlife Freedom Foundation. It all started when Ceruzzi moved to the island 23 years ago and found a population of abandoned cats living there.

What You Need To Know

  • There are three cat sanctuaries on Roosevelt Island run by the nonprofit Wildlife Freedom Foundation 

  • The sanctuary provides a home for cats awaiting foster homes, and those deemed not adoptable because of behavioral and other issues 

  • The foundation also rehabilitates injured wildlife found on the island 

  • The organization was founded by Roosevelt Island resident Rossana Ceruzzi

"We had basically to trap, neuter, spay, and then place all the ones that were adoptable, including lots of kittens, because as you can imagine, the reproduction was going on," said Ceruzzi, who eventually got permission from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to make a home for these cats.

In 2015, she formed the not-for-profit foundation.

(NY1/Roger Clark)

"We pull the cats, we place them in foster homes, they get adopted. If we don't have the foster home available, they live here," Ceruzzi said. It's also a home for cats deemed unadoptable because of behavioral or other issues.

The foundation also restores the health of injured or sick wildlife, including geese and even an opossum currently living at the sanctuary, and works with city schools to provide community service hours for young people.

The organization gets some funding from Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, but relies mainly on private donations.

(NY1/Roger Clark)

"On our wish list, the first is obviously to have more funds so that we can continue to take care of our cats," Ceruzzi said. The organization would also like to construct a cover over the sanctuary to give even more protection to the cats from the elements.

Ceruzzi, who immigrated here from Italy, said doing all of this is not only rewarding, but that discovering the cats was therapeutic for her following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the loss of her job.

"Basically walking me through that horrible time of our lives, of all of our lives, so that is how I restarted, basically my life after 9/11 because of these kitty cats," Ceruzzi said. "So I owe them."