René Chartrand, 'cat man of Parliament Hill,' dead at 92

René Chartrand, who spent years feeding and looking after a colony of outdoor cats on Parliament Hill, died on Sunday at the age of 92.
René Chartrand spent years feeding and looking over the colony of stray cats on Parliament Hill. (Peter Jones/Reuters)

René Chartrand, a veteran who spent years feeding and looking after a colony of outdoor cats on Parliament Hill, died on Sunday at the age of 92.

René Chartrand was 83 years old when he posed for this photo with one of his charges at a now defunct, decades-old cat sanctuary nestled behind the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. (The Canadian Press)
The cat sanctuary on Parliament Hill is no longer running, but was once home to as many as 30 strays.

Volunteers took it upon themselves to take care of the animals.

Chartrand, a father of five children, took over in the 1980s and quickly became known as "the cat man." He built an elaborate wooden shelter for the animals and adopted the role as their full-time volunteer caregiver.

Chartrand cared for the cats without government help, relying entirely on public donations, until retiring in November 2008, when he stopped due to health reasons.

He died on Sunday surrounded by family. Chartrand had been staying at The Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre.

A memorial service for Chartrand will be held Dec. 29.

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