A dozen years ago, Heather Green was a happily single New York journalist, married to her job and more than a little cynical about romantic relationships. But her world turned upside down when she rescued a family of cats she found on her boyfriend’s doorstep.
Green, whose memoir “To Catch A Cat” comes out next month, grew up in Hamilton, moved back to Loudoun with her husband and daughter last fall.
In 2004, Green was working 70-hour weeks as a technology reporter for BusinessWeek and living on Manahattan’s Upper West Side. She was dating her now-husband Matt—an architect who had left the city for the working class suburb of Union City, NJ—but was hesitant to commit and using the fact that he lived across the Hudson River as an excuse to keep her distance.
But during a weekend visit to Matt’s New Jersey neighborhood, Green found a feral cat and her three kittens near his house. And her decision led her into the weird and wonderful world of cat rescue and also sparked an emotional transformation.
“It took me outside of that day-to-day and made me reassess a lot of things. It made me decide I’m really lucky to find this guy and why am I not committing to him,” Green said. “I could have a different life outside of just working all the time … It sort of taught me about connection.”
When she and Matt made the decision to rescue the cats, it strengthened their bond and also connected them with Matt’s neighbors and the passionate members of the local cat rescue community, with its singular culture and practices. The couple became immersed in the community devoted to trapping, caring for and finding adoptive homes for the cats.
“I really liked the people I was meeting in the cat community who were crazy but super interesting.” Green said. “People become very subsumed by it, but it’s all driven by compassion.”
Their mission was also a path to connection with Matt’s neighbors in mostly Latino Union City (whom Green describes as the nurses, nannies and bus drivers of the New York area) as neighbors jumped in to support their project.
“I got this sense of belonging I hadn’t had before–just because I hadn’t made room for it, frankly, before,” Green said.
The cat rescue project also became a kind of crucible for her relationship with Matt and eventually helped her realize he was the guy she wanted to spend her life with, with memorable moments like asking him to catch a cat she heard outside at 3 a.m. and jumping fences together to trap feral cats.
“We learned how to work together on something. We learned what each others faults were and what each others strengths were,” she said. “I always knew that I could rely on him.”
The idea for the book came, Green said, during a light-bulb moment when their home had become a kind of way station for kittens as they looked for adoptive families and she found herself with a bathtub full of kittens.
“I did a head count and realized there were 11 cats in the house. And that’s when I realized, ‘Hey I should make something out of this,’” she said.
She and Matt married in 2007 and their daughter, Lilly, now 7, was born in 2009. Green left her job at BusinessWeek shortly after Lilly was born and began working as a freelancer for corporate clients. Around the same time, she began work on her memoir but put the project on hold during her daughter’s early years.
Despite the sense of community Green and her family built in New Jersey, the call of extended family brought them back to Loudoun last year. Green’s parents Bud and Carolyn Green (a former Air Force pilot and former local journalist, respectively) are beloved members of the western Loudoun community, and her brother Craig Green is a member of the Hamilton Town Council.
Returning to Loudoun has been bittersweet for the Loudoun Valley High School graduate, who spent nearly 20 years working as a writer in New York after graduating from the University of Virginia and getting her master’s degree from the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies.
“[Loudoun is] beautiful still even though it’s changed,” Green said. “We’re happy we did it—it was the right move to do.”
Green has been able to get back to her childhood passion for horseback riding and to introduce the sport to her daughter. Matt is designing a house near her parents. And as for the cats that started it all, the kittens found adoptive homes in New Jersey, but the mother cat, Oona, adopted by Heather and Matt, is now a Virginian, too.
Heather Green’s memoir “To Catch A Cat” will be published July 5 by Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Books. For more information, go to