Feral cats in Florida get help

Best Friends grant supports trap neuter return (TNR) project to help stray cats in underserved Florida community.
By Denise LeBeau

Feral cat in Florida neighborhoodA shy, stray brown tabby cat named Miss Patton Street may have been born without a home in a southwest Florida trailer park, but she didn’t have to fend for herself for long. In her neighborhood, animal lovers are committed to taking care of community cats (aka ferals) like her, including having as many as possible spayed or neutered. Lisa Kennedy, who is on a fixed income, takes care of a dozen community cats, and Miss Patton Street is among her favorites. But the pretty cat and many of her friends needed to be fixed, or there would soon be more cats in the neighborhood than anyone could care for.

Community commitment to feral cats in Florida

It turned out that it wasn’t just Lisa who was looking out for her stray feline neighbors. Gwen, a local community cat advocate who traps cats to have them spayed or neutered, noticed the tabby and wondered who was caring for her. She figured it out one day when she met Lisa, who was making her rounds to feed and check in on her elusive charge.

Gwen had already forged relationships with park residents and management, so when people saw a spike in the feline population, they all wanted to do the right thing. But a lack of funds meant a piecemeal approach to a big and expensive job. It became obvious that teamwork would be the best way to spay or neuter as many cats as possible, and they needed a bigger team. The effort soon expanded beyond Gwen and park residents to include a local spay/neuter clinic and Best Friends — because that’s what it took to get the job done.

Networking a safety net for outdoor felines

Gwen contacted Pallas Diaz, founder of Collier Spay Neuter Clinic in Naples, Florida, to ask for help, and although Diaz’s organization could provide assistance, it would require special funding. Since her clinic is part of the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network, Pallas contacted Best Friends for help. The Network brings together rescue organizations and municipal shelters across the country in an effort to end the killing of animals in our nation’s shelters. As a Network partner, the Collier Spay Neuter Clinic is eligible for Best Friends grant funding, which is made available for just such cases. Best Friends awarded a $1,000 grant to help deal with the cats through trap/neuter/return (TNR), the widely accepted humane method of dealing with free-roaming, ownerless cats.

A winning proposal for strays

Stray cat in FloridaThe Best Friends grant made it possible for the community to spay or neuter 27 cats during a push just prior to kitten season. Everyone is thrilled with the results. “Working together helps to motivate us on a personal level. It’s less stressful, and makes us feel happier, healthier and more productive as part of a community team rallied around a common cause,” says Pallas.

Lisa and Miss Patton Street also couldn’t be happier. The spirited (and newly spayed) cat is getting much friendlier, and Lisa hopes to one day feed her indoors. Their friendship is nurtured further by Collier Spay Neuter Clinic, which provides additional cat food. For Lisa, who has been helping cats that are feral for more than a decade, the support from her new friends brings tears to her eyes. “This is the first time anyone has helped me help them,” she says.

Get involved helping stray cats

Learn more about the Best Friends cat initiatives.

Photos by Gwen Collier