March 17, 2010
Pat Garber has asked me to publish the following article about the abundance of feral cats on Ocracoke Island.
A PLEA FOR HELP: OCRACOKE’S CAT POPULATION EXPLOSION
By Pat Garber
We need good homes, veterinary assistance, and donations to alleviate our
current cat crisis!
Anyone who has visited Ocracoke Village knows that cats make up a
significant part of the population here. And rightly so. The first cats may
have come to Ocracoke with the early settlers and the pirates, as ratters on
their ships, and they continue their duty as ratters today. Most cottages sport
at least one tabby or calico kitty sitting contentedly on a windowsill or a
fence rail, and you’re likely to find another one curled up inside on the
Along with the pets are a number of feral cats that roam the village. Cat
lovers feed them regularly and try to have them neutered and spayed. A
non-profit organization called Ocracats collects donations to pay for neutering
and food, as well as occasional emergency vet bills.
One of Ocracoke's Many Feral Cats:
Cats reproduce rapidly, however, and with few predators to keep them in
check, their numbers can get out of hand. Such is the case now.
The veterinarian who operated a clinic here several days a week, providing
reasonable prices for feral cat neutering, has retired and moved away. Getting
cats up the beach to Nags Head or Manteo is an all day operation and an
expensive one. There is a veterinarian on duty on certain days of the week in
Avon, but even that is a three hour round trip, and there is no one available
to shuttle feral cats back and forth. The decline in the economy has reduced
donations, so that paying for food and neutering is a real challenge.
In the past, veterinarians from off the island have, on occasion, jumped in
to help us out, bringing their instruments and medications and setting up in
one of the community buildings. On these occasions cat lovers all over the
village trap feral cats and bring them in for neutering. The cats are returned
to the place where they were captured, and feeding resumes. Ocracokers provide
a place to stay and some good home-cooked or restaurant meals for the volunteer
veterinarians and their assistants, as well as free time to enjoy our gorgeous
Hyde County Animal Control has, in fact, set up such a clinic, and the
veterinary school at North
Carolina State University is scheduled to come neuter
cats in June. We are excited and grateful and looking forward to their help.
The problem is that the cats are breeding and birthing kittens now, and if we
do not have an interim clinic before then there will be hundreds more cats.
If any veterinarians who love Ocracoke and cats are reading this, and can
spare a few days to help with a clinic this spring, you will be much
To add to our cat crisis, there are presently a number of beautiful, tame,
and loving cats who have been abandoned and desperately need good homes. There
is not enough money or space to care for them, and if homes are not found soon,
they may have to be euthanized. If you love cats and have always wanted a
pirate kitty, please give a good home to one of the beautiful cats displayed
here, or inquire about others. If you are not a veterinarian and cannot adopt a
cat (or cats) into your home but still want to help out, please consider making
a donation to Ocracats. You can send a check to Ocracats, P. O. Box 993
Ocracoke NC 27960, or call Pat Garber at (252)928-6765.