Pat Garber has asked me to publish the following article about the abundance of feral cats on Ocracoke Island.


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 couch.

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 beaches.

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 appreciated.

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.