For whatever reason, we have many feral cats roaming our street daily. Doug and I, along with our neighbors, enjoy a cacophony of breeding and fighting cats with our nightly television shows. Despite the wretched noises we hear from outside we often wondered how terrible could it be? Hopefully they’re keeping the rodent and iguana population down. After all, in almost every ancient ruin we visited in Europe the feral cats were playing an important part in doing that according to our tour guides.
However, we discovered that feral cats actually do more harm to the natural ecosystem than good. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, feral cats will hunt and kill native species of birds and wildlife even if they are well fed. They estimate that a single cat can kill 100 or more mammals per year, and have tendencies to hunt just for sport and not always for food. With iguanas and boa constrictors wreaking havoc on our ecosystem, the last thing we need is an excessive amount of feral cat colonies adding to the problem. Though kittens and some cats are tame, most are feral and grown and there is no way they could acclimate to an indoor life easily. That doesn’t mean they should be euthanized either. That’s when we found Feral Friends on the Volunteer Corps section of Oakland Park’s website.
The Feral Friends program, headed by Linda McFarlane from the Oakland Park Fire Department, helps the community reduce the feline overpopulation through a TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) program as well as an adoption program for the tame kittens and cats. According to Oakland Park’s website, “TNR (trap, neuter, return) has proven to be the only effective method for stabilizing and reducing the number of cats in feral cat colonies over time, in some situations all the way down to zero. TNR is also the only humane method to accomplish this. The City is proud to partner with local animal shelters and hospitals and respect all life by embracing this approach.”
Feral Friends was very helpful for us personally and we appreciated all they did for us. Though there are many volunteers, we worked with Cheryl and she did everything to support us. She assisted with the traps, the clinic— the everything! I especially appreciated how attentive she was to the traps since I had concerns of the cats sitting in them for too long. We were able to successfully, and more importantly, humanely get the colony sterilized and released back to the land they are used to within a matter of days. There are a couple of the cats who still sip from the pool every now and then and it’s good to see them pass through our yard again, this time knowing they won’t keep making kittens till the end of time. We have Feral Friends to thank for that.
I wanted our community to know how great this group is, so I got in contact with Dulce, Volunteer of the Year, to find out more about this city program. Dulce has been volunteering in Oakland Park for around ten years and currently assists the Feral Friends program by fostering many cats.
Dulce says, “My part is easy. I have a porch and I have cages. All I do is keep them clean and give water and food. I give them medicine if necessary and all that. Now the other ladies who volunteer that perhaps need to be highlighted are those ladies that get up in the middle of the night to go trap cats. They trap them and have them fixed. They have hard work!”
Dulce named so many volunteers who, despite having day jobs and careers are trapping and taking care of the feral cat problem in our community, and there are many. She continued to explain to me some of this issues they also face trying to help the community with this problem: “They have people who don’t want them feeding the cats. People call them names and chase them away. They’ve had the police called on them. So they have hard work. You don’t know how hard these ladies work.”
I asked Dulce how many cats she has fostered and she proudly rattled off the names of the cats she currently holds on her porch for the program. Names like Cinnamon and Pie were just a couple that I can think of off the top of my head. Albeit temporary, Dulce and the many volunteers of the Feral Cat program have an affection for these cats and care for them till they’re gone. They’re doing their best to reduce the colonies by using the humane technique of TNR and ensuring they don’t spread disease through sicknesses. Eventually, the colonies will dwindle and we will have these ladies to thank. Be it a lady or gentleman, they could always use more help.
Check out the link below if you’d like to get involved, or if you have a feral cat issue in your neighborhood:
Donations are always welcome too!
Steven Mayer is a local Floridian who grew up in the South Corals area of Oakland Park most of his life. He attended Rickards Middle, Northeast High and earned his B.A. in English from FAU. He’s done some writing and editorial work for a south Florida lifestyle magazine and is proud to have been a partner with Starbucks for a total of 18 years.
After testing out a couple U.S. cities in his twenties, Steven realized that nothing beats home, and eventually settled back down in the Downtown Oakland Park area with his partner Douglas (another Oakland Park native), their three Pekinese dogs and two beautiful cats.
Steven enjoys anything Disney, vegan cooking, going for runs, attending local festivals, traveling, and game nights with friends and family.