one-year report on the resurrected Ocracats program
The Ocracats project was founded in the early
‘90s by a
small group of concerned Ocracoke volunteers who trapped feral cats for
transport to the local vet for spaying and neutering or emergency
By GAEL HAWKINS
Ocracats, which was granted non-profit status in 2002, also imported
vets from the Raleigh area who were interested in studying the feral
cat population on Ocracoke and assisted in feral cat neuter/spay
clinics that were free with all supplies and services
The trap-neuter-return (TNR) model adopted by Ocracats, Inc. is the
only method proven to be effective for controlling feral cat population
growth. If at least 70 percent of the fertile adults are neutered,
colony size is immediately stabilized. Within a few years, the Ocracoke
feral cat breeding population was greatly reduced and the colonies’
In recent years, however, the feral cat population has again
The local vet retired and moved away. Two of the most active volunteers
also moved, and cat traps have disappeared. The rest of the volunteers
were completely overwhelmed.
Sensing the growing tension on the island about the feral cats, five
local residents formed a new Ocracats, Inc. board of directors in April
of last year and aggressively pursued funding for TNR clinics, bulk cat
food, and medical supplies. They increased volunteer
participation, re-established the community donation jar program, and
sought partnerships with other Outer Banks feral cat organizations.
Discounted cat food rates were negotiated with local grocery
Last May, Ocracats hosted a TNR clinic sponsored by Lannon’s Animal
Hospital in Elizabeth City. Dr. Darlene Lannon and her
operated on 33 cats in space provided by the Ocracoke Fire
Department. Traps were borrowed from Hyde County and Friends
Felines-Hatteras. Hatteras Cat provided Harbor Chowder cat
to entice the cats to the traps. Meals and lodging for the vet and her
crew were donated by local businesses.
At the June Ocrafolk Festival, Ocracats shared a booth with the Girl
Scouts, who sponsored a very successful Adopt-A-Cat program.
Beautiful Ocracat calendars donated by North Carolina photographer
Teressa Williams and artist Doug Hoover were sold, as were tote bags
and shirts donated by Ocracoke T-Shirt Printers.
Also in June, Ocracats received a generous grant from the Outer Banks
Community Foundation that provided funds for the purchase of 20
Have-A-Heart traps and for a four-day TNR clinic scheduled by the North
Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine and Hyde County
Last July, 97 cats received surgery in the school’s 56-foot mobile
medical unit run by Dr. Kelli Ferris and her staff. Parking, staging
space, and utilities were donated by the Ocracoke Fire Department. The
North Carolina Ferry Division provided free ferry access round trip for
the huge rig, and meals were supplied by local businesses and
residents. The “Mary Francis” cottage was generously donated to the
team during prime summer rental season. Scores of volunteers braved the
heat to assist in the trapping and care of the cats.
During the summer, Ocracats volunteers also created a website,
www.Ocracats.org, and a Facebook page, and negotiated greatly reduced
spay and neuter fees with Outer Banks vets through the use of vouchers
guaranteed by Ocracats.
With help from the Community Foundation grant and through the donations
of visitors and residents, feral cats can now be taken to vets off
island between the large TNR clinics. Many local people and
cottage owners have begun trapping and transporting cats to the
mainland at their own expense.
The outpouring of support from the community has been fantastic. One
resident even hosted a “gold party” where the proceeds from the sale of
scrap gold were given to Ocracats. Another cottage owner
purchases bulk cat food and delivers it monthly to the island. A very
handy local “carpenter” has designed a weatherproof feeding station
made from scrap wood and has offered to produce them without charge.
Several have volunteered to serve as foster parents for adoptable
kittens or for cats that need to be relocated.
Ocracoke Island Realty (OIR) agreed to advertise available kittens to
its rental customers, which resulted in many successful placements. OIR
donated a portion of rental bookings to Ocracats during National Feral
Cat Month. Dr. Lannon and staff returned for another daylong
clinic in January at the Fire Hall. Thirty-four cats were treated and
released. Accommodations and most meals were again donated by
In May, on a date to be announced, Ferris will be bringing her team and
mobile unit back to Ocracoke for another NC State Veterinary School
event. It is anticipated that close to 100 more cats will be
neutered/spayed during this clinic. More than 300 cats will
been neutered as a result of the clinics and vet visits since Ocracats
was resurrected a year ago. In the works are more grant applications,
another Ocracat logo, new calendars, and more participation in clinics
by volunteer vets.
Ocracats thanks everyone who has helped make this such a successful
The group needs more volunteers and donations to pay for the May
clinic. If you can help, please send a check to Ocracats, PO Box 993,
Ocracoke, NC 27960 or drop a donation in one of the jars scattered
among the island shops.