June 2, 2011

Locals and visitors strut their stuff for feral cats


Despite the hot temperatures, about 67 locals and visitors turned out for the Second Annual Cat Walk 5K on Wednesday, June 1, at the Kinnakeet Shores pool area in Avon. 

Participants in the 5K could walk, run, or bike the course that wormed around the paved streets behind Food Lion. 

The price of admission was simple -- either a bag of cat food or a financial contribution to the Friends of Felines Cape Hatteras Island, which is the non-profit organization that hosted the event.

According to event organizer Claudia Laskow, “We are so pleased!  $577 was donated (along with) 210 pounds of dry food and 21 cans of wet! A lot of mouths will be fed!”

People of all ages and physical ability took part in the 5K challenge.  Coolers of cold bottled water were available to any person doing the race.

Two local women, Cheryl Barlow and Fran Hageman, dressed up for the race by pinning cat ears made from material into their hair.  Costumes were encouraged, but most folks were all business.

Six baby kittens also made it to the event in search of a loving home.  Kittens born of feral parents can make wonderful pets if they are handled when they are young.  All of these babies were pretty tame, and the children loved holding them.  At least one handsome orange fellow was adopted during the fundraiser. 

There is a large feral cat population on Hatteras Island, and Debbie Martin, the director of the Friends of Felines, made it her personal goal to help the area’s feral cats more than 20 years ago. 

A feral cat is usually a descendant of a domesticated cat that has been returned to the wild and is different from a stray cat that was once someone’s pet but got lost or abandoned.

“We are making a dent,” Debbie Martin said of the numbers of feral cats on the island.

Friends of Felines is a no-kill organization that traps, neuters and releases (TNR) feral cats back to the area.  The group has a good working relationship with area vets and with the North Carolina State University School of Veterinary Medicine.  TNR is a practice that is endorsed by the human society.

Martin explains that the group targets an area and concentrates on neutering as many cats as they can in that one area.  When a colony is established, these cats will not allow any new cats to join them.  Colonies, also know as clowders, generally range in size from three to 25 cats that live together in a specific location and share a common food source.

Cats that have been neutered and returned to their colony will have a notch in their ear. 

Over the years, the once Avon-based group has expanded its territory and now covers the entire area from Rodanthe to Hatteras village.  In 2006, the group applied for and received non-profit status which allows the organization to apply for grants and also allows donors to receive a tax benefit for charitable donations.

The concept of trap, neuter, and release came to the United States in the 1970s from England.  In Washington, D.C., there is a very large organization dedicated to helping feral cats called the Alley Cat Allies.

Friends of Felines sponsors two yard sales a year in Avon to raise money and even marches in the annual Christmas parade in Hatteras village to bring awareness of the cause.  You can also find them at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village on the second Saturday of the summer months.

But, the craziest way that they raise money is through the Meowy Masterpieces which are sold at the Avon Art Show in June, July, and August.  A colorful array of acrylic paints are squirted onto to heavy paper and covered with plastic.  A cat is then placed on the plastic, and the masterpiece takes shape as the animal walks around on the plastic. 

How purrfect is that?

You can get more information about Friends of Felines Cape Hatteras Island and contact the group on its Facebook page.


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