Friends of Felines of Cape Hatteras Island, a non-profit group whose mission is to improve the lives of the feral and stray cats by providing a low-cost spay/neuter program to humanely control the island’s population, was the topic of the Radio Hatteras Interview show, “To the Point,” on Sunday, Feb. 21.
The show is hosted by Island Free Press editor Irene Nolan, and the guest for the discussion was Debbie Martin of Avon, the long-time president and program manager of Friends of Felines.
Martin said she and her husband, Mike, realized that the island’s cat population was a problem shortly after they moved here in 1988 and noticed several cats hanging around their new home.
“We’re cat people,” she said, so they decided to take some action. The couple began spaying and neutering stray cats at their own expense.
Martin became an admirer of Alley Cat Allies, a British non-profit that supports a program to trap, neuter, and release (TNR) to control the feral cat population. In 1990, the group brought TNR to Washington, D.C., and today Martin calls the folks in Alley Cat Allies her “mentors.”
The effort to control Hatteras Island’s feral cat population moved slowly with just a few committed folks until 2006 when Martin got a group together that eventually became Friends of Felines of Cape Hatteras Island, which got its non-profit status in 2009.
In the past 10 years, she said, Friends of Felines has trapped and spayed or neutered 2,000 feral cats on Hatteras Island.
She estimates the feral cat population on the island is still at about 1,000 to 1,500 cats — free-roaming, community cats that live outside. And she estimates that about 75 percent of them have already been spayed and/or neutered.
Friends of Felines, she says, is finding it more difficult to locate free-roaming cats that have not been fixed. She also said that a feral cat colony in Avon that she has cared for has diminished over the years from 10 or 12 cats, down to two.
Some of the feral cats live in colonies, she said, with caretakers. Others, Martin notes are just cats that homeowners feed because they hang around their houses.
Friends of Felines of Cape Hatteras Island, Martin says, remains committed to helping islanders who are not able to trap and pay for spaying and neutering cats. The group will trap cats and either take them to be fixed or give the owner a voucher.
It also sponsors three clinics each year to round up and spay and neuter cats.
And the group remains committed to educating islanders and visitors about the proper care of the island’s cat population. For instance, Martin said, that visitors love to feed the cats during the short stay on Hatteras, but doing so is not good for the cats.
Friends of Felines pays for its work through donations, fundraisers, and some small grants.
One its biggest fundraisers is a yard sale on Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, which is May 27 and 28 this year. Look for details on the group’s Facebook page.
Martin also noted in the interview that Friends of Felines is “thrilled” that Dare County has recently adopted a feral cat ordinance.
“We like the ordinance,” she said. “In the past, we never had anything written down.”
Now, with the ordinance spelling out how the cats should be dealt with by caretakers, Martin hopes that problems with the animals can be addressed without bad feelings between neighbors and without the Dare County Sheriff’s Office having to be involved.
“I feel we can work together for the good of the cats,” she says.
Friends of Felines needs donations and volunteers. More information is available on the group’s Facebook page or at its website, www.FOFHI.org.
The group is also available to help Hatteras residents with the cost of spaying or neutering cats. Contact the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the work of Friends of Felines of Cape Hatteras Island and feral cats on Hatteras, listen to the interview. Scroll down and click on the appropriate “To the Point” logo to listen to the audio of the interview.
“To the Point” airs on the island’s community radio station, FM 101.5 , at 5 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of each month. It is repeated on the second and fourth Sunday. Those who don’t live on Hatteras can listen to the show on Sundays through live streaming at
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