Paws for a Moment by Bonny Corbeil

Bush Cat Feeding Stations

The next series of columns will be discussing our St. John “Cat Feeding Stations” — a big part of what our ACC maintains with your donations. In fact, last year’s calculations show that 12,180 pounds of dry cat food fed homeless cats on our island.

The past 20 years have seen many changes in the kinds of housing that have sprung up on our hillsides. The same can be said about “the cat houses” of St. John!

How did they begin? What problems needed to be addressed? Where are these feeding stations? Who is responsible for the daily feeding of these homeless cats? What are these responsibilities?

A Little History
The seeds of compassion were sown by caring human beings from all backgrounds who saw starving, diseased, homeless cats — sometimes as many as 40-50, scrambling in fear at every dumpster, waiting to feed off of the bags of garbage, doing whatever they could to survive. For many newly transplanted continentals (that’s what we were called years ago) as well as visiting tourists, this was a greatly disturbing sight as many of us had come to experience the immense joy of cats as pets.

Three major volunteers were seen dedicated to the task of feeding hungry, homeless cats: Engil Enui, Anne Marie Porter and Maia Mongie. This “role-modeling” stirred much interested in others to help out, either by manning cat stations or donating money for food costs.

Spaying and neutering substantially decreased our cat population.

It became clear in time, that bush cats needed to be fed and stationed in a more appropriate area- and out of the way of Public Works! “Bush Cat Feeding” stations were naturally created when food was slowly moved away from dumpsters and busy roads.

Problems and Practicalities
Sadly, cats weren’t the only animals looking for handouts. Before long, every possible animal showed up to our “cats only” lunches… mongoose, goats, chickens and pigs of all sizes and temperaments. Volunteers had to “supervise” food and water dishes, too often time-consuming, to ensure that other animals were not eating what had been designated for homeless island cats. At the same time, it was necessary to continually check your back for aggressive, attacking, hungry pigs! (One distinct scary memory — the largest pig I have ever seen attack my purple Meow-Mix bag exactly as I had seen a bull attack a Matador’s cape in a ring in Spain. I began to carry a big stick to protect both myself and my cat food.)

Most bush cats became more familiarized by human contact. There were less and less “feral and wild” cats seen. Bush or homeless cats ended to shyly hide in the distance, waiting most gratefully for hand-outs, preferably eaten when people had vacated. The problem then became “Are other animals getting the food we have designated for cats?” We were unsure about what animals were eating our cat kibble. Weather conditions became another problem — too many valuable funds for food were being destroyed by rainy, wet conditions.

The First Cat Feeding Stations
At this point Henry Fredrickson volunteered his carpenter skills to create our first “cat feeding station” with the intent of keeping our cat kibble dry. A first design was made. It was a simple three-sided green box with three- to four-foot stands; a front opening and a slanted roof. It worked — there were fewer problems with wet food. Henry built us a good number of these-until we recognized the need to “upgrade” to a design that would somehow address all of the other “critter” issues affecting this program: mainly other animals!

That would take creative problem solving along with tried and true approaches from a real cat lover: Pirate Bill! More to come…

ACC Take Note
Our ACC Board is presently planning “Christmas for the Animals”…a very important fund-raiser. Please, look for future information to attend so that you can “Help Us Care.”

My apologies to Canines, Cats and Critters for not knowing they have “Dog Restraints” in stock. Check them out.
We are lucky to have both a vet and a supply store to help us take care of our animals. I feel so much better knowing that Princess is safely harnessed in while I am driving — for her good and others driving our roads.

There are still too many dogs unleashed. Please, be respectful to others by taking responsibility for your dog — especially at local restaurants! Did you know that you are putting the owner at risk for a fine from the Dept. of Health? Please be considerate of others.