As we wrap up another year, the Ocracats organization reflects on the challenges, successes, joys and sorrows that have presented themselves for our attention this year. Ocracats volunteers get called on for a variety of “cat issues” even though we are not animal control or a county animal rescue department, and we respond as best we can when it is appropriate. We appreciate the help and consideration of the village and the understanding that the Ocracoke cat colonies are not our cats—they are the island’s cats, and we are volunteers trying to keep the population healthy, safe, and generally under control.
In the wake of the destruction caused by the Hurricane Dorian flooding, 2020 brought a bounty of utmost generosity, concern, and good wishes for the Ocracats and Ocrakittens. People from across the world were introduced to our iconic “community cat” population through our Facebook posts, website announcements, and island visitors. Donations of money, food, and supplies enabled us to continue to serve the community cats and kittens. We are especially grateful to the Eagle Scouts from Cary, N.C., who brought us five two-story shelters they constructed.
Spring brought another flood to Ocracoke, though this time it was kittens. And more kittens. And even more kittens! Because the September 2019 flooding and spring 2020 coronavirus shutdown of the island forced the cancellation of our spay/neuter clinics, we had a baby boom this year. Fortunately, adoptive families from as far away as Texas stepped up to take home Ocrakittens. Between May and December, we adopted out an incredible 91 kittens, by far the most ever. We couldn’t take in kittens and care for them without our on- and off-island foster homes. Close to home, we are grateful to Melinda and Samantha Sutton, Anna Rucker, and Dr. Laura Trent and her daughter, Jesi Franklin, for their kitten care, while further afield, Bridget and Delia O’Neal in Buxton and Ellen Goldlust and Joshua Gingrich in Durham stepped in. Thanks to everyone who helped make this kitten adoption season so successful!
Summertime brought unexpected sorrow with the loss of our lighthouse cat, Thurston, beloved by thousands and often the reason for visitors' repeated trips to the lighthouse boardwalk. Thurston lived almost twenty years as our unofficial Ocracoke ambassador. Ocracats is working on arrangements for a memorial to him (likely a bench). We are grateful to the family of James Hook, who designed a sticker honoring Thurston and donated almost 500 of them for our fundraising efforts.
Because of the pandemic, Ocracats chose to focus on online rather than storefront merchandise sales this year. We quickly sold out of T-shirts, but our 2021 Ocracats Rescue Cat Calendar and Thurston Memorial stickers are still available through our website (ocracats.org/calendar-sticker-order-form/). We are grateful to all of the families from across the United States who sent in pictures of their rescue cats for our calendar. We honor the organizations that care for these animals and encourage support for them as well.
During the last week of September, we FINALLY conducted a spay/neuter clinic! Dr. Howard Johnson of Boone, N.C., fixed 36 island cats and provided them with rabies vaccinations, flea treatment, and deworming. Combined with the kittens who were adopted out, this means 127 cats that will not be reproducing on the island in the future! Population control is critical to ensuring that the Ocracats stay healthy and well fed, and we are planning to hold another clinic in 2021. Monetary donations are key to allowing us to do these clinics, and we are grateful for the support of so many.
It is winter now, and the island is much quieter. But with your support, we continue to provide warm shelters, nutritious food, and loving care for our island’s felines. They (and we) wish all of you a peaceful and healthy 2021.