FLORIDA: With the monstrous Hurricane Irma still hammering away, much of Miami Beach heeded mandatory evacuation orders from officials and headed out. But some of the Beach’s smallest residents — the literally hundreds of feral cats who call the island home — have absolutely no way out.
So this week, an an animal lover by the name of Mary Garcia began scooping them up one by one and taking them home. She stocked up well on cat food and kennels, and cleared out two rooms in her house in inland Miami-Dade County. By Thursday, she had accepted in 40 cats. She jokes that her home has become an “animal hostel.”
“I can’t save them all,” stated Garcia, who works as a police officer. “But something is better than nothing.”
Miami Beach has actually long been home to several cat colonies, which date all the way back to the city’s early days. First mayor J.N. Lummus imported cats back in 1912, hoping they would take care of the swampy island’s thousands of rats. His idea surely worked — the rats were soon gone. The cats, however, kept multiplying. Today they roam the city’s alleyways and hide out in vegetation along its beaches.
Garcia has helped care for the city’s feline population for many years, feeding them, pitching in on trap-neuter-return efforts, and launching an animal advocacy group. She’s also accepted in several that have been injured.
When she saw how serious Irma was becoming, she immediately began to think of the cats, worrying they’d be in harm’s way.
“Where are they going to go?” Garcia asked herself.
She soon decided that she would house as many as she possibly could, grateful to have a husband who’s also a lifelong animal lover. She began on Tuesday, picking up the cats that would come to her and setting humane traps for those that wouldn’t. She’s collected kennels from other animal advocates and rescue organizations and stacked them along in her spare rooms.
Picking just which ones to bring was tough; Garcia says she started with the ones she herself has been feeding. While leaving Miami Beach on Wednesday evening — her last time before the storm — she literally cried about the ones she had to leave behind. All she can do it hopes they’ll still be there when she comes back.
As for the cats she has indeed taken in, she explained that she’ll be looking for homes for them once the hurricane passes and things settle down.
“They don’t know how lucky they are, these cats,” she concluded.