Cat Appreciation Month: Appreciation for Ferals

To appreciate me is to appreciate my wild and untamed side.I bet you guys were looking forward to Friday posts about fun and pampering, and here I am hitting you with something heavy for my first Cat Appreciation Month post. But it couldn’t be helped. There is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed.

To fully appreciate us cats, you must also appreciate our feral brothers and sisters because they are who we are at our wild core: beautiful and untamed… and ultimately quite vulnerable and at the mercy of human beings.

To understand ferals is to truly understand cat nature. They are territorial, love routine and need a place where they can feel safe. Take away their territory, routine and safety, and they suffer and behave desperately. They will risk life and limb to return to what was familiar. Trust? A cat’s trust must be earned, except in the world of feral cats, usually no one can be trusted. Ferals who are lucky enough to have colony caregivers may occasionally learn to trust the person who feeds them, at least enough to come out at feeding time, but it does not go beyond that. A feral cat remains wild in her heart and spirit. Inside every one of us kitties is a molecule, and sometimes more, of that feral soul. So when I hear of something awful happening to feral cats, such as what is currently going on at the Loews Hotels in Orlando, I must step in and have my say.

For years, two hotels at Universal Studios Orlando, Loews Portofino Bay and Loews Royal Pacific, have had highly successful TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return) programs for the feral cats living on the properties. They were started by a bellhop by the name of George Ricci. After finding traps on the hotel property, one containing the bones of an animal that had starved to death, he figured there was a better way to deal with the feral cats living in the area. Starting in 2004 and using his own money, Ricci began to trap, neuter and vaccinate cats, and return them to the territory that was familiar to them. Other employees started to pitch in and help. The engineering department even built decorative feeding stations to match the architecture of the hotel. As always happens in successful feral colony management, the number of cats dropped over the years. At the Lowes Portofino Bay, what originally began as 40 cats was reduced to 8.

Then just a few weeks ago, David Bartek, the director of operations in charge of these two hotels ordered the programs — tolerated by hotel management but not a part of it — to be stopped and the cats killed.

Well, he did not actually say to kill the cats, but if you know anything about feral cat nature, he might as well have. If you take a feral cat to an animal control facility, it will be euthanized. That is a fact. Feral cats are not adoptable pets. They are afraid of humans and can’t be tamed, especially not in a place that smells of fear and death. Even housecats act wild in this type of environment. Relocating these small colonies isn’t a good option either because taking a colony away from its familiar territory will disorient the cats, who will endanger themselves looking for a way back. Meanwhile, the absence of a managed colony at the original location will create a vacuum that will invite new ferals looking for unclaimed territory — and these unneutered and unvaccinated cats will breed and grow in numbers and create a nuisance with their marking and fighting.

Unfortunately, nobody in the upper echelons of the Loews Hotels is willing to listen to the truth and common sense. They have gotten a lot of negative attention for demanding these cats be banished, and they should have expected that — after all, they claim to be a “pet friendly” hotel and even have the slogan “Loews loves pets.” Their behavior regarding the local feral colonies gives lie to that slogan and shows it up for the insincere marketing scheme it really is.

Because of the bad press Loews has received, they have stopped trying to trap the cats (the original plan was to haul them off to animal control), but they still want the cats relocated and refuse to listen to any points of view that differ from their own. My biggest fear is that they are waiting for a pause in all the media attention so that they can get rid of the cats when no one is looking out for them.

So I say that if you really want to know what you can do for Cat Appreciation Month, keep on top of this issue, spread the word and keep contacting Loews to voice your disagreement with what they are doing. Some links you can use are provided by Riverfront Cats, a Miami group that is keeping an eye on the situation.

If you want to know more about the issue and learn about feral cats in general, Florida author and passionate cat lady Deborah Barnes has a fantastic three-part series about ferals and about the Loews issue on her blog. Part One introduces you to the world of the Loews cats, and feral cats in general; Part Two looks at ferals through the eyes of Riverfront Cats’ Christine Michaels; and Part Three is an interview with George Ricci.

Please keep the plight of these cats in the public eye until they are safe! That is how you can appreciate us cats.

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Having problems with your human or the other cats in your house? As the internet’s “Dear Abby With Claws,” Sparkle had answers to many annoying problems in her two award-winning books! Visit her author’s page on Amazon to buy one or both of her awesome Dear Sparkle books!

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  1. The Kitties of Purring Pines says

    Excellent post! All kitties are God’s children. We’ll pass this on. Have a good weekend!

  2. says

    Oh thanks Sparkle for writing about this. Everything you said is so true. I have a post about one of my feral cats and even though she is tamer, she still gets really nervous if anything different happens. And I know for a fact that you cannot relocate feral kitties, even ones that were handled young. I made the huge mistake of giving two of my kittens away about two years ago and the male took off (human fault) never to be seen again. The female was found by a friend of mine and she still has her.But they like their safe places. Sorry to go on so long. This is one of my favorite subjects.

  3. says

    Sparkle – thank you so much for this very heartfelt and informative post. We know that the ferals hold a special spot in your heart and it is so important to keep spreading the word to increase public awareness about these special cats.

    We also thank you for recognizing our “Mainstreaming the Feral Cat” Series and our exclusive interview with George Ricci of Loews as being valuable resources to helping people learn about ferals. Happy Cat Appreciation Month!!

  4. says

    THANK YOU for writing this. It is sad that people just don’t understand – and don’t take the time to learn. We are certainly keeping on eye on this one. What bothers us is that they keep saying it is a “liability issue” – really???? These cats won’t go near strangers so where is the liability. Stupid excuse as far as we are concerned. Disney supports their ferals and so do at least a couple of casinos in Las Vegas – so it can and does work.

  5. Selina says

    VERY well-meowed, Sparkle! (And your picture is ESPECIALLY gorgeous today! You LOOK like you mean what you are saying!)

    Thanks for the info. My outdoor brofur, Oliver, is a feral and MomKatt knows what you mean about “earning trust”. She’s earned his trust – the first time he touched his nose to her outstretched finger, she sat on the porch and cried with joy, literally, while DadKatt looked on through the kitchen door! It’s a PROFOUND gift, a feral’s trust, or indeed ANY cat’s trust but, as you say, especially theirs – IF you even get it.

    Now Oliver likes being petting & she sits with him while he eats when it’s not too cold and when she has time. She says she doesn’t want to lose that connection with him. He loves getting lovins’ too! (But REFUSES to step inside anything enclosed … he’s the Porch Panther and that’s just the way he wants to be.)

    Selina & MomKatt

  6. says

    Those evil humans must be stopped, we have written, phoned and emailed and told the Loews corporate folks that we will never, ever stay had aone of their properties or attend any functions at onenof their places. Not only are those humans evil, they are stupid.

  7. says

    I rather like the idea of Callie of trapping and neutering Mr. Bartek. Just how would he feel if one day, completely out of nowhere, with no explanation whatsoever that he could understand, he woke up and found that his bed, his house, and everything ever familar to him was taken away. He would wake up in completely different surroundings without understanding why. Wouldn’t he panic, become disoriented, and try to find his way back to the only home he knew? That is what he is doing to the feral cats if he relocates them. Perhaps if he could just try to think like a cat for a moment and have empathy for what he is doing…

  8. says

    Great post Sparkle! We have to be the voice for our feral brothers and sisters and make sure horrible people in this world treat them with the respect and care they deserve! We’ll keep up on the Loews saga to make sure they know how we feel about them and their stupid plans!

  9. says

    I’ve been thinking a lot about feral cats lately. I just read a good article that says, even though many non cat lovers don’t know it, we need all cats. Tame cats and feral cats are the ones that keep our rodent pest problems under control. Without them we’d be overrun.

  10. says

    We didn’t know about Loews. We are going to see if our mum can email them to let them know what she thinks of them, She will make sure that if they do carry out their threat against the ferals, that they never stay at one of their hotels.

  11. Cat Lover says

    The cat hating owners of Loew’s — Jon and Lizzie Tisch are pictured on the Facebook site enjoying Indianapolis. Those of you going to the Super Bowl might observe their pictures and pigeonhole them during the game.

    I’d suggest calling too and leaving messages for the head guy, Jon Tisch.

  12. says


    Mom knew of a feral colony right outside one of the local grocery stores in a small business park. The kitties had been there for a very long time and then one day they were gone. It made Mom’s heart hurt so bad. She didn’t want to ask what happened. She was so sad, you see this was a groups of Manx ferals and it was so close to Mom’s heart. She wishes that they had left them alone…it is so unfair what humans do to cats sometimes.


  13. says

    Thanks for a great post Sparkle!! We hope the kitties survive.
    The management is not very nice and we hope the public will
    keep their attention on them !!!
    Purrs Tillie and Georgia ,
    Tiger, Treasure and JJ

    PeeEss: Mom is at her sister’s place and the internet is much better :)
    We can leave a comment here :)

  14. says

    many have worked hard to manage that feral population and bring it under control. if they remove the existing cats, others will move into that territory… others that are not spayed or neutered and they will be starting all over. sigh! we hiss at Loews! and they are supposed to have a pet friendly reputation…we guess it’s just pets and not animals in general…

    great post Sparkle. talking about ferals and the benefits of TNR and M for manage is important!

    Pip, Smidgen, minnie, Holie

  15. says

    Oh Sparkle, this makes me and the Human so sad. How can there be such Bad Humans? We will let Loews know how we feel about this. I wish I could send them some PeeMail if you know what I mean.

  16. says

    What a MOST Pawesome Post! We agrees wif you completely – thanks for calling it like it is – a death sentence for the (ONLY EIGHT!!) remaining kitties. Faraday wants to go pee on Bartek, he does.

  17. says

    Very important post Sparkle. It makes us so sad and we hope by some miracle the management will change their mind and the remaining kitties will be able to stay in their familiar home.

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