Happy 52: The Cats of San Juan

Puerto Rico has as many stray dogs and cats as New York has pigeons. The locals are strong believers in not emasculating other animals by castrating them and until recently seemed mainly unbothered by the abundance of homeless critters in their towns. There's one place in particular in San Juan that was most overrun with feral cats. It gained such a reputation for them that people would actually abandon their pets there and others would specifically walk in that park to see all the kitties. My family has always referred to it as the "Cat Walk" a mile stretch of sidewalk with the ocean on one side and the towering walls of the old Spanish fort on the other. I guess the craggy rocks were perfect for shelter and catching small animals. It was always neat to walk along it, but slight sad too. Life in the wild, even in a tropical climate like Puerto Rico, can be harsh and many of the cats were disease ridden and even starving.

Happily a recent movement has started to help the cats. A group of concerned citizens has started feeding them, so that no feline is left hungry and they also have begun a trap, neuter and release program. Since then the population has plummeted to more sustainable numbers and while disease still happens, the inhabitants have at least been inoculated against the most deadly varieties.

These days the Cat Walk is a lot more fun to take and the cats seem a lot happier. Last time I was there, one kitty even asked me to bring him home! I couldn't, but I'm sure the black beauty found someone else to take her to a cushy indoor life, not that that spending all day by the sea in Puerto Rico is so bad...

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Author: Marjorie Skiba

Photographer: Marjorie Skiba