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Helping homeless cats

August 29, 2007 By Suzy in Miami: Local News  | 11 Comments

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A quick drive through any area in Miami and you are sure to see the homeless - homeless cats that is.  Sadly, Miami-Dade county has a rather large stray cat population, even in the ritzier suburbs.  At a count over 300,000, the stray population continues to grow with little relief.

Stray, or feral cats are generally classified as pests due to their habits of occupying public areas in large numbers, fighting and spraying - a smell that no one is fond of. 

For these reasons, these homeless animals are considered nuisances.  Why is the population so high? One reason could be because of all the lush vegetation that provides such a cool playground.  Unfortunately, the truth is that’s probably because of irresponsibility and/or remorse on the part of former owners.  Many people become apathetic to the homeless cat plight and either turn a blind eye or worse and turn to harming the cats. 
There are those that take sympathy on the cats though.  There are organizations that aim in controlling and reducing feral cat colonies.  And then, then are those that really try to make a difference. 

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On any given day you can find my neighbor, Perla Martinez, being followed by a cat, or rather cats.  She feeds them. She talks to them. She even spends money from her own pocket to spay and neuter them.  What makes her actions special, is that none of these frisky felines belong to her.  Perla is a petite, hispanic woman in her late 60’s who, along with her husband Juan, have managed to bring hope, not to mention love, to numerous homeless cats in Miami. 

It began with a small feral colony abandoned by the staff of a former hospital.  Mrs Martinez began feeding the six strays with the hope that she could eventually find them the homes they deserved.  Many applauded her efforts.  Some even helped by adopting.  Yet, the colony continued to grow and suddenly there were close to twenty cats.  “What am I supposed to do?” she would ask, “let them die?  It’s not their fault and they deserve love, food and shelter just as much as a person does-maybe even more as they can’t really help themselves.”

So off went Perla and Juan on their mission.  At first, they only spayed the females.  It was rather costly but thankfully, they met a local veterinarian who forwarded them to the Cat Network.  What a Godsend that was! 

A social network for cat lovers

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The Cat Network is a non-profit organization founded in 1995 by local animal lovers in an attempt to help over 300,000 free roaming cats in South Florida. It consists of members who volunteer their time, energy and finances while addressing the many issues associated with cat overpopulation.  Whether it is through adoption services, low-cost spay/neuter vouchers, low-cost health care or humane trapping, the Cat Network is making strides.  Through a growing network of cat lovers, veterinarians, local pet stores and even local news outlets, the abandoned and homeless cat population is receiving much needed attention. 

For a low (very low actually) annual fee of $20, one can become a member.  As a member, you receive access to the Cat Network’s low-cost spay/neuter and health services offered through local veterinarians.  In 2004, the Cat Network was able to purchase a custom mobile adoption and sterilization vehicle called the Miami Meow Mobile so clinic services could be provided to local neighborhoods.  There are also services to educate the public regarding humane public policy and the advocation of non-lethal population control.  Make no mistake though, members don’t just find cats and drop them off at a shelter.  These members actually provide loving foster homes for these cats and kittens until they are adopted; and, it’s not as easy as saying “sure, I’ll take a cat.” 

Since the Cat Network aims at reducing the overpopulation, the cats taken in by members are required to be in general good health, free of fleas, worms, mange and earmites.  They are to be tested for feline Leukemia and the feline Immunodeficiency virus - yes, Feline AIDS.  The cats must also be current with their vaccinations and, if older than four months, be sterilized.  Only after those guidelines are met can the cats enter the adoption process.  The process can include listing on the Cat Network’s website, http://www.thecatnetwork.org/, classified postings in the Miami Herald, Sun Sentinal and New Times and even cat shows when available.  Please note there is a $55 adoption fee and a $100 adoption fee for purebreds (with or without papers).

Local shops also assist the cause by displaying pictures of adoptable cats as well as housing them in their stores.  Cat Network permanent adoption centers are at these pet stores.

All in all, the Cat Network is succeeding with their efforts at providing second chances for these homeless cats.  TCN’s grassroots efforts have resulted in the spaying/neutering of over 25,000 of SOFLA’s strays along with the successful adoption of over 4,300 strays since their inception. 

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To learn more about helping homless cats, listen to Cindy Hewitt, Executive Director of The Cat Network discuss everything from the dangers of declawing to setting up a pet trust in your will (Audio Links: Part 1, Part 2).

These humane actions were all made possible by concerned neighbors wishing to make a difference and willing to become members.  With members like Perla and Juan, how can the Cat Network fail?  After all, neighbors who find strays always bring them to Perla and Juan stating “I know you will find him/her a good home.”

Other low cost spay and neuter facilities for pet cats and strays in Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade Police Department Animal Services Unit:
FREE for Miami-Dade Residents. Services to the public will include: Rabies shots; Sale of Dog licenses; Sterilization services. Two locations:

North Dade
7401 NW 74 St.
Phone: (305)884-7729
They operate the MAC unit as well as a clinic

South Dade
10700 SW 211 Street (rear of building)
Phone: 305) 232-1771
Located at South Dade Government Center Complex. The hours of operation will be from 7a.m.-5p.m. Tuesday - Saturday.

NOTE: If you are a recipient of Medicaid you qualify for FREE Spay/neuter, and a Rabies vaccine for price of $1.00. YOU MUST BRING Medicaid card and current photo ID. (Medicare and Medicaid are based on age alone,  but fee reduction will also be based on income level or financial need.)

Those on Public Assistance (SSI, Disability and Food Stamps Recipients), based on income levels, are eligible to purchase tags and shots for one dollar. The Spay and Neuter surgery is always free.

Dade County Veterinary Foundation also provides up to 2 free Spay/Neuter per household for Medicaid recipients. YOU MUST BRING Medicaid card and current photo ID. Participating Clinics include:

Dream Lake Animal Clinic
14525 Southwest 42nd St.
Phone: (305) 225-3116

Trail Animal Clinic
6464 SW 8th St., West Miami, FL 33144
Phone: (305) 261-0793

Westwood Animal Clinic
3960 SW 109th Ave., Miami, FL 33165
Phone: (305) 553-0033

More place to spay/neuter your pet

Animal Welfare Society
8601 Sunset Dr.
Phone: (305) 630-3940

Planned Pethood
13749 NW 7 Ave. (just west of I-95 and NW 135 St. exit).
Phone: (305) 687-7729

Humane Society
2101 NW 95 St.
Phone: (305) 696-0800

South Center
16601 SW 117 Ave.
Phone: (305) 252-3389

A.S.I.S. Clinic
2526 SW 27 Ave.
Phone: (305) 461-2600
Open Monday, Wednesday, Saturday.

Michael Animal Hospital
5629 SW 107 Ave.
Phone: 305-274-9800

Related Categories: Miami: Local News,

Suzy Newhouse is a homegrown herald at Miami Beach 411.  This cat loving, orange and blue wearing, SoFla native credits her strong Cuban family roots as the strength helping her raise her son.

See more articles by Suzy.

See more articles by Suzy

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11 Comments on

"Helping homeless cats"

Michelle says:

Thank you for the informative article, Suzy! I wish I had known about the cat network before I had to spay/neuter 6 neighborhood cats. When we brought them to the Humane Society, we told them they weren’t our cats but they wouldn’t listen. They asked, “Do you feed them?” I said, “yes”. They said, “Then they’re your cats”. That wasn’t very helpful.

Anyway, I love my 6 cats and am happy that I can take care of them.

On the other hand, it is nice to know there is an organization out there for people who love cats!

Posted on 08/29/2007 at 5:47 PM

Doug says:

Great article, Suzy! This is a subject that is very important to me.  I know in some cities, the SPCA has a spay and release program—instead of just capturing and (eventually) euthanizing the cats, which actually causes more cats to take over their former territory, these programs catch the cats in special traps, spay them, and then return them to their former environments.  To me, that is a much better approach.

After seeing a few episodes of Miami Animal Police on Animal Planet, I can see that stray animals are a really big problem here, and I’m glad that you’re helping to bring attention to the issue! Thanks.

Posted on 08/29/2007 at 7:46 PM

speakerfreaker says:

What a great article - It’s good to know that there are those who care for our ‘cat community’

Posted on 08/29/2007 at 11:28 PM

Margie says:

I am another cat lover and am distraught over this homeless cat situation. Most people have no idea how serious this problem is and how sad it is for these innocent cats. People really need to be educated. I recently came across a situation where there are appx. 15 cats/kittens that will be crushed to death in a matter of weeks by bulldozers if they don’t get taken out of there.  What once was a trailer park is no longer and it happens to be surrounded by water on 3 sides and State Road 441 on the other side…so no where for them to run to.  So the TNR will not work in this situation and I have contacted every organization in Broward County and everyone has their hands full. No one will help find a place to relocate them or try to get them adopted.  They will only help spay/neuter…but then what? Where will they go? Please, these cats need help.

Posted on 11/20/2007 at 11:53 AM

... says:

Hi Margie. I’m very sorry to hear what’s facing these cats and sorry to hear that you have to watch helplessly as they go through it.  It’s very clear that you have been bothered by this.  Have you tried writing to Channel 10’s Shame on You or (my favorite) Channel 7’s Help Me Howard?  They recently ran a story about some abandoned kittens at a toll and within a few days all the kittens were rescued.  I would definitely advise you to call some TV stations to see if you can shed some light on this so people are aware.

Posted on 11/21/2007 at 4:37 PM

speakerfreaker says:

I’m starting an organization for homeless cats - “Cubans 4 Cuban Cats”

Posted on 11/24/2007 at 3:29 PM

Camille Osborne says:

Hi my name is Camille,and I love cats.I wish I had some money,so I could buy a large piece of land,build a safe haven for those homeless cats.I believe in spaying and neutering to prevent the population of unwanted cats and to prevent them from suffering.I had 6 cats but I am missing 4,I have searched every where but to no avail.I think my husband is taking them away,maybe he enjoys seeing me unhappy,crying for my pets.Well for whatever reason,I pray to GOD everyday to protect them,and I will continue to look for them.I love every one of my babies.Hope to see them soon.  Camille

Posted on 01/20/2008 at 5:45 AM

Elena says:

Hi, I just found a large colony of cats between 63 and 65 st. on Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.  I would like to know if anyone would be interested in donating just one hour per week to feed the cats.  My goal is to have as many cats as possible spayed and neutored.  I started last week with one, but I need help.  Please let me know if you would be interested in volunteering.

Posted on 10/19/2008 at 7:00 PM

gjp says:

we have a cat problem because you idiots keep coming in our neighborhoods and feed the cats…... like the humane society said… if you feed them then there your cats so clean the cat shit too… our neighborhoods shell like huge litter boxes…they come in our garages and sleep on our cars, scratch the paint on them and piss all over…. get a life you people…

Posted on 08/14/2010 at 11:54 AM

JRey says:

@ gjp: You are heartless, callous human being who does not care about anything but material and yourself. You are no one to tell any of us to stop feeding any animals, and I do not give a F*ck about your car because your boyfriend or girlfriend is far more capable of destroying your property for being a the greedy, inhumane piece of garbage that you are. So, do yourself a favor and save your complaints for someone who gives a shit!

Posted on 07/02/2011 at 5:00 PM

Teresa Thomas says:

I have been feeding the same cats that you are talking about. Is it the white abandoned bldg on the corner? I can meet up with you and we can make a plan. Some of them are getting sick and that makes me sad.

Posted on 11/09/2011 at 9:02 PM

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