Island’s feral cats getting shelter
Block Island’s feral cat population is getting shelter from the elements and potential predators. That’s because five students from the Block Island School built three shelters for the cats that will keep them dry and warm during the cold winter months. Those students are Ailyn Barillas (a senior), Gerson Mendez (junior), Jostin Blanco (junior), Mark Kraeger (senior), and Tarique Diaz (sophomore).
The shelter-building project is the brainchild of Susanna Lehman and her Block Island Feral Cats Initiative team, in partnership with the school, and Tech Ed teacher Rob Closter, who helped the students build the cat shelters. Lehman told The Block Island Times that Elizabeth Skrobisch of the PawsWatch Rhode Island Spay and Neuter Clinic, based in Warwick, supplied the Fiver Cat brand design plans for the shelters.
The Fiver Cat design plans note that the cat shelters must be “dry and well-insulated to stay warm, be above the ground, and above probable snow level,” be “stuffed with straw bedding,” include “two entry/exit points; a front and back entrance built into each cat house,” and have a “hinged roof” for access.
Lehman said the three cat shelters would be placed “around Block Island in hopes that they will prevent the feral cats from freezing to death during the winter months.” She also said it would allow for her team “to corral groups of feral cats in different locations to trap, neuter, spay and return more easily.”
The students told The Times that they enjoyed working on the project, and that it serves an important purpose to the community. Blanco said the project was “beneficial for both the students, and the community,” and it will help “protect the animals.” Barillas said it was “fun” to work on the shelters with her classmates, while Kraeger noted that it was important for the cats to be “safe.” Mendez and Diaz agreed with their classmates, while echoing the project’s benefit to the island community.
Lehman noted that the Block Island Feral Cats Initiative has trapped, neutered and spayed a total of 73 feral cats on Block Island. “Six of those were adult cats that were placed in forever homes,” she said. “And eleven kittens were adopted.”
The Block Island Feral Cats Initiative was formed in the fall of 2017, and the New Shoreham Town Council unanimously approved supporting its efforts at its Nov. 15 meeting.
Lehman said the group “is ecstatic and thankful for all of the community support it has received the past several months. From the offerings of free cat food from the Mutt Hutt, to Vicky Carson assisting in transporting cats on the boat, and donations of cat carriers and supplies, including monetary donations, etc. We couldn’t be doing what we have been doing, and will continue to do, without everyone’s support.”
The Block Island Feral Cats Initiative can be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/biferalcats.initiative.9. Its GoFundMe page is bit.ly/2is7P1q. Donations can also be mailed to: Block Island Feral Cats Initiative, PO Box 1324, Block Island, RI 02807.