MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (AP) — An improvised group of animal lovers for years sheltered, captured and adopted stray cats that were dumped on the Tennessee Valley Authority reservation, but TVA officials recently requested that the animals be gone for good.
The trouble is, organizers say residents will keep supplying unwanted “Rock Pile cats” on the Rock Pile section of the reservation.
On a recent day, four cats hung around a rock crevice adorned with pillows and blankets.
Joann Johnson drove up, parked her car and popped the trunk, filled with bags and cans of food.
“I just got a late start feeding them,” she said.
Johnson has fed the cats since 1996. Carl Overton has fed the cats since 2000. Along with Elaine Bray, the trio keep the animals fed and work to get them medically checked, spayed or neutered and into homes.
“It’s not their fault that they’ve been abandoned,” Overton said.
“That’s where the real problem is — people dropping them off,” Johnson replied.
The trio work with Shoals Animal Hospital and Colbert Animal Clinic that help with spaying and neutering the cats and Pets Are Worth Saving pay for fixing the animals and help with the adoptions.
The trio pay for food and cover the costs of medical expenses out of their own pockets.
TVA recently clarified its policy across all its properties: Get rid of the cats.
“If progress hasn’t been made, we’ll start removing the animals ourselves,” said Scott Brooks, TVA spokesman. Brooks didn’t give an exact time line for the cat removal, and added the TVA police weren’t taking action at this point but that “hopefully we can have the problem solved by spring.”
Brooks said TVA is requesting people not put out food for the cats because of public safety concerns and health concerns about feline diseases.
The cat lovers said the animals are fed so they won’t feast on wildlife and are adopted before they can breed. Overton said the biggest population he’s seen is 16 cats. Plus, the “Rock Pile cats” have become an attraction for visitors who leave notes, food and donations for the drop-offs.
Johnson got the dry and soft food out of her trunk and went over to the four cats who cautiously approached the dishes. Owners await all four cats, but the future pets require being caught, medically checked and fixed before the felines go to homes.
“I commend those people for doing that, but the people just turning the cats loose are adding to the problem of overpopulation,” said Kenny Price, Colbert County Animal Control officer.
Not everyone loves the cats.
Three weeks ago, Overton found two cats had been smashed against the rocks and died.
Several minutes after being fed, the cats had had their fill and started licking their paws and wandering around.
“I’ll take my leave because I have two other cats to feed,” Johnson said.