Photo Essay: The Cats of Tarpon Springs



The sponge docks of Tarpon Springs are a popular tourist destination on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The area is filled with some of the finest Greek restaurants and mouth-watering bakeries. Window displays gush with Baklava, Saragli, Greek Butter Cookies, Melamakarona and many other tasty Grecian treasures. Tarpon Springs is world famous for its sponge industry which began when Greek immigrants arrived in the area in the late 1880’s and were hired as divers. The city has even been highlighted in the movies, most notably in the 1953 film, “Beyond the Twelve Mile Reef.” Just off Dodecanese Avenue, the main street in the historic sponge dock district, there is a house for sale. It’s doubtful if it ever will. The paint is peeling badly, the wood structure needs massive amounts of repairs as does the roof. Weathered for sale signs hang on the front porch and on the side of the house. If someone does buy it, they most likely will tear down the dilapidated building and start anew. Most business and private home owners in the area probably would like to see it disappear.


However, while this structure is an eye soar and in need of massive repairs or just plain destruction, there is a family living on the property. Ten homeless felines call it home. They live underneath the house and survive through the kindness of strangers, being fed and given water by some of the local residents and businesses like the folks at Potion of the Tropics. If not for the generosity of these kind hearted folks the lives of these poor cats, already at a low point, would even be worse.


I made two visits to this feline colony recently and by my second visit, a week or so after the first, I was informed by one of the business owners who help in feeding the cats that about half of the group were now gone. Whether they were hit by cars (there is a parking lot right next to the house), killed by enemies or impounded, I am not sure. The remaining crew is still there, but for how long is uncertain. If the house is demolished the cats will instinctively move somewhere close by where food supplies from restaurant garbage or from other resources is available.



Most likely these vulnerable creatures will not live more than a few years, at best. Living on the outside in a hostile environment can be dangerous for many reasons; accidents, poison (accidental or intentional), untreated illnesses or infections, predators (animal or human) and starvation all are contributing factors to their short dismal lives. If they are picked up by animal control it will most likely lead to being euthanized. Spay and neuter currently remains the best solution. Anyone taking care of a colony, small or large, should commit to having those cats spayed/neutered and vaccinated.  Money is always a problem, there is never enough.


Like many larger feline colonies the Cats of Tarpon Springs face a grim future made only a little more bearable by the kindness of caring people.




Written and photographed by John Greco


~ by John Greco on April 8, 2013.

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