NAPLES, Fla — There are plenty of residents who may feel Naples is a paradise. But one local group says the growing population seeking sunshine and palm trees is driving an increase in a second kind of population — the population of feral cats.
As Fox 4's Naples Community Correspondent Mahmoud Bennett reports, there was a Christmas food drive this week to help collect wet food for the more than 300 cats housed at Purradise Gardens. Many of these purring patrons at the rescue in East Naples were abandoned or feral — and they eat roughly 300 cans of wet food a day.
"We're seeing more stray cats. People surrender or dump cats because of the economy. Shelters are full, forcing people to leave them on the streets," said Megan Sorvara, the facility's director.
Collier County estimates 50,000 feral cats live around the area. Animal groups say these creatures can threaten local wildlife and spread diseases like feline AIDS and leukemia.
Despite the challenges with everything from responding to "cat calls," trapping felines, and rescuing others, volunteers say they find a lot of joy in the work.
"It's wonderful. Not for everyone, but we love it," says Deedee Ream, a local volunteer.
"Once you have cats, they become like your children," said another volunteer.
The group stresses responsible pet ownership. "Spay and neuter your pets; it's the only way to fix the overpopulation problem," says Sorvara.
GET INVOLVED: In case you didn't know, Purradise has 40 cats for adoption and partners with the PetSmart store on Tarpon Bay Boulevard each weekend.