Edith Schulte, founder of CATS (Caring for the Strays), stopped by the Winn-Dixie grocery store Wednesday to check on the cats.
"Someone had put a sign behind their beds that says 'Cats Rule'," she said. "I'd say that is very apropos. I couldn't be happier about Winn-Dixie's decision to allow the cats to stay. They mean so much to so many people on the island. At Walmart, they have people greeters. Here at the Winn-Dixie, we have cat greeters!"
Schulte noted that the cat population at Winn-Dixie is now down to just the three cats who live at the front of the store.
An island cat.
"At one time, there were many feral cats behind the store and in the adjacent woods," she said. "They are now gone as there have been bobcats and coyotes back there."
But Schulte went on to say there are still many feral cats all over the island. In the past few years, she has been able to trap and have neutered or spayed hundreds of cats who are then released back into the wild.
"People have been very generous with donations after all the publicity about the Winn-Dixie cats. I am very thankful for that. But it takes generous donations all the time for us to accomplish our mission of caring for the stray cats here on Pine Island," Schulte said.
Donation boxes for CATS can be found at Doc Watson's and Pine Island Family Hair Salon at the Winn-Dixie Plaza, and at the Pine Island Water Association, Raymary Grill and Pine Island Feed and Garden Center.
Schulte also wants people to be aware that the food brought to the Winn-Dixie for the cats is appreciated but requests that it be put in bowls, not on the ground as it attracts ants.
At this time, Schulte points out, there is only one shelter on the island for cats, Helping Paws Animal Sanctuary on Mallory East in the industrial park.
"I hope people will support Marnie and the shelter. She is doing such great work but needs to expand as she has to turn cats away due to lack of space," she said. "She could really use a piece of land on which to build a shelter which would have an outside area for the cats. If someone has land they aren't using, donating it to Helping Paws would result in a tax deduction and a great gift to a deserving organization."