Pepper's Porch feral cats find new home on Daufuskie

rlurye@islandpacket.comApril 30, 2014 

Despite an initial outcry from volunteers, the relocation of a Bluffton feral cat colony has gone smoothly, according to the Hilton Head Humane Association.

More than half of the cats that made a home at the former site of Pepper's Porch have been trapped and relocated at an expanded cat sanctuary on Daufuskie Island. The rest will join them soon, Humane Association director Frannie Gerthoffer said.

There, they will have food, medical care and plenty of diversions -- the habitat features everything from shelters and scratching posts to a playground roundabout for cats and litter boxes that would dwarf a king-sized bed.

Three cats await transportation to the island at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter, and four more members of the May River Road clan still need to be trapped and removed from the business, which sat vacant for more than a year after Pepper's Porch closed.

Two Beaufort County residents, John Cherol and Lori Bogda, plan to reopen the restaurant as Jack's Old Town Bluffton by early June. They asked that the cats be relocated about a month ago, when they began to present safety and sanitation problems.

"It's been really kind of simple," said Cherol, who has made several trips to the Humane Association to drop off trapped cats. "Everyone's been very cooperative."

The Daufuskie Island Feral Cat Project is building the sanctuary at the home of founder Laura Winholt, with about $3,000 in donated supplies, Beaufort County spokesman Joy Nelson said. On May 7, Winholt and other project members will fence in the quarter-acre lot, creating a new wing for her 2-year-old habitat that houses 40 feral cats from the island.

"If need be, we will double the size of the habitat," Winholt said. "It's a tremendous amount of work and dedication, and we have amazing volunteers on and off Daufuskie."

Before the eight Pepper's Porch cats arrived on the island, the Humane Association retested them for AIDS and leukemia and re-inocluated them for rabies and distemper, Gerthoffer said. None required spaying or neutering, she said.

Initially, the relocation raised the hackles of some volunteers who fed the animals daily -- Cherol said piles of food were dumped on the property until Gerthoffer stepped in. However, once volunteers allowed the business owners, Humane Association and animal shelter to handle the relocation, the process was easy, Gerthoffer said.

"The planets lined up," she said. "For this particular situation, it was a win-win-win."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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