You can call Susan Carmichael the Feral Cat Woman.
She has been rescuing the four-legged cuties for years. Carmichael, founder of Florida’s Forgotten Felines, a group that cares and feeds cats in Palm Beach County, has over 58 colonies and takes care of more than 700 cats.
Carmichael, 71, says she has about 10 cats at her Lantana home. It’s probably more. “I do foster cats as well, so the numbers change,” she says. “I have a fenced in backyard and they are very happy living inside and outside.”
At the moment, Carmichael has an issue with John Prince Park in suburban Lake Worth. For years, people often dump their cats — for whatever reason — in the park, hoping that people will take care of them.
Chris Korbelak, a spokesman with the county’s parks and recreation department, says recently more people appear to be dropping off cats in the park.
The park isn’t having that.
“When we find cats in county parks, we work with the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control and our authorized vendor to humanely trap them and take them to be adopted and find them a good home,” Korbelak says.
One cat recently trapped in the park, Korbelak says, had a chip that traced back to a homeowner who shared that they asked their grandchildren to take the cat to the ACC, but instead, they left the cat in John Prince Park.
“We’ve recently seen an increase in large quantities of cat food being dumped in some parks for cat consumption,” Korbelak says “This is not only against the ACC ordinance and county park ordinance, but it’s also harmful to our native wildlife and unsanitary for park users.”
Carmichael doesn’t trust trappers.
“I don’t want any animals to be killed,” she says. “I would love to tell them don’t get rid of the cats.”
The cats, Carmichael says, are usually very friendly. Some may be shy, fearful and confused. “But I want them to stay where there,” she says. “They’re no threat to the environment, they’re beneficial to controlling the rodent population.”
She agrees with Korbelak, saying more people are leaving their cats in the park. She’s not sure why, though.
“A lot of these cats are dumped by people who don’t want their cats anymore and people are feeding them, so the cats think they can survive,” she says.
Carmichael doesn’t believe cats are detrimental to the environment. “I tell people it’s people who are killing wildlife,’ she says. “They do harm rodents, mice and rats but birds are mainly killed by people with insecticides and pesticides.”