Carol Wride settled into the booth at the new Panera in Destin, a cat tattoo peeking out from underneath her left shirt sleeve.
Two more cat-themed tattoos were stamped prominently on the inside of her right wrist.
Wride is the president of Feline Friends of Destin, a local cat rescue and adoption non-profit that works to help the feral population of cats in Destin while rescuing kittens, finding foster homes, and then adopting them to loving families.
"We got a call recently of a group of kittens found underneath a porch down in Mack Bayou," Wride said. "The Cat Clinic called to see if I could take them in. I try to stick to Destin when it comes to rescuing, but when I see them it’s hard to say no."
The kittens rescued from under the porch were bottle-fed by Wride and socialized by her own six cats.
"Three of them were what we call foster fails," Wride said. "I just got attached."
Feline Friends of Destin doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar shelter. Instead, Wride worked a deal with the Cat Clinic off Commons Drive to use their lobby for adoptions on Saturdays and Sundays. All of the kittens either live with her, or live with foster families.
Because Feline Friends is a foster-based rescue, all of the kittens are very social and friendly, and most are used to being around other pets.
"I have 15 foster homes and about 25 volunteers who help me in different ways. I try not to go over 50 kittens. I do have to say 'no' sometimes," Wride said.
She meticulously keeps track of the Feline Friends kittens, their vaccine schedules, and their spay, neuter, and microchip appointments. After they are spayed and neutered, the kittens are available for adoption for $85.
"We work hard to pair kittens with the right homes. We know which kittens are good with kids and the ones that aren’t. We’re pretty strict about it," said Wride.
Feline Friends receives funds from the city of Destin every three months to spay and neuter Destin’s outside cats in accordance with the ordinance to protect the feral cats.
These neighborhood cats live in several popular spots around Destin, including The Back Porch, Louisiana Lagniappe, and Harry T’s. All of them are spayed, neutered, and microchipped, and they receive three-year rabies vaccines.
"We supply dry food and have feed stations around Destin. We don’t say where those are located publicly because in the past, people have tried to hurt the cats," Wride said.
Wride said she receives calls about kittens that need rescuing daily, and wishes she could help all of them, but her focus is on finding homes for the kittens she already has.
"I don’t let myself get too attached because I know I need to keep helping these kittens, and we have to adopt out in order to keep taking in."