‘I’m trying to protect my children’s health’: Neighbors dispute feral cat feeding station

Kristiana Scott
The mission of Feline Friends of Destin is to humanely control area feral cat populations and reduce the killing and abandonment of healthy companion animals through Trap-Neuter-Return & Maintain, adoptions, education & community assistance. For more information, visit www.felinefriendsofdestin.org or call 837-3869.

When Maygen Wilson rented a small home in Destin for her growing family, she got some unexpected houseguests.

“I started noticing feral cats coming into my yard,” Wilson said. “They were urinating and defecating and crying at night. I tried some at-home-remedies to get rid of them — sprinkling cayenne pepper and meow mix with vinegar throughout the yard — but they kept coming back.”

Wilson, pregnant with her third child and her husband getting ready to deploy, rented the house for the big backyard so her two young boys could play as she cared for the newborn. But as soon as the cats came around, she feared for her children’s health and no longer allowed them in the yard. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to get rid of them, she peaked over the fence into her neighbor’s yard and learned why.

“There must’ve been 30-plus cats in the yard,” Wilson said. “There were feeding stations and tons of toys — like what you’d see at a zoo. These cats are a threat to my young children. The only reason we even rented this house was to have a yard for them to play in. Now if I want my kids to play, we have to go to a park or a friend’s house.”

Wilson told The Log she approached her neighbor about the problem, called for help from Destin City Hall, Paws and Feline Friends of Destin — all of which, she claims, were dead-ends.

“I’m trying to protect my children’s health,” Wilson said. “There are laws to protect these cats, but no law to protect my children. I’m concerned about their health, but doesn’t seem like anyone else is.”

Public Information Manager Doug Rainer explained that there are different moving parts involved.

“We’ve directed Mrs. Wilson in the right direction," Rainer said. “Per Destin law, the local non-profit, Feline Friends of Destin, is responsible for controlling the feral cat population. And they’ve been working with Mrs. Wilson to resolve this problem.”

Linda Hodges, a volunteer with Feline Friends of Destin, said she’s spoken with both neighbors and even made a personal visit to observe the situation.

“I went to see the feeding station for myself to see what’s going on,” Hodges said. “And I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There were around 6-8 cats, all healthy and taken care of. It looked like any of the 50 feeding stations we have around Destin.”

Hodges explained that as part of the non-profit organization’s “trap, neuter, return and maintain” program, feeding stations are necessary to keep the feral cats healthy. The stations are kept as discreet as possible, she told The Log, to protect the cats and the homeowners.

And as far as them being a threat to Wilson’s children, she said, “Feral cats do not pose any threat. They are not aggressive whatsoever.”