On a warm spring morning in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a red bicycle makes its way down the wood planks of the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk. A small attached trailer rumbles along behind it, loaded with cat food that will soon be distributed to the 83 community cats for whom the boardwalk is home.
Every day starting at 7 a.m., an Alley Cat Allies staff member or volunteer hops on this eye-catching bike and rides for two miles to reach each colony along and beneath the boardwalk. Not only is the bike an easy way to transport cat food, it draws the attention of boardwalk visitors, too. Locals know Alley Cat Allies well, but curious tourists often approach to ask questions about what we’re up to.
It’s a perfect opportunity to educate more people on the amazing success of Alley Cat Allies’ city-endorsed Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, the Boardwalk Cats Project®. We make sure the bicycle’s front basket is well-stocked with our educational materials for just this occasion.
Our Boardwalk Cats Project has cared for the community cats for nearly 20 years. Back in 2000, Alley Cat Allies connected with officials, businesses, and residents who wanted to save the cats. With the help of the Atlantic County Humane Society and local veterinarians all of the cats were spayed or neutered, vaccinated and eartipped. We returned each cat to his or her ‘avenue’ colony because they have close bonds with their companion cats.
As a result, the cat population has stabilized, and no new kittens are born on the boardwalk. The cats are provided with shelter, food, and any needed veterinary care by Alley Cat Allies staff and dedicated volunteers. Many of the cats are well into their teen years, living long and healthy lives in their outdoor home.
Because the Boardwalk Cats Project has been so effective and the cats have lived on the boardwalk for so long, they have become well-known members of the Atlantic City community. In fact, they’re even something of celebrities. Visitors from across the nation come to the popular destination year-round just to get a glimpse of them.
To locals and boardwalk business owners, the cats are as much a fixture of the boardwalk experience as the shops, rides, and beaches. They enjoy the cats’ presence and are happy knowing that Alley Cat Allies is always out and about to protect them.
Every aspect of caring for the boardwalk cats has become a community collaboration. Alongside engaging with boardwalk-goers from our bike, Alley Cat Allies staff invite community members to join our multiple annual cleanups to keep the cats’ shelters and feeding stations beneath the boardwalk in tiptop shape.
Our latest cleanup took place on May 21. Most of the participating volunteers were college students who are studying to become environmentalists. They were brand new to the Boardwalk Cats Project and eager to learn more about and help the boardwalk’s community cats.
Alley Cat Allies is always proud to bring new advocates into our global movement to protect and improve cats’ lives. It’s our mission to spread awareness about cats, their place in our communities, and the policies that help them to every corner of our nation and beyond.
Sometimes, all it takes to get that conversation started is to hop on a bike and be ready to talk.