Alley Cat Allies was back on the ground in Puerto Rico this week to take the next steps to protect community cats from being removed from their outdoor homes. Alongside providing a grant for Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), veterinary care, food, and other services for community cats, we attended a meeting with an advisory group for the local government and met with local advocates to strategize on how to save cats’ lives.

Bella, a community cat living on the famous Paseo del Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In late 2023, the United States National Park Service (NPS) announced a plan to relocate the cats of the Paseo del Morro, a famous tourist destination and park in Old San Juan, within a period of 6 months. If an animal organization is unable to relocate the cats in that timeframe—which is cruel, ineffective, and nearly impossible—the NPS will contact a “removal agency.” We don’t doubt this means the cats will be killed.

We are taking all possible action to stop this deadly scheme. Community cats have lived along the rocky seaside walkway of the Paseo del Morro for many years, and it is undeniably their home. Most have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped through a TNR program, and they are loved by tourists and residents alike. And throughout Old San Juan, cats make their homes outdoors alongside locals.

Walking through Old San Juan, our team quickly encountered people who care deeply for the city’s community cats. A resident happily introduced us to the colony of cats he cares for in a nearby alley, and visitors were delighted to see them—despite NPS’ claims of tourist complaints. In fact, as we arrived at the meeting with the local Advisory Group for Animal Protection and Safety (GAPSA), cats were lounging near the entrance. The guards in front of the building joked that “they’re our bodyguards,” and were clearly fond of them.

Alley Cat Allies preparing to meet with GAPSA in Puerto Rico.

Our goal is to bring the local government of Puerto Rico together with local advocates across Puerto Rico and beyond to stand against NPS’ plan and protect the right of the cats to live in peace in their outdoor homes.

To that end, we spoke with the members of GAPSA about the environment for cats in Puerto Rico and our commitment to defend the cats of the Paseo del Morro and support TNR in Old San Juan. Additionally, we provided a grant to Save A Gato, the local organization that has provided TNR and other care for the Paseo del Morro cats for decades. The grant will cover any needed TNR services, veterinary treatment, and food costs for the next month.

Mufasa, a 7-year-old community cat living on Paseo del Morro.

Step by step, we’ll build upon this critical work as we determine if local officials will join us in protecting the cats. We have more avenues to explore to prevent the cats from being removed, and we’ll keep our supporters updated on further action.

We’re sending a message to the NPS: Puerto Rico’s community cats belong on the Paseo del Morro and throughout Old San Juan, and we won’t let them be ripped away from the homes in which they thrive. Furthermore, TNR and other humane, nonlethal action is the answer that relocation, removal, and killing will never be.