Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Sanibel’s Feral Cat Population Growing, SCCF Steps in to Help

March 18, 2024
sccf rescuing cats

A population of stray cats has been forming on Sanibel, and SCCF is contributing to efforts to keep the animals off the streets, where they pose a threat to native wildlife, and to place them into loving homes.

Many residents reported lost cats following Hurricane Ian in September 2022, and — despite the best efforts of SCCF staff and partners to rescue lost pets and reunite them with their owners — some cats were not located.

“Ian-related strandings could be one cause behind the recent uptick in feral cats on the island,” said SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht. “SCCF has been working with a team of dedicated volunteers to humanely trap these cats and find them foster homes until permanent homes can be found.”

“SCCF cares about the well-being of these cats and is working to find them all loving homes,” she said.

Some of our staff are personally fostering the cats.

feral cat on sanibel

If you have observed cats on Sanibel or Captiva that appear to be stray or feral, please let us know by emailing

Outdoor cats can spell big trouble for native wildlife, especially birds. The American Bird Conservancy lists predation by outdoor cats as the number one human-caused threat to birds, with cats killing approximately 2.4 billion birds each year in the U.S. alone. They can also prey on mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and even sea turtle eggs.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that a single free-ranging cat kills about 100 animals per year.

“Even a well-fed cat will hunt and kill if left outdoor — it is instinctive predatory behavior. This is why trap-neuter-release programs are not always effective,” Albrecht said. “They may prevent overpopulation but they do not safeguard native wildlife.”

Feral cats can also spread disease across species, including to humans and other mammals.

Sanibel has had feral cat issues in the past, but not since the early 2000s, which was prior to the arrival of coyotes on the island. Nonprofits such as PAWS, a 501(c)(3), have helped locate and trap any stray cats on Sanibel for many years, but they are not currently operating on the island.

image of old newspaper article describing feral cats on sanibel. from 2003
An article in The Islander from June 2003
image of old newspaper article describing feral cats on sanibel. from 1979
Island Reporter article from 1979


Archives by Month