NIAGARA FALLS, NY - Earlier this week a viewer sent us a photo of two cats on a rock on Goat Island in Niagara Falls - just a couple of the many cats that live there.
The viewer was concerned about their health and well being, living dangerously close to the water, and cold winter weather upon us. We went looking for answers and found she's not the only one who's concerned.
Most visitors to Goat Island go for the breathtaking view of the Falls, a serene park setting that most believe is uninhabited. But there is one family that lives there.
"They're always in the bushes and the trees and we count to make sure all 6 of them are together," said Cindy Stroud, a regular visitor to the park. "And they just run around and play and it's beautiful."
She's talking about the cats. Living in the rocks on the edge of the water, running in the trees- anyone who visits regularly knows exactly where to find them.
"He comes down and looks for the cats," said visitor Joyce Anderson of her dog, Diego. "I just say 'Where's the kitties?' and he goes and looks for them."
"It's something that goes back for generations," said state parks spokesperson Angela Berti.
Officials from the New York State Parks Department are well aware of the feral cat colony living on the island and they just let them be. There's actually a bit of tale surrounding their presence: that they may somehow be connected to Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to survive a trip over the Falls.
"When she went over the falls in 1901 in her barrel she brought her cat with her," Berti said. "So sort of the folklore is these cats that are here are their descendants."
In reality, it appears Goat Island has become a dumping ground for folks who can no longer take care of their cats. Now visitors to the park do, by leaving all sorts of food.
"They have to eat so I think it's a good idea that people come down and feed them," said Anderson.
"We really do encourage patrons here not feed these cats," Berti said, explaining, "There's a circle of life, and the cats here are wild and might be dangerous to patrons, but generally they're not."
Despite that, Stroud said, "I'm not worried about them because it's just a scene and God is taking care of everything."
But some are worried. Since the SPCA can't accept feral cats, volunteers are taking it upon themselves to make sure they survive.
Berti said, "We are lucky in that we have some great volunteers that do come into the park and are really good at wrangling up these feral cats and take them and have them spayed and neutered and find homes for them."
This group of four used to be six- but just this week, the volunteers were able to capture two of them. They plan to come back for more. Park visitors say no matter where they live they just want the cats happy, healthy and safe.
"You got the water," Berti said. "You got the cats. You got the squirrels. It's just nature just doing it's thing.