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Field Trip: Room at the Inn

A motel-owning couple helps the cats of Florida’s Cedar Key

Don’t get behind Doreen and Oliver Bauer at the supermarket checkout if you’re in a hurry. They buy at least 20 large bags of cat food at a time.

But don’t feel sorry for the Bauers. They’re living their dream.

After many years of vacationing on the Florida island of Way Key, the Bauers bought a piece of paradise there—the Faraway Inn, a 12-unit motel built in the 1940s. In 2000, they moved with their cat to the island’s city of Cedar Key.

The Bauers knew from prior vacations that their pet kitty would not be alone.

Although the Bauers were initially consumed with major motel renovations, the huge number of roaming cats in the area always saddened them. “Some of the cats were emaciated; others looked like they had skin issues,” says Oliver. Cedar Key was a major port in the 1800s, and it’s likely that many cats—who provided rodent control on the ships that docked there—decided they liked the island as well.

In 2004, the Bauers completed their motel renovations, and then their real work began. With advice and borrowed traps from a source at Operation Catnip—a nonprofit organization offering free spay/neuter and vaccines for feral and free-roaming cats—they trapped 25 cats and drove them to the University of Florida in Gainesville, where Operation Catnip does its work.

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