Tammy King was an animal person long before she came to the commercial fishing village at Mayport, where there are more feral cats than people. She started a non-profit, Mayport Cats, to spay, neuter and treat the health issues of feral cats to humanely control their population. It’s the hardest job she’s ever had.
Tammy King started working as a teenager, long before she came to Mayport with her Navy family and then married a Mayport commercial fisherman.
“I was an office worker, accountant — typical 9 to 5 — hit a calculator and count money and then go home,” she remembers.
But her passion has always been animals.
“At a very early age I was drawn to animals, especially underdog animals, the ones that are picked on or had problems,” she says. “It just continued through my whole life.”
That focus on animals that needed help remained.
“I was always rescuing something. I rescued a cat named Oreo, and I pulled her out of a truck engine on Merrill Road. This cat absolutely hated me. I thought, ‘Well, she’s been burned and that traumatized her.’ Years later, I realized that’s a feral cat,” she says.
Feral animals, especially cats, are a major problem in most cities.
“I didn’t realize what a feral cat was until I got to Mayport. When I moved here, I became more and more exposed to feral cats, and that’s where my heart was drawn. A lot of people have this picture in their mind: ‘I’ll just take my cat to Mayport. It’ll live off the fish and the shrimp and lie on the docks.’ That’s not how it is at all. It’s a busy, dangerous place for a cat,” King says.
So she decided to do something about the problem. She founded a non-profit called Mayport Cats.
“I started it in 2007. There were more cats than people here. I thought, ‘Somebody has to do something about this problem. Well, I have two arms and two legs, and I’m somebody, I can do something.’ So the odyssey began,” she says.
At night, Tammy and other volunteers trap feral cats. During the day, she takes them to vets who will neuter them and treat any diseases. It’s a much harder job than being an office worker.
“It starts anywhere from 5 a.m. and can go to midnight. I don’t make a paycheck from this work. I left a good-paying job to start Mayport Cats. It’s a wonder that I’m not homeless and on the street right now,” she says.
And the reason she’s not, Tammy King says, is her husband.
“He’s a great man! He puts up with a lot,” she says. “At first, I’d bring a cat home, and he’d say, ‘No, no,’ but now he’s like, ‘OK, another one.’”