Protecting San Juan’s Heritage Cats

Save-A-Gato and ACR animal welfare organizations are advocating for the cats' right to coexist within the El Morro San Juan Castle and National Historic Site.


Article By Mark Derho

In the cobblestoned paths winding around the historic San Juan Castle, a unique feature has become as emblematic as the ancient walls themselves: the community cats. 馃樅 

These felines, having roamed the area since the castle’s inception, have not only woven themselves into the tapestry of Puerto Rican heritage but also into the hearts of the local community and visitors alike. 鉂わ笍 However, a recent initiative by the US National Park Service (NPS) to remove these cats has sparked a contentious debate, balancing heritage preservation, animal welfare, and public health concerns. 馃彴馃惥

At the heart of the resistance to this initiative are Alley Cat Rescue (ACR) and Save A Gato in Puerto Rico, prominent animal welfare organizations advocating for the cats’ right to coexist within the San Juan National Historic Site. 馃惥 

Thier stance is not merely emotional but grounded in decades of research and experience in community cat management. The organization’s founder, Louise Holton, with her 30 years of expertise, argues that the removal and potential extermination of these cats are not only cruel but also futile. 馃毇馃樋 

History and research suggest that such methods provide only a temporary solution, as new cats are likely to repopulate the area, especially in the absence of measures to address pet abandonment.

ACR’s alternative, supported by numerous local nonprofits and volunteers, is a humane and effective approach known as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). 馃惐

鉁傦笍馃┖ This strategy involves the sterilization and vaccination of the cats against rabies, coupled with the adoption of kittens young enough to be socialized. Notably, the increase in the cat population, often cited by the NPS as a rationale for removal, is primarily due to rampant pet abandonment鈥攁 problem that TNR directly addresses.

The concerns about health risks and the attraction of rats due to feeding the cats are valid and must be addressed. However, these concerns can be mitigated through well-structured TNR programs, responsible feeding practices, and community education. In fact, a well-managed TNR program can significantly reduce the population over time, thereby mitigating health risks and ensuring a cleaner environment. 馃専馃彞馃悁

The value of these cats transcends their presence; they are living symbols of Puerto Rico’s rich history and culture. 馃嚨馃嚪馃摐 Their removal would not only disrupt the ecological balance but also strip the San Juan Castle area of a defining characteristic that has charmed locals and tourists alike. 馃槩馃彴 

A compromise is not only possible but necessary鈥攁 plan that upholds public health standards, preserves the community’s heritage, and safeguards the welfare of these feline residents. 馃馃悎

As we stand at the crossroads of heritage preservation and animal welfare, it is crucial to remember that our actions today will echo in the annals of history. 

Let us choose a path that reflects our compassion, respect for life, and commitment to coexisting with nature in all its forms, including the cherished community cats of San Juan Castle. 馃實馃惥鉂わ笍

Save A Gato

You can email us at if you are interested in adopting one of our gatitos!

Adoption Application

All our cats are spayed/neutered, vaccinated for rabies and FVRCP, and tested for FIV/FeLV. Our adoption fee of $75 covers a portion of these veterinary expenses.

Did you know that taking a Puerto Rican kitty home to the States is as easy as 1-2-3?

Call your airline and purchase a ticket for the cat. Tickets usually cost between $95 to $125 and can be added to your existing reservation.

Get an airline approved carry-on bag. They are available at any pet store – or we are happy to provide one for $35.

Most of our adoptable cats are below, but we often have more at Save-A-Gato headquarters.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!

Mark Derho – Multifaceted Digital Marketer and AI Enthusiast Open for Opportunities San Juan, PR (718) 809-0034 / (787) 497-0007

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