Sanctuary Helps Island’s Cats

by Jeffrey and Laura Winholt

Daufuskie Island's cat sanctuary

Daufuskie Island’s cat sanctuary

In 2006, in response to the growing population of free roaming feral cats that were living in unhealthy conditions and which had become a nuisance to residents and businesses, a small group of residents decided to take action to address the situation. Using the trap, neuter and release (TNR) method, we transported 181 cats to Hilton Head Island to be treated by the Hilton Head Humane Association and the Lowcountry Spay/Neuter Clinic. We then managed eleven free roaming cat colonies using colony management guidelines from Alley Cat Allies and the Beaufort County Ordinance.

Unfortunately, in 2011, a sudden surge of unexplained cat deaths threatened the wellbeing of our free roaming cats. A grant from the ASPCA in 2012 helped us build the first fully enclosed feral cat sanctuary in the Lowcountry. The cat sanctuary provides a permanent and safe home for cats that, for whatever reason, are threatened or have been evicted from their outdoor home, and for unwanted or abandoned cats that are not suitable for adoption. Residents of the cat sanctuary are provided fresh water and food twice a day, clean shelter, activities to reduce stress and medical attention such as regular vaccinations and medications. There are eleven regular caretakers and over twenty volunteers who help with cat sanctuary projects and maintenance issues.

The sanctuary itself is a fully fenced-in area of approximately half an acre. One enters the sanctuary through a double doored foyer which leads to a walking trail and along this trail there are multiple buildings, catwalks that connect from building to building through the trees, creative play stations, pots of growing catnip, and four covered litter boxes bigger than twin size beds. The latest addition is a small kitty pool with floating playthings. There are also park benches for visiting with the cats or soaking your feet in the pool. There are 10 separate food and water stations. Just outside the sanctuary is a squirrel feeder. The cats watch and salivate as the squirrels come and go.

The Daufuskie Island Cat Sanctuary is organized to serve Daufuskie Island residents and the Hilton Head Humane Association. We offer spay/ neuter and relocation assistance and help with flea/tick medication for cats owned by island residents. There have been NO kittens born to our managed free roaming cats on Daufuskie since November, 2007. Currently, there are only six free roaming cats in our two managed colonies. Although the free roaming feral cat population is declining due to attrition, the total population of cats inside the sanctuary fluctuates due to the entry of homeless cats. We work closely with area veterinarians to ensure the health and wellbeing of our cats.

“You are one of the most responsible feral cat colony caretakers I know. It seems there are signs that our sterilization efforts are having a positive effect county wide.” — Matthew Dixon, D.V.M., Hilton Head Humane Association-Lowcountry Spay/Neuter Clinic

“The Daufuskie Island Cat Sanctuary can serve as a model for other communities.” — Laurel Berry, D.V.M., Hilton Head Humane Association-Lowcountry Spay/Neuter Clinic

Please like our Facebook Page: Daufuskie Island Cat Sanctuary

Funding for the Program

Thanks to generous financial and in-kind donations from cat lovers and veterinarians, along with the countless hours of so many great volunteers, the program has been exceptionally successful.  Recently, the Hilton Head Humane Association (HHHA) adopted the Daufuskie Island Cat Sanctuary as one of its programs. HHHA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded entirely by private donations, bequests, membership dues and fundraising. No funding is received from any government agency or humane organization. The staunch support of the community makes the success of the Hilton Head Humane Association possible.

How YOU can help

Donate to the Hilton Head Humane Association online at, or via mail: Hilton Head Humane Association, P.O. Box 21790, Hilton Head Island, SC  29925

Sanctuary Tour

To schedule a private tour of the Cat Sanctuary, please call Laura at 843-683-2531 or email at

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