Big Daddy’s Restaurant: Creating Harmony Between Humans and Feral Cats

Big Daddy’s restaurant in Bajo Boquete is a popular establishment with a very big obligation to its feral cat colony.  The colony occupies the back yard of the restaurant and the neighboring empty land parcels.  The cats were straying into the Los Establos mall, which was inappropriate and unsafe.  The owners of Big Daddy’s invited SALDEA to partner with them in re-designing the restaurant’s back garden and to assume management of the colony.

Our goals are: 1) to control the population of the colony and keep it safe and healthy; 2) to create a landscape in which the cats are secluded, protected, and comfortable, while the restaurant patrons enjoy the beauty of tropical plantings; and 3) to foster harmony between the animals, plants, and humans in this lovely garden. Our partnership with the restaurant owners is powerful: we work together to ensure that the cats get needed medical care and sterilization, that they are fed high quality food twice a day, and that their environment is supportive, beautiful, and safe.

We use the Trap/Neuter/Release method of sterilization.  We transport the cats to a vet in David and pay $15 per sterilization.  The vet uses the minimally invasive hook-and-loop surgical technique. We treat the colony for parasites every 8 weeks.  The property is professionally treated for insects and fleas on a regular basis. The cats are fed Kirkland cat food, which ensures that they enjoy a high quality diet. Currently the colony consumes 10 40 lb. bags of Kirkland cat food per month, or 2.5 bags per week.  We keep detailed records on every cat that is sterilized.  Newcomers arrive frequently.  We trap and sterilize them as soon as possible.

Some people ask why a restaurant would bother with a bunch of stray cats? There are three answers. First, keeping the cats healthy and well fed helps protect our precious local bird population.  Second, keeping cats healthy protects human health. Third, keeping cats healthy is the ethical and compassionate thing to do. People travel from all over the world to see the birds in Boquete – we have a duty to protect them and the local tourism economy.  Healthy cats do not spread disease to neighboring children and families, thus supporting public health.  The restaurant models responsibility for the environment and relieves the suffering of sentient beings. A healthy economy, healthy neighbors, and compassionate action are what we all want!  Everything is connected, so caring for the cat colony supports the whole community.

We spend about $350/month on cat food and sterilizations.  That is about $4,200 per year.

SALDEA made feeding stations out of 20 gallon plastic storage bins.  These help keep food and water clean and dry.  We also placed antique pots in the garden for shelter – the pots were cut in half, providing cozy and elegant places for the cats to hide.

The restaurant built a gazebo over a large concrete slab in the back yard.  The gazebo is elevated so the cats can shelter underneath, giving them over 100 square feet of dry space on rainy days.  The access point for the cats is hidden from public view, thus giving the cats the privacy and safety they need.

SALDEA is working closely with the restaurant to re-design the landscaping. We are installing tropical plants that add to the natural beauty and create a buffer for the cats.  To date, we have introduced 63 new species of plants and increased the biodiversity of the space. We have trimmed branches and trees to bring in more sunlight for the new plants.  We use plants and bamboo fencing to create a physical boundary between human spaces and cat spaces.  The landscaping project will be ongoing through the end of 2021.  So far, thousands of individual plants have been brought in, all at no cost to Big Daddy’s or SALDEA.  Check back here for updates and more photos!

Please consider a small monthly donation to help defray the costs of cat food, medication, and sterilization.  Donations are our only source of income.  If you are a US citizen, your contribution is tax deductible.