Atlantic City,NJ (WTXF) - The next time you're walking the boards in Atlantic City taking in the sights above you might want to take a peek at what's below. There are some furry friends and they're down there enjoying the shore thanks to some dedicated volunteers.
FOX 29 Photojournalist Bill Rohrer has the story.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk carves a four mile long path along the coast of South Jersey. For some, the boardwalk is used to pop in and out of casinos while others use it for a way to get exercise on a nice summer day. However, for a group of community cats the Atlantic City Boardwalk is home.
Frank Hoopes checks in on them every day making sure they have enough water and food to eat.
"It started out as a hobby and the more you come out here, the more you get attached to them," he told FOX 29. "You are out here in 10 degree weather or 90 degree weather. No matter what the weather is they are out here to greet you every day."
Frank is one of 25-30 volunteers for the cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats Project. Their job is to take care of the 15 cat colonies living under the city's boardwalk.
At one time, the Atlantic City boardwalk was home to as many as 300. During that time, Alley Cats Allies and Atlantic City have become the national model for managing a community cat population.
"All the cats were trapped neutered, vaccinated and they were returned back here to the boardwalk that is their home," cat behavior expert Matt Wildman said. "And for the last 17 years we actively managed these colonies so they live very happy and health long lives."
Ideally, this is the perfect place for cats to live out their lives.
"They have plenty hiding areas plenty of sleeping areas, if they want attention they can get it," Wildman said.
The cat colonies have become a top tourist destination in the city.
"When I am walking home I know that the cats are happy and they all have full bellies. It is just a rewarding feeling and a lot of love. I wouldn't miss this for anything," Hoopes said.