Homeless Man Provides for Homeless Cats

In a beach town on an island off the Florida Panhandle, Alan Kelly is taking care of eight homeless cats. I guess he knows how...

 |  Jan 17th 2012  |   32 Contributions


Alan Kelly hugs Tiger, one of the eight cats he's been taking care of for the last three years. Photo by Nick Tomeck for the <em>Daily News</em>

In a beach town on an island off the Florida Panhandle, Alan Kelly is taking care of eight homeless cats.

I guess he knows how it feels to have nowhere to go, because Kelly himself is homeless. But despite his own situation, he's providing for his feline family with the help of a local animal charity and friendly area residents.

Kelly became homeless when he moved from Massachusetts to Florida six years ago in search of work. He had a gig as a maintenance man, but that only lasted a few months.

For three years now, Kelly has spent his days drinking beer and caring for the cats.

He first got help from employees of an area grocery store, where he was cadging hot dogs to feed them. Yep, that's right: He fed the cats before he fed himself. Even in his befuddled state, he clearly knew that food is as important to the cats as beer is to him — and his compassion led him to help them. Just goes to show you that even a homeless alcoholic has a good and caring heart.

(Okay, the article I read didn't specifically state that Kelly is an alcoholic, but if you drink all day, I'd say the odds are pretty good that you are, in fact, an alcoholic.)

Some time ago, two women stopped by his hangout on Okaloosa Island's boardwalk and offered to have the cats spayed and neutered. He helped round up the cats, and now all eight of them are healthy, vaccinated, and microchipped. To this day, a local animal rescue group provides Kelly with food for his clowder.

Area residents seem to enjoy the cats' company, too. They give Kelly money to buy cat food and, when he reassures them that the felines are healthy and up to date on their shots, some even stop to pet them.

Kelly says there aren't many human relatives left in his family, so he's taken to considering the cats his babies. And apparently, the cats feel the same way.

The cats really love him, said Chris Patterson, general manager at the Black Pearl restaurant at the Boardwalk. They hear his footsteps and come running.

When you're homeless, there's probably not a whole lot to smile about. But for Kelly, I guess those eight cats, whose antics bring joy into his life and others who visit his world — I guess that's a good reason not to completely waste away in Margaritaville.

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