Craig Grant didn’t like cats. But when his son moved out of the house and asked Craig to take care of his cat, Pepper, for him, Craig couldn’t refuse. As Craig started to suffer from Empty Nest Syndrome, the relationship he hand with Pepper grew stronger and stronger. Although this surprised Craig, it also delighted him.
By the time Pepper gave birth to five kittens, Craig had fallen in love with the feline charisma and decided to keep all the kittens. However, his landlord and neighbors disagreed with his love for cats and Craig had to look for another place to live with his cats.
At first, Craig built a shed on his son’s property and moved in there with his 6 cats. As a construction worker doing property maintenance, Craig would often find stray cats on the job sites and he would pick them and take them home with him. After realizing that the 8×10 shed was getting smaller each time a new cat was brought home, Craig decided that it was time to find a new place to live.
He stumbled upon an advertisement for a 5 acre parcel of land on a tree farm in Madison County, Florida, and bought it. With no electricity, running water or sewer system, Craig would travel over 280 miles round trip per day just to bring the cats’ food and water.
As news of Craig’s cat ranch spread, more and more cats were dropped off at his ranch and Craig realized he needed more land. He purchased more 5 acre plots until Caboodle Ranch had expanded to 30 acres.
“I bought enough property so that the cats would never be a nuisance to anyone,” he says. Craig was soon able to move his shed onto the property and make it habitable for him to live amongst the cats.
Caboodle Ranch takes in any stray or unwanted cat or kitten. Craig requires them to be fixed first and a fee of $150 per cat to be paid. This helps to ensure that there is no breeding amongst the cats and helps offset the costs of a year’s lifetime of cat food and veterinary care for the cats. He does not allow cats to be adopted from Caboodle Ranch and instead encourages people to adopt a cat from their local animal shelter.
In order to help cut costs, Craig treats commons cat ailments such as colds and eye infections, himself, as even a simple cold can be lethal since cats stop eating when they are congested. He has a separate kennel that he built that houses sick cats to keep any germs from spreading amongst the rest of the cat population.
Dinner time at the Ranch serves two purposes: firstly so that the cat’s can all get a nutritious, moist, canned food meal; and second, so that Craig can do a head count to see if there are any cats missing, injured or just need a little bit more TLC.
Monthly costs for running Caboodle Ranch, including feeding the cats and their veterinary care, is roughly $6000: $3,000 for food, $500 for medicine, $800 in vet bills, and $400 for flea prevention. The cats eat through five 20lb bags of Purina Cat Chow and Friskies dry cat food every day, as well as 5 cases of the extra large cans of Friskies moist food per feeding.
Since Craig is a builder by trade, he has built an assortment of unusual buildings for the cats at the Ranch. There is even a well whose water empties into Shaky Jake Lake, which features a working water wheel and have tiny cabins scattered around the shoreline that Craig has called Cat Nap Inn.
“This is their resort. They can take the boat out if they want too,” he laughs.
During the winter months these cabins are filled with straw and have heat lamps. Other buildings that he has made include a chalet, outhouse, and tree houses. There is even a cemetery for the cats who have reached the end of their lives whilst living at Caboodle Ranch.
Not all the buildings were built by Craig though; the Chapel, City Hall, Wal-Mart, Elementary School and Caboodle Police Station that adorn Gingerbread Lane were all donated by Pet Palaces.
However, there are still many dangers present; namely snakes and coyotes which have already killed a few of the resident cats. Currently, Craig is asking the general public to assist him with donations to build a $10,000 chain link fence for the front part of the first 5 acres of Caboodle Ranch.
Caboodle Ranch now has close to 500 cats and is a non-profit cat rescue society and has been deemed appropriate by the Tallahasee Humane Society and Tallahasee/Madison County Animal Control. It is also the only cat sanctuary that allows cats to actually roam free.
According to an article run by Jax 4 News in Jacksonville, Florida, Craig was quoted as saying: “Their lives are precious and I put as much value on a cat’s life as I would a human life. People are going to hate me for saying this, but it’s probably what motivated me to do this.”