2 famous Fairhope French Quarter cats find community of care with shop owners, restaurant employees


FAIRHOPE — In an effort to provide food, water and care to stray cats in the area, a tale of feline friendship has unfolded in the Fairhope French Quarter.

Two stray cats, known by locals as Fancy and Marble, became the center of attention when they first made their way to the area over 10 years ago.

Rather than turning them away, establishments like The Happy Olive on Del La Mare Avenue were determined to assist Marble the tailless cat.

"We have always been here for her with treats, and when the Angel Shop closed, we kind of took over her vet care and we took over feeding her more substantial foods," said Sue Rusyniak, owner of The Happy Olive.

After another Fairhope store, In the Company of Angels, closed earlier this year, Rusyniak said she noted that Dianne Douglas, the owner, used to feed and take care of Marble and Fancy. Since the closure of the store, the community has taken on the responsibility of caring for these felines.

The Happy Olive started a Marble Fund, giving customers the opportunity to put money toward their care.

"It covers her vet care," Rusyniak said. "She is actually part of the scenery on De La Mare, and people come back to see her. There are parents who go get an ice cream and come down and look for Marble with their children, and she has just been around for so long, people expect to see her here."

She said the goal is to make sure Marble is comfortable, noting that during colder weather, some people will take her home for a few days to keep her warm.

On the other side of the French Quarter beside Panini Pete's, a black Maine Coon named Fancy found her home 10 years ago under a black tent with her own bed, food and treats.

Panini Pete's employee John Stewart started to feed Fancy eight years ago.

"My friend, Ms. Dianne who had the Angel Shop, asked me on the days that they were not open to feed Fancy," said Stewart. "I just did not like to see them go starving."

In 2022, Fancy was taken from her French Quarter home by a couple from Birmingham who did not realize the community's attachment to her. Fairhopers mobilized, and the couple returned Fancy.
Stewart, initially upset by her removal, said she felt relieved when Fancy came back.

From giving her treats to head scratches, Stewart continues to ensure Fancy is taken care of and loved.

These two cats are two of an estimated of 70,000 to 80,000 stray cats roaming around the cities and towns of Baldwin County. Baldwin County Humane Society Executive Director Abby Pruett said keeping these stray cats healthy is a benefit to not only the animals, but also the community.

"The only way we are going to create a healthy community for our wildlife and our other pets is to get these cats spayed, neutered and vaccinated," Pruett said. "They won't be a nuisance to the community because they will have a source of food. The ultimate goal is for them to live harmoniously within our community, and they will if they are healthy and won't prove a risk to anyone."

Baldwin County animal groups such as the Humane Society, Safe Harbor Animal Coalition and the Baldwin County Animal Shelter have implemented a program geared toward helping people feed and take care of community cats.

"Trap-neuter-return is becoming more and more popular," Pruett said. "We trap them, take them to the vet, we get them vaccinated, all their rabies shots, spayed, neutered, and then we ear tip them, which is the universal symbol that they have been taken to the vet."

Providing food for these animals will prevent them from hunting for their food, going into dangerous places to find a meal and going through garbage.

"They will be getting a healthier source of food, which is also good for the environment," Pruett said. "We do not want to worry about birds or other wildlife getting eaten by cats. Nobody wants that."

She noted that not everyone has to be a cat person to care about them.

"We are going to need to share this community with them," she said. "If we can just kind of communicate with each other and find ways, I think we can find a way for us all to live harmoniously, and we need to work together."