The Edge of America’s Island Cat Lady

Years ago, at dawn and dusk every single day, dozens of cats would line the side of the street in a quiet quarter of Folly Beach. The seemingly sentinel-like stance could give a passerby pause, but the locals know this is Cat Lady territory.

She can barely see over the steering wheel of the aging golf cart she uses on her feeding route. But neither that nor thunderstorms, hurricanes or alligators would stop Sally Repsher (a.k.a. Ms. Sally) from her mission: Make sure every cat in her neighborhood is cared for, safe, and fed. “If it’s hungry, it needs to be fed.  Everything has to eat,” explains Ms. Repsher.

More than feeding, Ms. Repsher uses food as a way to develop relationships with the animals in order to trap them for spaying or neutering. In fact, she’s done such a good job in that part of town, her route has dwindled to just a handful of animals. At the height of her mission, Ms. Repsher’s twice daily, 30-minute bicycle route actually fed dozens of cats a combined two cardboard flats of cans and two bags of dry food every week. She has been doing this every day for the past 30 years and through the decades she’s been bitten by a rabid racoon, passed snakes hanging in the trees, and even stumbled upon an alligator sunning itself on her trail. Rain or shine she does her duty.

Hurricane Floyd in ’99 might be best known around here for the traffic debacle, but Ms. Repsher remembers it for a different reason. “My granddaughter knew I was a nut, so during [Floyd] she rented a tractor trailer for me,” recalls Ms. Repsher.  “She drove it down [to the beach] and we gathered up every one of the cats and put them in cages in the truck. We didn’t miss a one.” The two took at least 20 cats and three dogs to Georgia to weather the storm.

For nearly 20 years, Ms. Repsher used her bike to make her rounds until the City of Folly Beach police department surprised her with her now recognizable golf cart. “One of the policemen knew me kinda well and knew that I did this even in the pouring rain, which didn’t matter to me because hungry is hungry,” she said. “I wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, so they surprised me with a golf cart, all decorated for Christmas.” She adds that it was all pretty funny since she doesn’t drive. Ms. Repsher finally had her first set of wheels!

The Cat Lady remains a fixture in the island community, one that that makes no apologies to her critics. “I don’t dress fancy. I don’t go to parties. I don’t eat filet mignon. I happen to like animals more than most people so this is what I like to do.” And though her route is becoming shorter, and many of her furry friends have moved on, the unmistakable array of anticipating felines along the quiet road are evidence that, to some, all lives truly do matter.