Cats and Humans- The Homeless Populations in Panama City

It’s spring in Panama City, and the homeless are upon us. 

Photo from

Some have been here all along, such as the lady who sits alone and talks to herself all day. I first ran into her in the downtown area, but the last few times I’ve seen her, she was hanging out near Millville.

Some wandered down this way to enjoy Spring Break and stayed on.

I live near the Rescue Mission, and often see homeless people in the area. Like yesterday morning when Rumpy and I were out walking and found a man asleep in the doorway of one of the buildings we sometimes pass. Or last night when Rumpy and I went for a walk, and found an older man and younger woman walking around looking lost. Rumpy didn’t like them and was barking; I had to move him away from them.

We see lots of homeless people walking around the area, usually starting around dusk. They start gathering near the Rescue Mission around 2 PM in hopes of scoring a bed when it opens at 4 PM. After dark, they’re often looking for a place to camp out for the night.

Photo from

Humans aren’t the only homeless in the area. 

The area is teeming with cats. Some have homes, and live both indoors and outdoors. Others have homes but are left outdoors. And some are homeless. It’s often difficult to tell them apart.

There’s the gray tom with a white face that hangs out near Charlie’s art lab. Charlie feeds him whenever he’s around. There’s the gray tabby that crossed in front of my car day before yesterday. A Siamese is often seen roaming the area, and was seen once on a neighbor’s roof. There are many more.

There are similarities in the two groups.  The homeless humans don’t look healthy. Even the youngest ones look pale and malnourished. They often are thin or even underweight. Same for the cats.

photo from
Photo from

Many homeless people lack health insurance, especially in states such as Florida who refused to accept Medicaid expansion. They tend to use emergency rooms for health care, and such care tends to cost more money for all of us. Homeless cats lack health care, usually because there’s no one to take them to the vet. When they do go to the vet, it tends to cost more because often the cat has to be sedated in order to be treated.

The life expectancy for homeless humans is 45-50 years, compared to 79 years for the average US population. The average life expectancy for outdoor cats is 1-5 years, or 2 years for ferals. Compare that to a 12-20 year lifespan for indoor cats.

Of course, the homeless humans have shelters and social services agencies who help as funding allows. The cats have spay/neuter clinics, rescues for those that are socialized to humans, and people who put out food to make sure the rest have a decent meal now and then. Sadly, despite all those who try to help each population, the need far outweighs the help available.

They both just keep coming, and there’s no end in sight.


20 thoughts on “Cats and Humans- The Homeless Populations in Panama City

  1. Reblogged this on Dish With Clarissa and commented:
    I just lost a cat i had rescued, he was old, really old and possibly sick as he sneezed a lot and his eyes were always draining. He wasnt neutered and he could be quite scary when approached. By the end i could hold him, he would meow when i would feed him, his fur started feeling softer, nor could i feel his bones again.
    Yes, he was skinny when i first saw him and i thought he was nursed back to health.
    He never left his bowl of kibble and go far.
    I hope my splinter, knew the short time we had together, that i loved him deeply.

    Splinter wasnt a Feral cat, he was a pet at one time and was homeless, when i started feeding him.

  2. I have not been to Panama City since around 2002 and did not notice the problem then. Although when you are on vacation it is easy to miss things like that. We do go to St. Augustine fairly often and have noticed an increase of homeless humans there. The last time we were there one of the homeless guys had a dog he was caring for. The fact that he had almost nothing and was willing to share with an animal inspired my wife and I to want to help so we pick up a bag of dog food and gave it to the guy along with some cash. I only wish we could have offered a more permanent solution.

    1. Some people think that homeless people shouldn’t have pets, but I disagree. There’s a woman I’ve seen around here that has a dog. They walk around here at night. They may not be homeless. Sometimes when I walk Rumpy, I look like I may be homeless. No one to dress up for around here. Anyway, I digress. Pets bring comfort to the homeless person and make them more noticeable to folks that would otherwise turn away.

      It’s easy to miss the homeless in PC because the tourists go to the beach, while the homeless are in the downtown area. Law enforcement on the beach will run them off pretty quick if they try to sleep on the beach, and eventually they all end up here.

      1. I reccomend a book called “A Streetcat Named Bob.” You probably heard of it but it is about a guy how is not homeless but close to it. He is recovering from drug addiction and takes in a cat that shows up in his building. He helps the cat and the cat helps him not only by helping him get donations while playing music on the streets but also by giving him a reason to be responsible and quit the drugs for good.

  3. We can help in so many ways and one way is to put people into official positions that want to help fix the core reasons people and animals end up homeless – jobs with living wages, affordable healthcare and veterinary care, better education that leads to meaningful employment to jobs that benefit society not corporate and investor portfolios. If we treat the cause of problems, over time the problems don’t occur. I’m tired of Band-Aid, crisis management of our societies problems who generally only serve those who profit from the problems existing in the first place.

    1. Let’s not forget the mental illness/ drug addiction connection to human homelessness. In almost all cases, the conditions are treatable. Here in Florida we can Baker Act the mentally ill, which is forced treatment for up to 72 hours, but only if it’s felt by a law enforcement officer that they are a threat to themselves or to another. We can Marchman Act addicts, but that also requires a legal standard be met, and who’s going to put forth the effort with a homeless person?

      1. I agree with you. It’s addiction’s grip on a person that can often lead to homelessness. I lived in Florida for a few years – Satellite Beach/Melbourne/Cocoa Beach area and use to see a homeless lady regularly that I knew had some sort of mental health condition. I tried to interact with her once but didn’t make a connection with her. I have “labels” and have dealt with the system for several years. I have been blessed because I have the ways and means to get good help. The State Hospitals and most mental wards do not truly address what people suffering need but at least the State Hospitals gave people room and board – safety from the streets. For many years mental illness has been treated with barbarism like using these vulnerable people as guinea pigs by Pharmaceutical companies (they do it with foster home children and nursing home residents now). We need to treat the “why” of mental illness and then we will have less of the what. When I abused alcohol and ended up losing my AF career and marriage I did it because I was self medicating the underlying issues. Since being medically retired and labeled so heavily as to not be employed, I have been able to get the tools I need to treat the why and am now on less medication – less of the “what.” Their is a chain with mental illness and homelessness we need to get to the first link of and break it…end anymore links being added. Until we do that we will continue to have crime, poverty, sickness and as you have been writing about and see each day, homelessness.

  4. Reblogged this on As I see it and commented:
    An important message from our friend Rumpydog about the problem of people and animal homelessness. My take on it: We can help in so many ways and one way is to put people into official positions that want to help fix the core reasons people and animals end up homeless – jobs with living wages, affordable healthcare and veterinary care, better education that leads to meaningful employment to jobs that benefit society not corporate and investor portfolios. If we treat the cause of problems, over time the problems don’t occur. I’m tired of Band-Aid, crisis management of our societies problems who generally only serve those who profit from the problems existing in the first place.

  5. I feel really sorry for the animals because, until we can resolve the human(e) homeless situation, do the animals have much of a chance? Putting that another way, if our culture can “turn a blind eye” to the homeless (and physically/emotionally abused etc.) people, then is it likely that they will see the homeless (and physically/emotionally abused etc) animals? Our supposed humane society has much to answer for.

      1. I agree, but making that statement without clarification is very misleading. Many people will interpret “survival of the fittest” as a case of “I’m alright so tough on you” which is not my belief in our species. Canada, US and the UK (and no doubt many other countries) would suffer a collapse of social structure if all the volunteers withdrew their services. Volunteerism is not saying “I’m ok so to hell with you” but rather “My circumstances allow me to help you.”
        Delusional? I don’t think so.

  6. To the sidebar.

    So let’s say that everyone starts paying more attention to what’s going on in their “corner.” Say, start small and local, take a shot at making up for the defunct family kinship system that used to afford the elderly, the mentally ill, the truant–yes, even four-legged strays–shelter, support, heck! I’d even go so far as to say “a place” in this world. Remember the Speidels? The couple who opted for an indoor barbeque because God forgot to open the window when He slammed the door? Such an effing WASTE, and not merely of life. The opportunity of filling need, liking ourselves while advocating selflessness was lost. How sad.

    When did life become so … disposable? When did we become so “cynical’?

    A scholar once pointed out to me that as Americans, the only aged things that still hold value for us as a culture, are wine and cheese. I’ve never forgotten that statement. The elderly, the homeless (of all species), the unemployed, all these ‘forms of life’ have become as disposable and unmissed as our weekly garbage.. What we want, versus what we need, is often used as a justification for even has some individuals confusing “survival of the fittest” with a Machiavellian world view.. And what we think we want, as opposed to what we really need, has us counting sheep instead of blessings. Why give up an income that can buy us a new toy if an elderly and failing family member is better off in an institution? I say, when your dog can walk itself then, and only then, buy the big screen.

    If wishes were horses, everyone reading this would have a come-to-Jesus talk. With themselves. Their “corner” needs to take priority over the biggest, the greatest, the newest, the latest.. Maybe it’s time to stop advocating programs that an elected representative can eliminate on a whim and then we can stop whining about the taxes required to administrate (not enact) such a program.

    Planned obsolescence. It’s the life blood of consumerism. Create a want and then transpose it to a need. We make Pavlov’s canines look brilliant.

    So back to the Speidels. I really believe that if we spent more time taking inventory of our blessings, we’d be knocking on their front door before either of them could come to us for help. So atomized, this culture. Maybe we should listen more and talk less–for that matter, text less and talk more. Call me delusional, but I truly believe that starting with our “corners” would help stem the tide of disposable lives.

    In the meantime, there are the two- and four-legged strays in Panama City: Do animals fill the void between God and us. I think so. And I get some form of peace knowing that they have each other. There and here. ,

  7. Life is not fair……someone has to live without enough circumstances…..looking for food….a place to sleep …..when someone enjoy their life with lots of money…..getting whatever they want…. 😦

  8. And summer is coming…heat and humidity are as dangerous as the freezing cold. We live in an area with similar homeless populations. Barrio Dogs and other rescue groups volunteer to round up and treat homeless pets, but it’s just a drop in the bucket – just like those shelters/churches/kind hearted people who try and treat the people on the streets. There are free clinics here but so much funding (grants) was redirected to support Obama care, charities can just make up a part of the difference. Docs in training, residents, interns, and nurses on their own time staff the free clinics, but they need medications to hand out as well as items for treatment and the clinics.
    There is no excuse for people to go hungry, need shelter, and medical treatment in this country….maybe we should use some of that tax payer money here before we send it elsewhere. I vote we should be able to designate exactly where our tax money should go. I know where I’d start with mine.

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