Meri Dahlke talks about the Ten Bells cats.
You could call Meri Dahlke the patron saint of Oak Cliff cats. The animal lover and owner of Ten Bells Tavern has been caring for the local cat population since her bar was built four years ago.
“While we were building Ten Bells, I noticed there was a cat hanging around who came from a house across the alley,” Dahlke says. “My partners didn’t want me to name it, so I called her ‘stripey cat.'”
The nickname stuck, and soon after Stripey Cat had her first litter of kittens, and the yard of Ten Bells became a regular hangout for felines.
“I was worried about the cats and didn’t want anything bad to happen with them, but there were just so many of them,” Dahlke says. “So I did a little research and found out about the non-profit Feral Friends. With their help we started doing TNR with the cats—trap, neuter, release.”
All and all, the Dahlke and Feral Friends have TNR-ed 17 neighborhood cats, ensuring the cat population remains static and healthy. There’s the four cats who live on site—Lucy, Beatrix, Jerry Cantrell, and Mr. Gorrie, the cat from London—plus about ten more who dine in and hang out daily. The colony is registered with the City of Dallas, which means that if anything happens to the cats, the offender will be held liable.
Dahlke’s compassion toward animals is something out of a Disney tale—but with the new developments coming to the Bishop Arts District (ahem, Alamo Manhattan), the Ten Bells cats are at risk of losing their home.
“The cats depend on us for survival and safety, and I’m not going to leave them to almost certain death,” Dahlke says. “Alamo Manhattan doesn’t care what’s going to happen to them. It feels like we’re stuck in limbo here.”
Ten Bells won’t be going anywhere soon thanks to the fact that they have about seven years left on their lease—but that doesn’t mean these changes won’t affect the colony of cats.
“It’s not only businesses and people that are being displaced,” Dahlke says. “It’s also the local animal population.”