If you drive by MDHA headquarters in the James Cayce homes, you'll likely see an orange cat lounging in the bushes.
That's Lizzy. She's one of three stray cats cared for by a small circle of MDHA employees. They feed the cats, have gotten them spayed, neutered and vaccinated, and have even adopted several previous strays out to permanent homes.
Yet, some have called for the animals to be removed.
According to internal emails first obtained by WPLN, MDHA's general counsel, Tremecca Doss, called the cats a health danger. She cited an incident where one of the cats killed a bird and a second incident where a cat sunbathed on the car of MDHA Executive Director Jim Harbison.
Doss requested the animals be removed immediately, but animal advocates said that would be a mistake.
"It's inhumane to the cats and it's a disservice to the resident and the employees because there's a wonderful community that happens around that caretaking," said Denice Heatherly, a member of Music City Animal Advocates.
Heatherly said the cats at the Cayce homes should be seen as an opportunity to foster relationships between neighbors. Something she believes could catch on across the city.
"It causes people to come outside of their house, causes them to talk to each other and causes them to connect," Heatherly said.
For now, MDHA said it has no plans to forcibly remove the cats but they may create a policy that would change how employees are allowed to care for feral cats.
For now, they've encouraged the employees who feed the felines to find the animals permanent homes.