Ten Bells Tavern owner Meri Dahlke cuddled up with Lucy in October 2016.
Ten Bells Tavern owner Meri Dahlke cuddled up with Lucy in October 2016.
Taylor Adams

What Happened to the Cats at Ten Bells?

Oak Cliff’s self-proclaimed cat lady may soon lose that title.

Meri Dahlke, co-owner of Ten Bells Tavern, has a colony of cats on the property, registered through local organization Feral Friends Community Cat Alliance, but the numbers have been dwindling.

“I think when we registered, the colony was 13, and we’re down to probably three,” Dahlke says. “I don’t know if it’s construction or if someone’s deliberately moving them.”

Irene (front) is Stripey's child, Dahlke says, and both cats have been missing for a several months.
Irene (front) is Stripey's child, Dahlke says, and both cats have been missing for a several months.
Courtesy of Meri Dahlke

Kelly Richert, president of Feral Friends, says disappearances can be common this time of year.

“Sometimes you think they’re gone and they’re not, especially in the summertime when it’s really hot. A lot of the times during the day, they’re laying low, and they don’t eat as much. So they may be coming out in the middle of the night, and you don’t see them,” she says.

But Dahlke doesn't think that's the case.

“No, they’re here; they know where they get fed. Summer, winter, whatever,” she says. “When they’re gone for four months, they’re pretty much gone, I think.”

Dahlke points to major construction — happening all over Bishop Arts — as a possible reason for cats relocating, but she also has concerns that someone might be malicious toward the felines.

“I once found a bag full of cat parts at the end of my driveway. Why would you hurt a cat?” Dahlke says.

Bruce used to hang out at Ten Bells every day, Dahlke says, but he's been gone for at least three months.
Bruce used to hang out at Ten Bells every day, Dahlke says, but he's been gone for at least three months.
Courtesy of Meri Dahlke

The thought of the cats reaching an ill-timed end isn't necessarily far-fetched, Richert says, but there's probably another explanation for their disappearance.

“She may be right; something may have happened to them,” Richert says. “I think she may be overreactive about it. Especially with the construction, some of them might have migrated over. Honestly, I don’t really feel like anything is going on, that somebody is trying to do something. I think there are a lot of factors.”

Dahlke hosts fundraisers for animals at both Ten Bells and Eight Bells Alehouse in Expo Park. This weekend, Ten Bells will host Cocktails for Kitties and Beer for Barn Cats.

Dahlke has posted photos of the cats on Facebook in the hopes that someone knows their whereabouts. But so far, the cats seem to have disappeared without a trace.

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