Norma McKay doesn't consider herself a cat person, yet she's found herself caring for a litter that has moved into her garage and a tomcat that lives under her house.
It started with a stray mother cat coming around McKay's Shadow Mountain home. McKay felt sorry for her and began feeding her. Eventually, the mother brought along her litter, which included one kitten whose tail had been ripped off.
She hid her beat-up brood in McKay's garage. Not having the heart to throw them out, McKay bought them blankets at a thrift store. When it got cold she brought a heater into the garage for them. McKay's friends gave her a baby bed for the cats to sleep on.
And when the money is available, McKay gets the females spayed.
"To me, it's very important. Nothing should be starved and abandoned," McKay said.
McKay said some people have used Shadow Mountain as a dumping ground for unwanted animals. Kathie Johnson, animal control officer, couldn't be reached to confirm a stray animal problem for the community.
But stray and kept animals alike reproduce if they aren't spayed or neutered. And even though game show host Bob Barker warns America of this problem on a daily basis, many people still haven't taken his advice.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting animals, reports that most people who have not had their pet fixed say they just haven't bothered to do so yet. But others have difficulty affording the procedure.
That's a problem the Humane Society of Moffat County is trying the fix. The organization has arranged for local veterinarians to spay or neuter pets at half-price for eligible families.
When the Humane Society was created two years ago, modeled after the Routt County's Humane Society, the organization's first goal was to help people spay and neuter their pets, said founding member Sandra Kruczek. The group offered to screen animals if veterinarians would donate half the cost of the procedure. Every vet in Moffat County agreed to the deal.
Moffat County families with household incomes of less than $25,000 should call 870-7500, leave their name and number, fill out the forms that arrive in the mail and then take their pet to the vet of their choice, Kruzcek said. Since the pet altering program began in January 2003, the organization has received 97 applications.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation calculates that within seven years, two unaltered cats and their unaltered descendents can theoretically multiply into 420,000 cats. Two unaltered dogs and their offspring can number 67,000 in six years.
McKay still has eight of the cats in her garage. The one with its tail torn off has healed, and now bears a scarred bump on its hind end. McKay keeps the unaltered cats in the garage so they can't get out and get pregnant. The tomcat, she said, spends most of its time under the house to stay warm.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.