Kitty pity leads to warm gesture

Fruita woman builds, gives away shelters to help valley's feral cats

Under the watchful eye of her feline friend, Percy, Connie Blaine of Fruita stuffs a little more straw into a shelter she made for cats that spend all their time outdoors.

When nighttime temperatures dip into the single digits, Connie Blaine starts to think about the less fortunate in the feline world.

Blaine, a volunteer with the nonprofit group Grand Valley Pets Alive, has devised a way to give feral and outdoor cats a chance at keeping warm.

The Fruita woman conducted a short presentation at her home Wednesday, showing folks how to create a cat shelter made from some simple products including a Styrofoam box with a lid, an emergency blanket, some straw, glue and tape.

Blaine will create the shelters to give to people who want to help feral cats, or she dispenses advice to people on how to make the low-cost shelters. An end goal to treating feral cats humanely is to have residents trap them, take them to a facility to be spayed or neutered, and return the outdoor cats to the wild. Grand Valley Pets Alive can provide residents with traps and vouchers to have the animals spayed or neutered.

Eventually, spaying and neutering cats should help limit colonies of feral cats that are found in every nook in Mesa County, Blaine said. Cats typically have four to five kittens per litter and can produce three litters a year.

“We have a terrible feral cat problem in Mesa County. Every trailer park, every neighborhood — it’s a rampant problem,” Blaine said. “You can see how it’s a nuclear explosion of kittens.”

Blaine said she started creating shelters out of cardboard boxes, but soon realized they didn’t stand up to the weather. She sourced the Styrofoam boxes that are generally used by some companies to ship perishable goods. Blaine found that straw makes for warm bedding that doesn’t compress too much. She drills holes in the bottom of the boxes to provide some airflow and to keep the straw from getting too wet and rotting. Another hole is cut into the front of the box for cats to enter and exit. She cuts an emergency blanket to fit inside the lid and secures it with glue. The lid is taped to the box.

Blaine said she doesn’t feed feral cats, but “somebody needs to feed them,” she said. Cats that have been sterilized usually have one ear clipped, Blaine said.

Mesa County Animal Services does not respond to reports of feral cats. It will accept cats in need of urgent medical attention and the agency will pick up cats if the owner is unknown and the cats are injured or orphaned at less than four weeks old, according to their website.

Mesa County’s Animal Services does not accept cats whose owners want to relinquish them for adoption.

The Humane Society of the United States says there are tens of millions of feral or community unsterilized cats, making it the nation’s most pressing cat issue, according to their website. The agency supports the trap, neuter and return method as opposed to euthanizing feral cat populations, which it calls, “inhumane, ineffective and wasteful of scarce resources.”

Grand Valley Pets Alive helped pay for spaying and neutering for more than 350 cats and dogs last year. They do not run shelter services for animals.

A fundraiser for Grand Valley Pets Alive will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 4 at Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill, 2430 Patterson Road, when the restaurant will donate a portion of proceeds to the group.

Anyone who wants to obtain a cat shelter should call Blaine at 201-4251.

For more information about trapping cats and getting them spayed or neutered, visit Grand Valley Pets Alive at or call 256-1851.


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