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Shelby woman's mission is to save cats

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By Stephanie Dunn

After dark, when most of us have had our dinner and settled down for a cozy evening in, Sandy Hill and friends are out feeding and checking on the welfare of colonies of feral cats throughout our county…just because as far as they’re concerned, it’s the right thing to do.

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These people are volunteers, and most of them have full-time jobs and families. But somehow, they manage to squeeze in time for this something they believe in – and not only is their time donated, but so is the food they offer to the cats.

Everything is out of their own pockets, and none of them do it for the glory. What motivates them, you might ask?

We sat down with Sandy Hill to address this question, at least from her perspective. She tells of her beginning in this cat-saving mission, back in 2008, finding a terribly injured cat at a local restaurant and giving $1,000 for the necessary amputation of the animal’s leg. She says she actually became a “cat person” a few years before when she volunteered for the Humane Society, and adopted her first cat.

“I’d always considered myself a dog person before that,” she said.

However, after that first feline adoption, she was hooked, and it seemed there was no looking back. She currently takes care of 25 to 30 cats of her own at any given time, including "fostered" animals.

Although her full-time “day job” is with Norton Healthcare, Hill also heads an organization called Operation CatSnip, which she joined in 2008. In addition to locating feral (or "wild") cat colonies and feeding them every evening, she and other volunteers humanely trap the cats, spay or neuter them, vaccinate them and address any other health concerns, and after recovery, return them to their original environment within 3 to 4 days.

 

What motivates her

This, she and her fellow volunteers say they believe, is one of the most helpful things they can do for the county's feral cat population – basically, to help them stop multiplying, and then continue to care for these cats after they've been spayed or neutered and returned.

"Feral cats generally survive five years without care," Hill said.

She cited these facts:

  • During the course of seven years, two unaltered cats can produce as many as 400,000 cats total, and that's if only two cats per litter survive.
  • Females can have at three to four litters per year and can get pregnant at 4 months of age.

These statistics serve to motivate Hill and her cohorts in their efforts, it would seem.

Hill and volunteers find their strays near places where the cats may hope to find food, such as restaurants, shopping areas, apartment buildings and sometimes near farms, where the unwanted animals are dumped.

The cats generally are considered unadoptable after a very young age, as they've never had (or haven't had for a long time) contact with humans. However, if the feral kittens are reached during this critical window of opportunity, adoption may be possible.

 

Helping hands

Hill and Operation CatSnip work hand-in-hand with the Shelby County Humane Society, where they hold their "Trap-Neuter-Release" clinics one weekend a month, aided by Dr. Teresa Gregory, a veterinarian from Crestwood Animal Hospital.

These clinics are staffed by Operation CatSnip volunteers, which number 20 in all, with six that "foster" animals that may need shelter for a longer time, or may be adoptable.

If the latter is the case, the cat may be put up for adoption through the Shelby County Humane Society or through PetSmart’s locations on Westport Road or Hurstbourne Lane in Louisville, according to Hill.

In addition to the 3-to-4 day clinics every month, Hill and the others spend around 20 hours a week feeding and caring for the cats they've taken on as their personal missions. Could they use some help? Definitely, said Hill.

She said that anyone age 18 or older can help the group with a multitude of tasks: feeding the colonies, helping with the clinics, fostering cats, and even bottle-feeding kittens.

She added that if Shelby Countians would like to donate financially to contact Operation CatSnip of Kentucky. And any donations of cat food would be extremely welcome and can be taken to the Shelby County Humane Society at 400 Hudson Blvd. in Shelbyville (502-633-4033).

Although often exhausted, Hill said she loves the work she does with the local cat population.

“I love them and treat them as my own,” she said.

And although Operation CatSnip's mission is much more multifaceted, Hill admits that her own is very simple:

"Sandy Hill's mission is to save cats."

 

Want to help?

For more information about helping Sandy Hill and her group of volunteers, contact Operation CatSnip at OCKI@twc.com or 502-220-0271.