Local nonprofit aims to tackle excessive cat population

A new nonprofit is looking to help local communities and residents stop the overpopulation of cats in the Ohio Valley.

A new nonprofit is looking to help local communities and residents stop the overpopulation of cats in the Ohio Valley.

The St. Gertrude Cat Initiative is a nonprofit organization started by Jefferson County resident and self-proclaimed cat lover Brandi Damewood.

“I created this so we can humanely help the communities and the cats together,” Damewood said.

Named after the Catholic patron saint of cats, the initiative was created to help tame the overpopulation of cats many neighborhoods face.

The initiative also aims to help people like Stella Heflin, who at one point was taking care of more than 20 cats.

“They've had them here about 10 years,” Heflin said. “They came, and they stayed, and we kept them, and we fed them and here they are.”

Due to very similar situations across Bergholz, the village's Mayor Gary Griffith asked Damewood and the Cat Initiative to help.

“He got a hold of me through the Humane Society and said ‘I am at a loss. We’re overrun with cats, neighbors are complaining,’ and even Stella herself is like ‘I can't afford to feed all these cats’,” Damewood said.

Damewood said she was inspired to start the non-profit after working at the Jefferson County Humane society.

“Working at the shelter, we would get calls every day about the cat problems and people are so frustrated,” Damewood said. “They don't know how to deal with the overpopulation, and we'll have people calling saying they're going to poison the cats or harm the cats, and that's illegal.”

Instead, the initiative advocates for the preservation of life of all animals.

They operate on the T.N.R. method -- trap, neuter, and release -- to stop communities from being overrun by homeless cats.

“Once they start overpopulating, it is so hard to control them,” Damewood said. “You start with one pregnant mama and within a year, you can have up to 50 to 100 cats just from that one mama.”

The initiative works closely with the Humane Society to provide affordable services.

Upon release, they work to build warm cat huts.

Like every non-profit -- the initiative relies heavily on fundraisers and donations to help pay for the care they give.

Damewood said they've received help with expensive vet bills.

“We have a wonderful lady who has offered to pay for some of the spays and neuters, and she's a blessing to us right now,” she said.

The St. Gertrude Cat Initiative plans to continue saving cats and helping communities at the same time -- just as they have helped Heflin and her cats.

“I'm glad to have the help - I know that,” Heflin said. “I'm glad they were here.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the St. Gertrude Cat Iniative can visit their website. More information can be found there and on their Facebook page. A GoFundMe is set up for donations.

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