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Shelter gives stray cats a second chance

CHARLESTON -- Coles County is cracking down on stray cats after the shelter rescued more than 40 from an area home.

CHARLESTON -- Coles County is cracking down on stray cats after the shelter rescued more than 40 from an area home. WCIA-3’s Lindsey Gordon has the story about what they’re doing differently.

These cats are wild and can’t be adopted into homes. Instead of killing them, the shelter will now sterilize, vaccinate and then release them. It saves money and saves lives.

"Instead of bringing feral cats in and killing them, they're being sterilized, vaccinated and out the door they go," said Dr. Robert Weedon, DVM, with UI Shelter Medicine Program.  

Once a week, Weedon is in Coles County, where he and his team vaccinate and sterilize animals. Last Wednesday was a busy day for them.

"We did 42 cats that were relinquished by, ostensibly, a hoarder-type situation. All these cats lived in a trailer park in a trailer," said Weedon.

That’s also when they started the new program. The shelter rescued wild cats from a home in Charleston, where as many as 30 more still need to be taken. The shelter says the woman there has been very cooperative.

Before the change, the shelter would take stray cats and hold them. It costs the shelter more than $70 to keep a cat for a week, but Weedon’s team can vaccinate and sterilize for just $25.

Since these rescued cats can’t be adopted, they need somewhere else to go.

"They've got a lot of place to play, hide, just being cats," said Melissa Burton, a self-professed animal-lover.

Burton has taken eleven of the feral cats to her family farm. She’s taken them in for years. They’re fed and given veterinary care when they need it. In turn, the outdoor cats keep rodents away from the farm. She says it’s a “win-win” situation.

"Taking on a feral cat is giving the cat an opportunity at life where, in any other situation, they'd be put to sleep," she said.

In Champaign and surrounding counties, a group is working to implement a similar program. They want to find more people in rural areas willing to take these cats that can’t be adopted. The program is called “Country Cats.”

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