CHICAGO (CBS) — Ashley Burrell pulls up in an alley in the Englewood neighborhood for her daily stop to feed stray cats.
She is a registered colony caretaker, working with PAWS Chicago – which means she oversees a community of cats living on the street.
At first, Burrell wasn’t even a cat lover. But one injured cat near a friend’s house got her started.
“Something about Garfield – he just like drew my attention. I was like checking on him and just wanted to make sure he was OK, and that led to all these,” she said.
A group from PAWS Chicago recently helped Burrell trap a cat she named Panther. He needed medical help after injuring his tail.
“What we do, our PAWS community cat program works on the ground in communities such as Englewood here – three days a week, 52 weeks a year – performing this trap-neuter return, bringing in about 50 cats a week for spay and neuter, and for some of the friendlies and kittens, putting them up for adoption,” said Laurie Maxwell of PAWS Chicago.
She continued: “Outdoor cats can have babies every 63 days, and so that’s why there’s so many – especially in neighborhoods where there are no veterinarians; there are no resources for spay and neuter, and there’s a lot of abandoned lots and abandoned houses – we build relationships with folks like Ashley on a one-on-one basis to understand what their needs are.”
And the program has been working. Back in 2014, when it first started in Englewood, cats were everywhere. Now, almost all of them seen in this report are protected and part of the fabric of the community.
“Someone needs to take care of them,” Burrell said. “They don’t really have anybody.”