Winters in South Dakota are brutal and unforgiving. Feral cats have little hope of surviving the winter months. University of South Dakota student Sophomore Allaina Howard is on a mission to help the feral cats on and around the campus stay warm.
She is making shelters out of Rubbermaid bins and lined with tin foil and cardboard as installation. Cedar chips are used as bedding so that they can be easily replaced.
“I just thought they are going to be freezing this winter,” she said. “I found a cat shelter on Pinterest that was just made out of ordinary supplies and started asking people if they had any of the items.”
Alley Cat Allies, a national feral cat advocacy organization, stresses the importance of providing shelters during the winter for strays because they will seek refuge from the cold in car engines and other tight places that are life threatening.
Allaina has built three shelters so far.
“The primary goal is to give them a place to stay in the winter, so they’re warm and don’t freeze out in the cold,” she said. “But the bigger goal is to work towards a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program. We want to work with local veterinarians and the school and fix this problem of all the cats.”
The city has no TNR program in place.
“If animal control is getting complaints, the cats are trapped and euthanized. I don’t believe anyone has done something like this (made shelters) in the past,” Farrel Christensen, head of school’s Code Enforcement Department, said. “The milder the winter, the higher the population come spring.”
There is also a Go Fund Me page online titled “Save the freezing Vermillion cats.”
“Right now our focus has been getting the cats shelter. There’s a lot of planning that goes with a catch-neuter-return program,” Howard said. “We started all of this a couple weeks ago and are really trying to kick it off. It’s something totally new.”