ROCK SPRINGS — When the dilapidated houses around Bunning Park were marked for demolition to make room for extra parking for the park’s many community events, it was lauded by most as a sign of progress. A good move to beautify downtown and get rid of some eyesores.
It was bad news, however, for the estimated 20+ feral cats that have made the ramshackle buildings their home.
A few local animal lovers became concerned about what would happen to the cats when the buildings were knocked down. Would the walls come down around these animals? Would they have a place to go? Would they just be euthanized if caught?
Concern spurred action after the demolition bid was awarded and could begin as soon as June 20. Sisters Jana and Kristy Meeks said that spurred crisis mode for them.
The sisters, not part of any animal organization, have gotten to know the feral cats of Bunning Park.
They began feeding some of the cats during an especially harsh part of the winter, when the cats were getting very skinny. They said they hate to see any animal suffer.
The Cat Ladies of Bunning Park
The “Cat Ladies” as they’ve come to be known by others involved in this project, believe that many of these cats can be tamed. Some of them, they believe, will make decent pets, while others would be a solid shop mouser or a barn cat.
“There are people who think these are trash cats, but I don’t think that’s right,” said Jana.
Jana and Kristy reached out to volunteers Melinda Bass and Suzannah Gambell with the Red Desert Humane Society, who have helped formulate a plan for these cats. And that plan has become a full-fledged collaboration.
The Great Catsby
Beginning yesterday, the sisters began setting up live animal traps baited with cat food, which they’ve checked every hour. Once caught, the plan is to get these cats spayed and neutered.
The Red Desert Humane Society has donated space in their basement as a quiet place for the cats to acclimate, where they can assess which cats will be adoptable. Jana and Kristy plan to volunteer their time to care for the animals through this process.
Rock Springs Animal Control has pitched in as well, lending the live animal traps and showing the ladies how to set them. Veterinarian Cameron Eilts has agreed to do vet work at a discounted rate. They are hoping other vets in the area will help as well.
The group has done some research on best practices for taming feral cats. The plan is to work with them to find the ones that enjoy human companionship. Those cats will be adopted into homes.
The cats that tolerate people, but don’t seek attention will be adoptable as barn or shop cats. The Bureau of Land Management Horse Corrals has already agreed to take two or three of the more independent cats as mousers.
And even the cats that are too wild to tolerate people will have a place.
Melinda Bass said that the Red Desert Humane Society would like to have a feral cat colony out at the Yellowstone Road facility, which is outside the city limits. There would be structures erected so that the animals could take shelter and live out their days in a quiet place, fixed and unable to reproduce.
From Roam to Home
The sisters have nabbed ten of the strays so far. If this plan works out well, the sisters have a couple other areas around Rock Springs with feral cat problems they would like to work on too.
“It’s so sad because no one takes responsibility for these cats. Somebody has got to help,” said Kristy. “When you see how stressed they are, it’s good they will have a chance to live a normal life. Plus, we are getting them fixed so they stop having babies.”
The project is accepting donations of cash for the vet bills, as well as supplies for the extra animals. Contact Red Desert Humane Society to make a donation for this project at 307-362-1636.