Andrea Lambrecht answered the call of the wild — and that call was to build shelters for cats.
The former Brainerd Dispatch nature columnist from Backus co-hosted a two-day build in Brainerd starting Saturday, Oct. 23, to make shelters for feral or semi-feral cats to stay warm in the winter.
“It's primarily for cats that are left out in the winter. … And they’re all distributed locally to cats in need,” Lambrecht said.
The environmental biologist invited people to volunteer their time or donate money to construct homemade shelters from plastic totes and coolers, Styrofoam, straw, sand and duct tape.
“There are several colonies of cats in Brainerd,” said Lambrecht, who retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Lambrecht also called for electric heat pads, heated water bowls, cat food and more to be donated in addition to seeking volunteers to make the winter cat shelters and deliver them.
“I got a call two days ago for a cat that people have seen that is just a stray cat that's been around town all summer and isn't claimed by anybody,” Lambrecht said Sunday. “And so they're wanting to get a shelter for it.”
There are an estimated 32 million feral cats nationwide, with roughly 76% of whom live in urban areas, according to the National Feline Research Council.
“Our primary focus is education and to spread the word regarding spay and neutering your animals because a lot of feral cats, semi-feral cats, cats that become strays are cats that came from unneutered animals. … And that's not only cats. It's dogs, too,” Lambrecht said.
“When shelters and impounds become full, animals in an impound oftentimes get euthanized. … I can't live with that.”
— Andrea Lambrecht
The cat shelter-building was 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at a storage facility near Corner Store Express, west of Baxter. Shelter-delivering volunteers were reimbursed for gas.
“If you go on to any rescue site — and I do rescue statewide and into Wisconsin — there are thousands of animals in need, thousands in shelters and impound, looking for foster homes and looking for permanent homes for these animals,” Lambrecht said.
Cats can begin to breed at 6 months of age and produce an average of 1 1/2 litters (average of four kittens each) annually, but many kittens born outdoors will not survive to reproduce, according to the National Feline Research Council.
“When shelters and impounds become full, animals in an impound oftentimes get euthanized. … That animal will be put down. … I can't live with that. That's unacceptable to me,” Lambrecht said.
Jessica Kirby of Brainerd takes feral, stray and lost cats that have not been claimed and gets them spayed or neutered through grants through the Humane Society, according to Lambrecht, and Kirby’s daughter Cora helped out at the two-day build in Brainerd.
Lambrecht, herself, owns four rescue cats: Simba, Kovu, Willie and Tiger. She said Simba and Kovu were going to be bagged and thrown into the river to die as kittens, while Willie was an orphan feral cat and Tiger was considered unadoptable, so she fostered and kept him.
“There were two builds this year,” Lambrecht said of the shelter-building events for cats. “One was in Becker — that was last weekend. And then this one in Brainerd. I’m thinking we probably have about 100 cats that need shelter.”
About eight people each day of the local two-day event volunteered to help build and distribute the shelters, according to Lambrecht.
“We have a list of people or rescuers who have requested shelters. And if they're a colony of cats, a community colony, then they will get whatever number of shelters they need,” she said. “Some of these shelters will hold one to four cats, so it depends on the size, need and location.”
Lambrecht said about $1,600 has been raised in donations that will help keep cats from freezing to death in the winter. For more information on how to help or get involved, contact Andrea Lee Lambrecht or Jessica T. Kirby on Facebook.
For instructions on how to build an outdoor cat shelter, visit https://bit.ly/3pzbga8.