A Shepherd University student has found a way to make life just a bit easier for homeless kittens and cats in a Martinsburg neighborhood.
Using newspapers, including some discarded copies of The Picket, and plastic bins, Meredith Blady, 22, has found a way to shelter her feline friends.
“I started feeding them in the summer, but I knew they weren’t going to survive through the winter with just food,” Blady said.
The fifth-year senior, who originally came to Shepherd to be a psychology major, quickly discovered that her real passion resided elsewhere. Building the homes for stray cats “made me want to be a veterinarian. I decided I didn’t want to work with people, I want to work with animals,” Blady said.
When Blady first started dating her boyfriend, Richard Goodman, she noticed that South High Street in Martinsburg where he lives was crowded with stray cats and kittens looking undernourished and needing help. “There were a ton of cats down there, and I love animals,” she said.
Shortly after seeing the large population of strays, Blady knew the cats were going to have a rough time in the winter. She started constructing homes for the cats that she could place around the neighborhood by taking one large plastic bin, insulating the inside of the bin with newspapers, and nestling a smaller bin inside the bigger one. She then cuts an opening in the bins so the cats can come and go as they please.
When she first started building the makeshift shelters, Blady didn’t use copies of the university newspaper for insulation. “I was talking to Demian Nunez, (the circulation manager at the paper), and he was discussing with one of our mutual friends about giving him old copies of The Picket. I said, ‘I need some of those newspapers!’ I didn’t realize there would be so many. The papers ended up filling up my friend’s entire Jeep,” Blady said.
Blady recalled several of her favorite and most interesting memories during the time she has spent being a crusader for cats and kittens.
“When I go to my boyfriend’s house, the cats know I am there to feed them. It’s really sweet when the cats come to me because a lot of them just let me cuddle them,” Blady said.
“About two years ago, I sprained by ankle really badly. It was late at night, and I heard this kitten crying,” Blady said. There was a fence she had to climb to get to the kitten, and she was just in her socks. She decided to hop the fence. As she went to jump down, one of her socks got caught and she landed sideways on her ankle.
“I laid there groaning, but I made sure my boyfriend checked on the crying kitten before taking me to the hospital,” Blady said. “I had to wear a brace for two months, but it was worth it!”
While she does make the shelters for strays, Blady also fosters kittens and sick cats until she can find them homes. If she sees kittens, she tries her best to capture them and take them to the vet to get them fixed. She also takes care of ill cats. “I once saw a cat crawl into one of the shelters and just die. I knew I had to get to sick ones quickly and get them help,” she said.
Blady has found homes for more than 20 cats and kittens since she began her project more than two years ago.
Although Blady spends a lot of time and effort on her cat project, she also volunteers at several animal foundations in the area including Briggs Animal Adoption Center in Charles Town and PIGS Animal Sanctuary in Shepherdstown.
Because her kitten project is not cheap, Blady works several jobs to fund her passion.
She does not wish to stop her animal story here, though. She plans to go to veterinarian school after she graduates from Shepherd. For now, however, she will continue to make a difference in the lives of the stray cats and kittens in the neighborhood around South High Street in Martinsburg as their hero.
To help Blady with her project, visit http://www.gofundme.com/shelterthestrays and https://www.facebook.com/shelterthestrays.