Watertown woman creates "kitty shelters" for strays to keep warm

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WATERTOWN, S.D. A Watertown resident is creating shelters in hopes of providing a warm place for stray cats. Brooke Solberg has gained the attention of her neighbors and KSFY's Kayleigh Schmidt found out where her inspiration came from.

Solberg has two dogs and two cats - one of those cats loves to be outside.

"He brought home another cat one day and that was on New Year's Eve when it was -40 out with the wind chill, so I felt extremely bad for the cat," Solberg said.

She searched online for ideas, found a few shelters that used Styrofoam so she built her own with a different material. Each tote has a smaller one inside.

"The insulation is around the outside. I covered it with shavings so that the cats, if they get their claws up there, they don't get fiberglass on them," Solberg said. "This is wood shaving on the inside and then I just have to food in the corner."

Solberg tries to check each shelter as much as she can, refilling the food when needed. The smaller totes were around $50 total while the larger ones were just a little more to make. Solberg's friend has teamed up with her to get more totes out around Watertown. So far, around 15 shelters have been placed.

Her idea is gaining attention around northeast South Dakota

"I received a call from somebody at work because they didn't really know how to contact me and gave me her number to call her and said she wanted one of the kitty shelters. So I brought one to her house because she said she has about 4 animals that come to her house and then she gave me a donation" Solberg said. "I had somebody from Britton, who I don't even know, they just sent money to me for the donation to make more so it's definitely a help."

The local humane society is following Solberg's progress.

"She's had a great idea and every little bit helps. She's concerned about the welfare of the cats and that's a very noble idea," Glacial Lakes Humane Society and Shelter Manager Donna Rapinchuk said.

The stray population in Watertown is about 10 cats for every city block.

"More people are utilizing the shelter when they find themselves unable to keep their pet. We've been able to, as the city estimates, get down to at least 4 feral or stray cats per city block, so there has been some improvement over the past few years, but by no means has the feral or stray cat problem been resolved," Rapinchuck said.

Solberg hopes to add shelters in communities around Watertown. She's already placed one in Henry. Solberg is always taking suggestions on where more shelters should be.

She's always had a soft spot for animals and Solberg hopes to insulate her garage to take in neglected animals soon.