TUMBLEWEEDS

The Art of Kitty Care…in Cotton City

Steffanie Mininger loves cats – all 40 of them

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They come from places like Lordsburg and Cotton City, others arrive from Tucson and beyond. “It started out with a friend who needed a home for a stray cat and a neighbor with a litter of abandoned kittens, so I took them in,” said Mininger who has fostered dozens of felines over the years.

“But the need has grown so much,” said Mininger of her home shelter in Cotton City. In recent years, she began to follow social posts, to respond to calls about homeless cats and abandoned ferals. “The animal shelter is open again in Lordsburg,” said Mininger as she coddles 2-month-old kittens in her lap. “But I follow media posts and there’s such a need for foster homes.”

At her house, cats are cared for, nursing kittens are bottle-fed and some of the homeless or injured are brought to her home – no questions asked.

In recent years, she partnered with volunteer and feral expert Kim Tankersley, who likewise has a heart for homeless or injured felines with or without kittens. “She gets calls about feral cats or people will post notes about helping them, so that means going to the location and trying to trap, neuter and then release (TNR) again.”

She houses a handful of ferals in a storage barn that doubles as a “cattery.” Her temporary adoptees need bags of kitty food, cat litter and sometimes, veterinarian care with bills that add up.

Still others are domestic cats needing a forever home. Today, you can find up to 30 cats who live in and hover around the house, around the barn, free-range cats who she believes are compatible with the multiple ducks, chickens, goats and four dogs that live in harmony with her family.

“When it got to ‘snowballing’ in numbers, was when the local shelter closed (this past year) -- and I took in at least 15 more cats over a six-month period.”

According to Roxann Randall, former Lordsburg City Council member and shelter volunteer, the need grew with the closure and the lack of an on-site Animal Control Officer (ACO). “Unfortunately, there were a lot of animals running around Lordsburg,” Randall said. “Before that we tried our best to return dogs and cats to their owners, or do an adoption; find a foster home, or (if needed) to transport them to another rescue,” said Randall of time period 2015- 2019.

“The location was good, but the building was in need of upgrades from ceilings and plumbing, to electrical, heat and air-conditioning systems.”

“The county needs foster-families to help with animals waiting for adoption, or those going to another rescue…In some cases it’s a time issue, so fosters can save a life.” Mininger, Randall and (rescue volunteer) Kim Tankersley often work with groups that rescue, place or find temporary homes.

As a rescue volunteer, Mininger also worked with Tankersley on feral cat abandonment and much-needed spay and neutering issues. “Sometimes, that project involves orphaned kittens left to starve under abandoned homes or finding them beneath trailers,” Mininger said.

“The trap, neuter, return (TNR) work isn’t easy. It involves a ‘stakeout’ in order to secure a cat or to find her kittens by using food bait in a carrier -- It can take hours or days to do that. Once a feral cat or (kittens) are secured, they may need medical treatment or a veterinarian,” said Mininger of a closet well-stocked with tiny bottles, antibiotics, Gerber jars and bandages.

You never know what you might find with a rescue.

“We have people who want to help with cat rescues or they are part of smaller organizations that post online,” Mininger said. “But we haven’t had an open facility in Lordsburg, so I partnered with Tankersley on taking in homeless cats from this area and from places near her home in Tucson.”

Spring is a “season of need” for homeless animals.

“It’s so important that people get their pets spayed and neutered – especially the female cats. We’re pretty remote and a poorer community, but places like the High Desert Humane Society can help with some of that cost.” She refers to coupons available (SNAP) to help defray some of the cost; and the Furry Friends of Lordsburg who can assist with the plight of homeless animals.

Randall, who worked with the Lordsburg shelter and budget, often assisted with donations, kennels, staffing and setting up a network of fosters and volunteers. In 2016, she secured a PetSmart Grant of $30,000 to spay, neuter and vaccinate animals in Hidalgo County. But those funds have likely run out.

Austin Cannon, the new animal control officer (ACO) in Lordsburg, will open the doors to the Shelter Monday through Fridays and will work towards finding an animal’s owner, an adoption or a foster home.

“My main goal is to maintain the shelter, give the animals care and to find the owners,” Cannon said of leashed or collared dogs. “The groundwork for foster care was laid, repairs were handled, but we need volunteer help, people to assist, to walk dogs on a Saturday or consider a donation of food or supplies.”

Volunteers help with everything from kennel care and feeding to socializing pets. “It takes a lot of coordination to find an open rescue, they often run full, and there’s need for volunteer drivers to transport them,” Randall said. “One employee can’t do it all.”

Mininger and her children enjoy caring for cats in need a good home and they hope to add a “whimsical” kitty cottage to their acreage: “I’m looking for someone to adopt my two smallest kittens, Bonnie and Clyde – They deserve to have a forever home.”