(KUTV) — A pair of Skyline High School juniors are helping to tackle the issue of cat colonies in the Salt Lake Valley.
Emily Keller and Anagha Rao provide food and shelter for these community cats while also teaching others about controlling their population.
"It's really sad to think about all the stray cats that are living outside," said Keller, 17.
So Keller and Rao started collecting supplies to keep those cats warm and fed.
"We collect things like newspapers and cat food," said Rao, 16. "We do cardboard and old blankets or sheets."
The supplies will be given to the rescue Kitty CrusAIDe, which helps maintain these cat colonies with the "trap, neuter, release" process — also called TNR.
"What we do is we go out, we trap the colonies, we get them fixed, we get them vaccinated," explained Dani Braun, co-founder of Kitty CrusAIDe.
After cats are released back into safe environments, volunteers will continue to feed the animals and provide shelters in areas where the colonies are found. If they find any kittens who would be able to live inside, they work to find them foster homes and get them adopted.
Braun says cat colonies can pop everywhere from backyards, warehouses, places near big fields, and apartment complexes.
We like to say that these are community cats, and so the community is responsible for caring for them," Braun said.
Braun says this process is the best way to control the cat population and also helps rescues like hers keep track of the cat colonies. But there is a big lack of resources and help for organizations like hers.
So these young women wanted to help and encourage others to do so, too.
I just want to help inspire other teens and tell them this doesn't have to take a lot of money or a lot of time to make a difference," Rao said.
Keller got Rao involved after she learned about TNR and the lack of help for these colonies while fostering cats during the pandemic.
"It's opened my eyes to all the different things out there with cats," Keller said.
They started out making shelters out of foam boxes, straw, and garbage bags that were delivered to different colonies. And now they're hoping the community will donate the environmentally-friendly supplies to their latest project.
Braun believes these young women's efforts will leave a lasting impression on people.
"They really are going to be the future, and they are the ones that are doing to make changes," she said.
Mountain America Credit Union donated $500 to help Rao and Keller with their supply drive, as well as support Kitty CrusAIDe.
They are collecting supplies until April 1. They are hoping people will donate newspapers, cardboard, cat food, and old blankets, towels, and sheets.
Here is a list of drop-off locations:
You can also donate to Kitty CrusAIDe through its website or Venmo: @kitty-crusaide. Kitty CrusAIDe is also willing to teach people to trap cats and participate in TNR.
Emily Keller also set up a website to teach people about TNR and how to make a cat shelter to donate to organizations in need.