Happy ending . . . Gore woman Mel Ferguson holds onto Blokey one of the 120 stray cats she has rescued from the streets of the town. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

A building to house stray cats and kittens is a priority, Gore woman Mel Ferguson says.

Ms Ferguson has been feeding stray cats and kittens in nine different places throughout the town since 2019.

She has also been catching the cats, taming them and organising for them to be desexed and rehomed.

However, she was now ‘‘overwhelmed’’ with the number of cats she had rescued.

‘‘I have too many cats at home and I am swamped.’’

She was also being ‘‘inundated’’ with people who needed help to find homes for kittens.

If she and fellow cat rescuer Pauline Tinker, of Edendale, had a building to base their work in, it would be easier.

‘‘We could do so much more if we had a building where we could take these cats to socialise them and then rehome [them].

‘‘It would be a place people could come if they were interested in adopting a cat.’’

There has been no shelter in Gore to house stray cats and kittens since 2021, when the SPCA shut down.

Some people did not have a high opinion of stray cats but in her experience they made the best pets, Ms Ferguson said.

‘‘Because they’ve suffered, starved, struggled to survive and live in a constantly frightened state, when you rescue them and start feeding them they are beyond loyal.’’

One such animal was Blokey, a kitten she noticed on a cold winter’s afternoon when she was feeding a group of cats.

The kitten looked very unwell and did not eat any food.

After she went home she could not stop thinking about him and returned at midnight to see if she could catch him.

‘‘He crawled up beside me and crouched at my feet, which was really unusual.’’

She wrapped him in a blanket and the kitten seemed glad to be warm.

The next day she took him to a veterinary.

He was sick for the next three days and each time she checked on him, she was not sure he would still be alive.

On the fourth day, he was sitting up purring and as she leant over him he reached forward and bunted her on the head.

‘‘That’s the sort of gratitude you get from an animal you rescue.

‘‘Now he loves me.’’

He often sat beside her on the top of a chair with his cheek on hers.

Stray cats were no different in nature from a pet except for one thing.

‘‘They’re not as lucky and they don’t have a home.’’

She had rehomed about 120 cats since she started rescuing them.

The problem of stray cats was mostly caused by people who did not have their animals desexed.

‘‘We pick up the pieces.’’

Whenever anyone approached her with a litter of kittens she encouraged them to have the cats desexed.

She was grateful to those people who dropped off cat food and supplies to The Ensign office.

In nine years a mother cat that had two litters a year at an average of about two kittens each would produce more than 11 million descendants, so it was very important for people to desex their pets.

Last year Gore district councillors agreed to form a cat management and control subcommittee, which had its first meeting in June.

Subcommittee chairwoman Glenys Dickson said stray and feral cats were a problem in the district, but needed to be dealt with differently.

She appreciated people such as Ms Ferguson who were rescuing the cats, but more needed to be done to prevent cats being abandoned, including getting cats desexed.

‘‘It shouldn’t all fall on her because other cat owners are irresponsible.’’

She believed the council ‘‘needs to step up here’’ and be involved in reducing the numbers of stray cats.

The subcommittee would make recommendations to a full council meeting soon.

‘‘I’m hoping council may come up with a policy to subsidise cat neutering.’’