COLUMBIA — In an alley behind a grocery store, Kimberly Newberry shakes a bottle of cat food. A gray and white cat named Ditto cautiously pokes his head out of the bushes. Recognizing Newberry and her children, he advances toward a waiting food bowl.
It took Newberry many months to gain Ditto’s trust, but now she feeds him everyday. Newberry considers herself a feral cat wrangler, and Ditto is just one of her many charges.
Newberry grew up in Virginia, where she was a registered nurse. After having her first child she became a stay-at-home mother, homeschooling her four children as they grew up. Her three youngest still live with her and are active in helping her trap and fix feral cats.
After moving to Columbia two years ago, Newberry noticed two kittens in her backyard, one of which appeared injured. Thinking they were strays, she left food out for them and tried to catch the injured one. The cats finally allowed Newberry near them after six months but not close enough to catch.
A woman told her about Spay, Neuter And Protect, an extension of Columbia Second Chance that specializes in trapping and fixing feral cats. After SNAP took care of the two cats in her backyard, Newberry decided to become a SNAP volunteer for her community.
Trapping is a family affair in the Newberry household. Kimberly’s father-in-law was the president of the Virginia Trappers Association, and the children have done humane trapping for many years. Newberry uses trapping as an opportunity to spend time with her children and to improve her community. She hopes that by teaching her children from an early age to respect all animals, they will fix their own pets as well as educate their communities about the importance of controlling the pet population.
Newberry believes education is crucial in her efforts to create a kill-free community. She wants to teach her children “to care, to be humble,” values that form the basis of strong communities. She hopes that her work with feral cats will inspire her children to improve their communities, a goal as challenging as herding cats.