ROCK PORT — Dozens of cats chased from their homes by flooding in northwest Missouri have found a safe haven at a farm near Rock Port, where they are sharing a house with a woman who plans to establish an animal rescue shelter.
Marie Hurtig says once the floodwaters recede, many of the cats will be returned to their owners, who brought them to her to keep until they can return to their homes.
"Most of them," she said of the flood-exiled families, "want their kitties back. They just needed a place to bring them to be safe."
The St. Joseph News-Press reports that her long-term plan is to build the shelter on a spot in the back of her farmhouse east of Rock Port, which has been named "Cat Ranch."
Meanwhile, the cats stay inside kennels stacked two deep in Hurtig's living room. They get out the kennels to play and roam a little, in an arrangement that has been approved by the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"This is scary (because) it's the first time," she said while holding Twinkie, barely a palm's worth of yellow-and-white-striped fur, while trying to feed it kitten food mixed with formula powder.
Hurtig developed an affinity for cats while growing up on a farm near Union, Maine. She's lived in Rock Port since 2007. Before her husband, Robert, died in 2010 he did the drawings for the shelter.
Making the shelter happen requires fundraising and outreach to animal lovers. A recent adoption party held in nearby Shenandoah, Iowa, found homes for nine of the 11 cats taken to the event. An account has been established at Citizens Bank & Trust in Rock Port for a building fund; checks should carry the tag "Cat Ranch."
Hurtig said she does not find it difficult to live with so many cats. She said she just wants to be sure they all have safe homes to return to in the future.