Northeast Nebraska town overrun by stray cats

The town of Lyons is in an uproar over dozens of feral felines.
The Burt County town of Lyons is being overrun by a population problem. Not people -- but stray cats.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:26 PM CDT
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LYONS, Neb. (WOWT) - The Burt County town of Lyons is dealing with a population explosion.

Not of people -- but of stray cats.

“They just overrun the place, and now you’ve got them in your garbage can and your garden,” said Lyons police chief Bryan Dunn. “They’re tearing things apart. They are little demons.”

Lyons residents Benju and Cassandra Sahlstrom feed and shelter about 15 cats. Many are strays, and some they say people just drop off.

“I can’t afford to neuter them all,” they said. “We can’t afford to fix them. We can only afford to feed them and take care of them.”

So the Working Cat Project has come to the rescue.

“We’re going to finish catching the cats,” said Kathy Robertson with the nonprofit. “You’re a feeding station for the neighborhood.”

Robertson has been welcomed to Lyons with her live traps, and a new town ordinance backs up the volunteer work.

“It’s required in the city that you can feed all the cats you want outside, but they have to be spayed and neutered,” Robertson said. “Nobody is taking them away.”

And once the smell of tuna lures that stray cat into the live animal trap, the homeowners are told to cover him up with a blanket to keep him calm until he can be picked up and taken to a vet to be spayed or neutered.

Kathy estimates 125 cats are roaming through parts of town, and 31 have been trapped. She takes the cats to a vet for spaying and neutering, then returns them to where they came from.

Cat lover Ron Newell sees a difference.

“It even helps with the males,” he said. “They stay home better with less roaming around.”

The ordinance, in effect for about three weeks now, requires residents owning or caring for cats to have them fixed. Volunteers do that for those who can’t afford it.

“She came here on her own to help, like a gift I needed,” the Sahlstroms said.

The police chief will enforce the ordinance, but believes everyone will cooperate.

“Take care of your cats,” Dunn said. “This is the right thing to do, and it lessens a nuisance.”

The Working Cat Project pays for the spays and neuters, which runs $100 per cat -- so they rely on community fundraising. Cash donation containers have also provided funds for the program. Someone also dropped in a not-so-subtle message.

“I’m guessing they’re intending that we should shoot them instead of spending the money on the spaying and neutering,” volunteer Annie Christensen said.

But the volunteers want to save cats by limiting their pollution growth while reducing disease -- so they say the ordinance shouldn’t cause an uproar in Lyons.

The Working Cat Project has raised about $1,700 to conduct spay-and-neuter services in Lyons, but that money is gone with an estimated 90 cats still needing fixed.

Donations are welcome; no tax dollars are being used.