by Madelaine Formica
APG of East Central Minnesota
Rogers resident Maddie Oscarson has been rescuing and fostering animals since she was 10 years old. For the past 2 1/2 years, she has set her eyes on trapping, neutering and releasing feral outdoor cats around Becker and the Wright County area.
“Somehow I got sucked into cats,” Oscarson said. “I noticed how bad the cat problem was and how many stray cats were wandering around. So we catch all the random strays that wander around.”
Once Oscarson, along with her fiancé Travis Peterson, traps the cats and finds places to get them fixed, she takes the cats to foster families she has arranged. Live traps are used to capture the cats or Oscarson grabs the ones who allow her to with her hands.
“I act like a hippie when it comes to animals, like feed off of them and just watch their body and let them tell you what they want, but I feel like I’m really in tune with the cats and what they’ll respond to and how they’ll respond,” Oscarson said. “So, I’ve actually never gotten bit, ever, or scratched. I stay pretty in tune with what they want.”
Once the cats are trapped and neutered, they have a month to get adjusted to indoor life and socialize with humans before they are adopted out as pets. If they are unable to adjust, then Oscarson finds barns or shops where the cats can go and safely be looked after as outdoor cats.
“I’m super, super picky about the animals,” Oscarson said. “There’s a bigger issue of not having enough people wanting to adopt or foster cats in long-term committed homes. ... So I’m super picky because I want to make sure that we always have the right fit for each cat.”
Oscarson also works with a lot of colonies where there can be upward of dozens of cats at one farm that have bred and grown their family unit over time. The largest colony Oscarson has ever trapped and released was 38 cats. She was able to transport the cats in her van to get them fixed.
“How scary would this be,” Oscarson said, contemplating how the cats must feel in her car. “And on the way home, it always stinks. And it’s super loud.”
Trap and release for large colonies is a project that Oscarson works on from the spring until the fall. Next spring, Oscarson has a large colony lined up in St. Michael that she’ll help relocate. During the fall, she helps build shelters for the outdoor cats and distribute them so the cats do not freeze to death.
“Minnesota winters are insane,” she said. “We find [the cats] frozen to the ground. That’s where the shelters come in. ... A lot of them go to the colonies and homeowners.”
On Oct. 17 and 18, Oscarson hosted a cat shelter volunteer event in Becker with many St. Michael residents from her hometown. Fifteen volunteers participated in creating 80 shelters, ranging from small water cooler shelters with holes cut into them to larger insulated dog houses and sheds. In years past it has taken Oscarson and her fiancé three weeks to make 50 shelters alone.
“This is the first year we didn’t do it on our own,” she said. “It’s a big project for us. So to make 80 in two days was pretty sweet.”
Oscarson hopes to have a volunteer event again next year to build and distribute outdoor shelters. If people wish to donate to help Oscarson with supplies and cat medical costs, they can donate to her Paypal at maddieoscarson1.
Currently, Oscarson is still in college, working two full-time jobs and planning her wedding.
“If one college girl with two jobs and planning a wedding can do this, I think everyone can do some little part,” Oscarson said. “I get that you don’t have to love them, but it is a problem everybody should care somewhat about. I’d just encourage people to fix their pets.”