WINSIDE -- Winside is the home of the Wildcats, and a local family was feeling bad about the literal wild cats they kept finding near their home.
"This little guy is an example of when the population explodes, they pick up diseases," said Emma Burris-Janssen, holding a black kitten in her arms.
Zaba -- or Poirot depending on which name sticks -- is one of many cats Burris-Janssen and her sister Caroline Burris have saved within their Winside neighborhood -- where they're seeing kittens hiding in their cars, sick cats wandering around, and abandoned animals.
Last winter, their mom took in a friendly stray.
"She just kept having kittens and we heard from people that she'd had three or four litters a year and at least half of them would die -- we just wanted to help her out," said Caroline, who works as a nurse.
The idea of helping strays started there -- growing since then into trapping; vaccinating; and neuter/spaying three full litters of kittens. In the past two weeks, Burris-Janssen has taken eight cats to the Wayne Veterinary Clinic for spaying, neutering and medical care -- with about seven more in the neighborhood on deck.
"This right now is totally self-funded, and the way I'm justifying it is we didn't go on vacation this year," Emma Burris-Janssen said.
While the effort began out of a desire to stop the suffering of the cats -- there's also a practicality element to it. If the population is left unchecked, it can lead to diseases being spread, and pest infestations.
"Cat overpopulation can be a huge problem. They can spread diseases if kids play in sandboxes -- that's a huge litter box to a cat [...] and it can mess with the ecosystem," Burris said.
NCN reached out to city leaders in Winside for comment. They say it's not an issue they're monitoring at this time.
Burris-Janssen says at least one other resident in the village has also been spaying and neutering local cats. But she said it's a problem that will soon need a more long-term solution, either from the public sphere or the private realm.
"A lot of people in the neighborhood don't like it because they spray," Emma Burris-Janssen said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg, something more needs to be done."
That's why they're hoping to maybe open an office or start fundraising to help more litters, as they know of at least one more litter in the family in need of care that young Zaba is getting.
"This little guy, I found him alone [...] he's like the loveliest -- he was very shy initially but he will go on his back and be like wants belly rubs, it's amazing you can tell he feels so much better. It's awesome to see just a few days of medication and he's already feeling so much better," Burris-Janssen said.
The two thank the TNR group and Fur the Love of Paws in North Platte for providing tips. You can help out by providing litter, cat food, or donating cat toys. You can also help out by donating to the Winside Cat Fund at the Wayne Veterinary Clinic.
NOTE: Emma's husband, Patrick Janssen, works for News Channel Nebraska.