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Daily Journal
February 7, 2023
#37-38 KDJ

Wilmington neighbors helping cat population

By Taylor Leddin-McMaster

Realtor Diane Brannock-Martin spends her professional time finding homes for families. In her spare time, she finds homes for cats.

Five years ago, Brannock-Martin expressed to her now-husband, Tim Martin, an interest in fostering animals. After their move two years ago to Shadow Lakes in Wilmington, this grew from a personal hobby to an organization.

This became Here Kitty Kitty — along with neighbors Cheri Bolyn and Gary and Debra Bettenhausen — which is helping control the cat population within Shadow Lakes, a gated year-round resort and residential community.

The goal is to humanely trap cats to bring them to the vet to spay or neuter and to foster kittens for adoption. This is not new practice for many members of Here Kitty Kitty, as Brannock-Martin often bottle feeds for New Beginnings for Cats in Bourbonnais, and Bolyn and her mom, Hazell Cassem, often help foster.

“We’ve really got our hands full, but we love it,” Brannock-Martin said, which inspired nods of agreement from Bolyn and Gary Bettenhausen.

“At any given time, we have six-to-eight traps going,” said Gary.

They started the organization in September 2022 and have around nine core members. Gary said they all average about 20 hours per week of time dedicated to the cat effort.


When Here Kitty Kitty has kittens that they are fostering or adopting out, they go through the New Beginnings process. New Beginnings approves the adoptions and pays for the vet and food.

“I keep calling them our ‘sponsoring rescue’ but we’re really our own, too, we’re doing the TNR and the fostering,” Brannock-Martin said.

“We make a donation to New Beginnings for each cat we run through them just to offset some of the costs,” Bolyn added.

Pam Carpenter, of New Beginnings, said that their work is “improving the cats’ lives.”

“They’re doing such a wonderful job and they have it so well organized,” Carpenter said. “We’re helping as much as we can, but they deserved to be acknowledged.”

When kittens are involved, Here Kitty Kitty fosters them until a certain age when they can be spayed or neutered, then New Beginnings takes them to the nursery to be adopted out.

“It’s a win-win,” Carpenter continued. “Mainly it’s just [to] help the cats.”


So, have the Here Kitty Kitty group members been lifelong lovers of animals?

“Since, I think, I was conceived,” Brannock-Martin said with a laugh.

She and Tim have two cats and one dog. They refer to their animals as “foster failures,” because their intention to only foster turned into permanent adoption.

A difficult part of the job, the group agreed, is that you get attached to the kittens you’re fostering. It helps not to name them.

To that point, Bolyn said while holding two nearly identical kittens, “We just call them Boy and Girl.”

With Here Kitty Kitty, they are first and foremost looking out for the wellbeing of the cats. TNR — or trap, neuter, release — is how a bulk of the energy is spent. Once the cats, who are led to a trap with a trail of food, are neutered, they are then released to the same spot as they are territorial beings.

Another component with their organization is they want to educate people about why spaying and neutering is so important. They all agree there also are issues with inbreeding which can lead to disease, and the act of a spay or neuter helps to curb that.

“We have six more to adopt out, and kitten season is right around the corner,” Brannock-Martin said.

Warmer weather tends to lend itself to mating season. The group currently has seven kittens that are pending adoption.

The educational aspect also tells potential cat owners the dangers of declawing cats and how it’s much more humane to trim their claws.

Brannock-Martin and Bolyn agreed that everyone in the group has their own strengths and organizational techniques. One member helps by providing storage for traps and extra donated litter and food.

“We’re looking for support from the community,” Brannock-Martin said of the effort.

“It’s really phenomenal the amount of the support we have gotten,” Bolyn said.

“People have donated a lot of stuff, they’re very kind,” Gary added.


Today, Brannock-Martin and Bolyn are taking nine kittens to the vet to be spayed or neutered.

While they have no plans to expand past the gates of Shadow Lakes, the group is more than happy to share their model with other communities looking to assist cats in a similar fashion.

They are always seeking donations, whether they be monetary or cat-related items, and are looking for more foster homes. They also are looking for someone to help with social media and PR efforts.

Here Kitty Kitty hopes to one day work with a veterans organization and help those who might be seeking emotional-support pets.

They all agree it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the benefit of the cats. And, they love to get “furever home” photos from the adopters.

In just five months, Here Kitty Kitty has TNR’d 13 cats and adopted out 17 kittens.

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Taylor Leddin
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