By Ralph Echtinaw
Starting five years ago with just $400, Marie A. Green and a group of animal lovers founded Gratiot Animals In Need (GAIN). Today the group spays and neuters 800 cats a year, provides homes for free roaming cats and helps low-income people pay vet bills and feed their cats.
Green “puts in 24 hours a day,” said GAIN Secretary Mindy S. Martinez. “We can’t replace her. She’s always doing something for GAIN. Marie is 101 percent into this.”
“When you get involved in rescue you’re all in,” Green said. “You can’t help it. It’s the nature of the beast.”
Founded in 2014, GAIN is headquartered at the Way of the West store on M-46 west of St. Louis. Martinez owns the store. A veterinary clinic is located behind Way of the West, where cats are spayed, neutered, de-wormed, treated for fleas and inoculated twice a month from February through November.
Last year GAIN spent $38,000 on its charitable activities. “No one gets paid,” Green said. “No one receives any income from this. It all goes to the programs we support.”
Free roaming cats that aren’t fixed are a particular problem for area residents because the females can have kittens as often as four times a year. “Cats can have their first litter at four months old,” Green said. “And from then on they’re either pregnant or having kittens.”
One GAIN clinic last summer was dedicated to female free roaming cats. Fifteen were brought in, and 13 were pregnant.
Of the 814 cats GAIN fixed last year, 254 were free roaming.
If you would like to have free roaming cats in your neighborhood fixed, you can borrow a live trap from GAIN.
Visit the GAIN web site to ask a question or schedule an appointment.
Often times the free roaming cats will be returned to where they were captured. Without humans, cats form “colonies,” and “The best environment is for the cats to return to their own colony,” Green said.
But GAIN also has a Cat Conservation Corps program, where free roaming cats are placed all over central Michigan where people need barn cats, warehouse cats or just a garage cat to keep the rodent population under control.
In the last two months cats were placed in Portland, Dexter, St. Johns and elsewhere, Green said.
Free roaming cats are not necessarily feral cats, Green said. Many of them visit several homes in a given area for handouts.
“They will have three or four places that they visit. And those people all feed them and all think they’re the only ones. But it’s visiting all those places and getting food at all those places.”
Many of the GAIN cats end up being sold at Soldan’s and Pet Smart in Mt. Pleasant. The cost $70, which all goes to GAIN and pays the cost of making the cat healthy and unable to reproduce.
“We don’t believe in free cats,” Green said. “Our cats are spayed and neutered. They’re microchipped. They have their vaccinations. They’re flea treated, and they’re wormed. We want them to go to a home that’s going to care for them. We charge $70 per cat, and we get it.”
GAIN has a Companion Program to help low-income people hang onto their pets even when it’s hard to make ends meet. This program applies to dogs, too.
“We will pay for the office call to have that cat or dog looked at to determine what that physical issue is,” Green said. “If it’s not treatable we will help with euthanasia.”
Dog and cat food is available at the GAIN headquarters at Way of the West for people who have trouble affording to feed their cats and dogs. Some 140 people took advantage of the free food program last year.
GAIN has two clinics a month from February through November where veterinarian Susan Hamilton spays and neuters 30-40 cats per clinic.
Free roaming cats are fixed for $10. Pet cats go for $35.
Rabies and distemper shots are $10 each. De-worming and flea treatment are $5 each.
“We believe in helping people,” Green said. “We don’t believe in doing everything for everybody.”
GAIN does not spay and neuter dogs at these clinics but will give you a voucher ($45-$50 for small dogs, $100 for large dogs) that you can use with any area veterinarian to have your dog fixed.
The officers of GAIN are Green (president and treasurer), Martinez (secretary), Julie Mouser (vice president) and Deb Martin and Mary Humm. Beyond that there are eight to ten active members.
Most of them have been with GAIN for years. “Everybody has stuck with it,” Green said. “Everybody has stayed.”
“We don’t want any accolades,” Martinez said. “We’re just so happy with what we’ve been able to do.”
If you’d like to donate to GAIN, send a check to the organization at 1346 E. Buchanan, Ithaca, MI 48847.