While her passion in life is far from glamorous, it's something Dorie Maier eagerly shares with anyone who will listen.
The Medford resident, a one-woman army when it comes to tackling the region's feral-cat population, founded Southern Oregon Furry Friends and Ferals last year to help reduce the number of unwanted kittens born to stray and feral cats.
Using estimates from various local agencies, Maier predicts there are a quarter of a million homeless cats between Grants Pass and Ashland.
"It's a huge problem, and no one knows how to get a handle on it," the 33-year-old says.
"Since I've been here for two years, I've only met two other trappers — one in Ashland and one in Grants Pass — and neither one wants to deal with Medford."
A student at Southern Oregon University who wants to become a veterinarian, Maier juggles her time between caring for her two daughters, tackling homework and investing a few hours each week to monitor, trap, sterilize and release feral and stray cats.
Maier's tasks often include finagling smelly cans of cat food, trapping angry, hissing felines and dumping in money from her family's limited income to help these unwanted animals.
Always a cat lover, Maier got her start at helping to control feline overpopulation while living for five years in Coos Bay and volunteering for S/Nipped, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic and rescue group (www.snippedandspayed.webs.com).
She met Tamara McCuistion, the group's founder, at a festival called the Clamboree.
"She had a booth, and I was looking for options to get my animals fixed. She was advertising for volunteers, and I volunteered for her," Maier says.
"During that summer, we went on transports every other week to Salem, Portland and Corvallis to get between 15 and 72 cats and dogs fixed at low-cost clinics. She basically took me under her wing and taught me everything I know."
Moving back to her native Rogue Valley two years ago, Maier immediately went to work sterilizing feral cats in south Medford. After about three dozen cats were spayed or neutered and released back to their neighborhoods, Maier moved on to other colonies of feral felines in the city.
By spaying and neutering feral animals and keeping them in place with established caregivers, problems such as diseases, catfighting and issues related to cats searching for food are reduced, she says. If left to go hungry, feral cats are more likely to impact wild-bird populations and relocate in search of food.
"When a colony holds its territory, aggressive cats won't come in to breed or fight, and it stabilizes," Maier says.
Medford Animal Hospital manager Summer Hunt says Maier is proof that one person can make a difference.
"Even just doing one at a time really keeps the population down," Hunt says.
"One cat can have 12 to 15 offspring per year. Feral-cat colonies is a huge project for anyone to take on. Dorie is a really nice woman, and she's very committed."
Maier next plans to turn her attention to two new Medford cat colonies. She says she is proud of her efforts and eager to express how important it is to anyone willing to listen.
"I get weird looks all the time for spending my time on this. People say, 'Isn't it easier to kill them?' Well, no, we've been killing them for years and years, and the populations are still out of control," she says.
"When I first moved back here, I was kind of embarrassed to tell people what I did for a hobby. But people need to be educated, so I guess somebody has to do it — if for no other reason than for the sake of these animals and for the sake of saving these lives."
To see Maier's community page, search for "SO Furry Friends and Ferals" on Facebook.