SOUTH ELGIN, Ill. — More than four-dozen kittens will go up for adoption this week in the Chicago area after being driven 900 miles to safety.

51 kittens and two mama cats are being prepared for their forever homes at Anderson Humane, based in South Elgin. They arrived on June 8 after a two-day drive from the Wiregrass region which includes parts of southern Georgia, southeast Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. If they had been left in the Wiregrass, it’s more than likely they would have been euthanized.

In the coming days, all 53 animals will be spayed or neutered and receive any needed medical attention before being put up for adoption which could happen as early as Monday. The felines will be spread out amongst Anderson Humane’s area offices. If you’re interested in adopting, check out their adoption page. Most animals are adopted out on a first-come, first-serve, in-person basis.

Cheri Hannah, and her Dothan, AL based non-profit Kitty Kottage, are responsible for saving the cats. She and Glenda Dennis founded the organization in 2015 after seeing how many cats and kittens were killed simply due to overcrowding in area shelters. Her and her team specifically work to rescue mother cats and their kittens as they are the most susceptible to illness in animal shelters. The lack of adoption capacity in the Wiregrass is so bad they began focusing exclusively on transporting kittens out of the region in early 2021.

The trip to South Elgin is a major milestone for the small, volunteer-driven organization. This was the furthest they have ever gone and with the most cats they have ever transported in a single trip. However Hannah hopes it becomes the norm. In a phone interview with WGN’s Chip Brewster she stated she is always looking for more transport partners and will drive anywhere within about 1,200 miles of Dothan.

Kitty Kottage may even make another trip to Anderson Humane in the not-too-distant-future. It comes down to major cultural differences between the two regions. According to Alyssa Masten, intake coordinator for Anderson Humane, our region has a high adoption rate. Anderson Humane’s director of operations, Dean Daubert, says we also have a high-degree of accessibility to spay and neuter services, and the financial resources to use them. Meanwhile Hannah says it’s quite the opposite down south where Wiregrass Spay/Neuter Alliance is the only low-cost provider in her area, and they are overbooked every day with a two to three month wait.

Hannah says COVID-19 has also played a factor recently. In her experience the rate of adoptions and the rate of spay/neuter appointments dropped once people began staying inside, while the cat population exploded. Though Kitty Kottage now has room for another 50 or so cats in their program, Hannah notes she already has a waitlist which exceeds that number.

“Even if there were five places just like us, it wouldn’t be enough,” says Hannah. “What we really need is legislation to require people to be responsible for their pets.”

Though people in the Chicago area can’t help with out-of-state legislation, Hannah says there are a few things that can be done. The transportation effort comes with a financial cost and Kitty Kottage is entirely donation funded. Also, an easy way to increase shelter capacity is to increase the number of foster families who will look after new kittens until they’re ready to be adopted, something Anderson Humane is happy to assist with in the communities they serve.