Gretchen Byrne is a patrol cop for the Coral Springs Police Department in Florida. Two years ago, a pregnant stray cat approached her in a shopping center parking lot. Byrne decided to take her to the police station until the end of her shift, and then home. Since then, Byrne has fostered about 65 cats and kittens that she has found in the alleys of her patrol route.
After posting about that first cat on her Instagram account, people started contacting her about other stray cats. She told PEOPLE Pets:
“People started contacting me about stray cats they’d found, and I started noticing a lot of stray cats when I’d patrol the alleys behind businesses. I’d leave out food for them and then take those that I could with me and put them up for adoption via Instagram.”
She currently has 23,000 followers on that Instagram who love the pictures of the kittens that she fosters and line up to adopt them once they’re weaned and spayed or neutered.
Since very young kittens need to be bottle fed every couple of hours, Byrne takes the youngest kittens to work with her and keeps them in the locker room, feeding them every time she comes back to the station for a break. She told PEOPLE:
“Instead of taking lunch breaks with my colleagues, I use that time to feed the cats, and sometimes, I’ll take them up to the dispatchers, who have very stressful jobs and could use some kitten therapy.”
Byrne currently has 5 permanent cats and a 4-month-old foster who may be a “foster fail.”
“He was born on a construction trailer and he had a rough start. But everybody is now rooting for me to keep him and it looks like that’s the direction I’m heading. It’s hard to say ‘no’ when you have a soft heart.”
For more information, be sure to follow bocaratona on Instagram.
(H/T: PEOPLE Pets)