As a person walks across the painted paw print in front of the door and enters the soon-to-be cat-filled building, they are greeted by a friendly smile and a passionate cat lover.
Jami Hull was nicknamed Maryville’s cat lady due to her love of cats and big heart to save them. Hull is a certified cat behaviorist, a person who studies the psychology of cats. She has been relying on a small space in the corner of her room to house feral cats since 2018 and is ready to move to a larger space located at 24005 Business Highway 71.
“It will definitely be nice to have just our few cats,” Hull said.
Before having the building, Hull was relying solely on foster families to come through and volunteer to get the cats out of her house. For these families, Hull was providing all of the needs for the cats: food, litter and veterinary checkups. This was costing Hull around $3,000 a month.
“We were providing food for each individual foster family, so that adds up very quickly, along with litter and supplies,” Hull said
According to Walmart's website, a 16 pound bag of cat food costs about $10, and Hull was providing this to at least seven families at a time. With the cats being in the same location, Hull will be able to buy cat food and litter in bulk, saving her money in the long run.
With this new building, Hull said that the shelter will need at least $800 a month to stay running, significantly less than the $3,000 before.
Hull also runs the Trap-Neuter-Release Facebook page for Maryville, which is where she posts information about fundraisers to help raise money to keep the shelter running. A TNR is responsible for helping maintain feral cat populations.
According to Neighborhood Cats, TNRs are the most humane way to control a feral cat population. A colony of cats is taken to a veterinary clinic where they are spayed or neutered, given their shots and treated for diseases. After this, they are released back where they were originally found.
Hull has helped with multiple cat colonies in Maryville, one of them being the Joy Wok colony.
“We got contacted about Joy Wok and there were about 18 cats out there, and what we did was we trapped them, we neutered them, fixed them up, and then we put them back,” Hull said.
Now that Hull has a bigger space to house these cats, she plans to do more rescuing as opposed to releasing.
Hull’s love for cats began when she was young.
“My first childhood cat was a stray, so that kind of just started it,” Hull said.
Since then, Hull’s passion to help give feral cats a better life has only grown.
“Whenever I went to look into who was actually helping the feral and strays, there wasn’t anybody,” Hull said. “So I just decided to be that person.”
Hull said she is excited to be starting a shelter for cats as opposed to a TNR or foster system. Hull’s plans for the small building are to make it homey with a front desk as you walk in, an adoption area to the back and a playroom off to the side.
While in her house, Hull has helped save over 500 cats.
“Since we’ve started last December we are at 536,” Hull said.
Hull hopes that with this building the number of rescued cats will continue to go up.
Hull hopes to have the shelter completed by March 10. Volunteers are welcome to come and help play with and take care of the cats.
Donations can be made and events can be found on the T-N-R Maryville Facebook page.