It's no secret that Gretchen Byrne loves cats - she has six of her own at home, after all - but she's not your average pet owner.
The 42-year-old police officer from Boca Raton, Florida protects the streets by day, but at night she's a one-woman animal rescue team, looking after south Florida's stray cat population. "Everyone knows me as the cop that loves cats," she explains. "If I’m not working, this is what I’m doing."
Her "second job" started two years ago, when she found a pair of stray kittens while on patrol. Many animal shelters in her area are at full capacity, so Byrne took the kittens home instead and nursed them back to health. The dedicated cop actually skipped her own breaks to make sure the animals were fed.
Then, a group of strays moved in next to Byrne's station - maybe they'd heard about her - and finding them all new homes became the officer's pet project. One by one, Byrne paired the cats up with forever homes, mostly with other officers in her department.
Along the way Byrne discovered she has a passion for sheltering stray cats, and her record with the animals is seriously impressive...
Officer Byrne has found homes for 63 stray cats, and she's not showing any signs of slowing down.
She picks up the strays during her 12-hour shifts, whisks them back to headquarters on her breaks, and even wakes up every four hours at night to bottle feed the younger animals. She feeds, neuters and cares for the cats out of her own pocket until they find a new home.
"It all comes out of my paycheck at the end of the day but I don’t have kids so it is probably still cheaper that having kids," Byrne says, "and I’m paid in good karma.
"The other thing is that is really nice to come home and have kittens to help me de-stress. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff on road patrol. It’s almost like therapy – I help them and they help me."
Byrne says she'll keep rescuing cats for "the rest of my life," and if you want to learn more or support her you can follow her on Instagram.
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