Keeping kitties warm

Big Rapids resident builds homes to protect cats during winter

REED CITY — After Big Rapids' first snowfall this past October, 20-year-old resident Brenden Larie noticed too many cats in the city without a home and felt the need to do something about it.

"I'm from around here and always driving around," he said. "I've always seen stray cats and you can tell they don't have a home to go to and be warm."

In an effort to help them, Larie and his girlfriend, Maddy Prusakiewicz, decided the homeless felines needed a place to stay during the winter.

"One day, I told her, I was going to start making houses for the cats we see all over the place, and she just said, 'Do it,'" Larie said.

With the help of Prusakiewicz, Larie got to work creating a number of makeshift homes for the cats to reside in and began placing them at local residencies all over Big Rapids.

"I never really expected this project to get as big as it's gotten so far," he said. "Really, it's just me trying to give cats somewhere warm where they can stay, especially during the winter because a lot of them don't have anywhere to go. They end up shacking up in somebody's garage or somewhere they're not wanted."

Before long, people were contacting him on Facebook from Big Rapids, Reed City and other neighboring areas, asking for a home for their local strays. The response broke Larie's original goal of getting 15 homes installed in Big Rapids, and resulted in the creation of his Facebook page "Keep the kitties warm."

"Now, I want to get as many shelters as I can out before it gets too cold," Larie said.

The shelters are made up of an 18-gallon plastic tote inside of a 30-gallon tote, with the area in between the two totes lined with insulation such as straw, shredded paper or foam. The area also has straw on the inside area, so cats can lay down comfortably.

Part of what inspired Larie to take on this project were his own three cats at home, Penny, Abu and Cannoli. Larie said he felt a need to help the strays who weren't lucky enough to have been taken in by residents, which is how he took in Abu and Cannoli.

"When Abu was really little, Maddy and I took him in, and I think about if we hadn't, we'd be in the same situation," he said.

If creating homes for cats isn't enough, Larie works a full-time job, spends his evenings filling orders for more shelters, and accepts only donations in return.

"It's not about the money, really," he said. "If people have something old, like insulation or totes they don't use, that's a big help. Anything you think you can make a shelter out of — I can put a shelter together."

Larie added all monetary donations go toward purchasing materials to create more shelters.

Those interested in learning more or donating can visit Larie's Facebook page at "Keep the kitties warm."

"I want people to understand it's not attracting a bunch of cats to one place and having them be a nuisance to them. It's shelter for them," Larie said. "I just want them to have somewhere to go and be safe, and not have to look for a place to stay."