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The Three Rivers College welding program students recently modified 16 cat cages for the Animal Welfare Alliance of Southeast Missouri.

“An actual job that comes through is a big help for us,” Three Rivers welding instructor Derek Joplin said. “They were enjoying it and it helped out with the fabrication process.”

The project involved cutting holes in the sides of two cages, attaching them side-by-side, and then inserting a short “tunnel” made of PVC pipe so the cats could easily go from one cage to the other.

“The modification allows a nursing mama cat to keep her newborns in a bed in one section and have her food and litter box in the neighboring space, giving her some break time and keeping the kittens in a clean and safe space,” said AWA Secretary and volunteer Charlotte Craig, who transported the supplies and finished cages to and from Three Rivers students in Dexter. “By the time the kittens figure out how to follow their mama from one cage to the other through the PVC tunnel, they can be moved with the mama to one of our kitty ‘condos’ or other appropriate spaces for weaning.”

Three Rivers students were required to learn how to center holes, cut, match on both sides, and fit pipe in the cages. The retrofitting process, more difficult than if students were building something from scratch, took 10 people about eight hours to complete.

“If it would have been off by even half an inch, it wouldn’t have worked for them,” Joplin said.

The shelter, which opened this past spring and filled up quickly, is located at 1904 S. Westwood Blvd. in the former building of Hillcrest Animal Hospital. Those interested in volunteering or making a donation can do so at awasemo.org, or by visiting in person.

“We always need volunteers,” AWA Executive Director Paul Healy said. “We are a community driven organization.”

Additional information about the Three Rivers welding program can be found at trcc.edu/academics/degrees-programs.

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