WINSIDE, Neb. -- High school students in a northeast Nebraska town are helping out their local feral cats.

Winside High School students created little homes for cats in their community so these furry felines have a place to go this winter.

Emma Burris-Janssen is one of a few community members who has been taking care of the feral cats, making sure they are fed, giving them shelter, and taking them to the veterinarian for vaccinations and spaying and neutering.

With the winter coming up, she wanted to make sure cats in the community had a place to go to stay warm.

"There are a lot of community cats who don't have shelter during the winter. So I was looking into different shelter options and I knew that the shop class at the school had built garden sheds and things like that and sold them," Burris Janssen said. "So I reached out to them to see if they'd be interested in helping with feral cat houses and they were super supportive and interested in doing it."

The students said at first the project was a standard one for them to do.

"I would say it's a normal project. You start off with the pricing, putting it together, what it's going to look like, get the materials, and put it together," said junior Hunter Genereux.

But with the winter season just about underway, the students put extra hard work and effort into crafting these homes so the cats can stay warm over the next few months.

"[It's] a shelter to keep them from the elements and keep them warm at night," said junior Austin Nelson.

"You'll notice with outdoor cats sometimes part of their ears will freeze off and they'll get frostbite and different things like that," said Burris-Janssen. "So these houses are super important because it gives shelter to those cats."

She said it is best for people to leave a few bowls of water outside to help feral cats as well.

Since July of 2021, around 75 cats have been spayed and neutered throughout Winside, many of whom have since been taken in by families in northeast Nebraska. 

Burris-Janssen added that she is currently feeding about 15 to 20 cats a day.

But with the possibility of more feral cats on the way, the students said they are always ready to build more homes.

"If those go bad, we can probably make some more or if more turn up, we can always make some more for them," said senior Dean Kruger.

"I'll build a whole cat mansion for them," Genereux said.

"I don't know about that far, but I'll build more cat houses," Nelson said.

Burris-Janssen is also in the process of creating a non-profit in Winside to help with feral cats.

She said that people who are interested in helping out can make pet food and supply donations to the Madison County Veterinary Clinic or the Wayne Veterinary Clinic.

"I think it's amazing knowing that it's the difference between life and death for a few cats in town and they'll have a much better winter," she said. "I think it's amazing to know their work has enabled that to happen."