Couple cares for dozens of neighborhood stray cats

      EUGENE, Ore. - Ron and Diane Schirmer started walking around their Santa Clara neighborhood about six years ago.

      The couple says they were just looking for a little exercise and fresh air.

      "We started out by, of course, not feeding any cats," remembers Diane. "But they all started out trying to follow us. So we got onto the idea of putting some food down. Well, before you know it, we were feeding like 30 cats every day."

      It sounds like a large amount, but if anything, Diane is underestimating. | Couple: Spay and neuter your pets

      Every time the couple rounds a bend, with Ron leading the way in his scooter, a feline frenzy ensues.

      Cats come out of every nook and cranny, vying for their daily meal.

      And they have a name for every cat.

      Every. Single. Cat.

      From Bella to Fireball, they are able to recognize their dozens of devoted customers pretty much immediately.

      It took a while for some of the skittish strays to get used to the Schirmer's, but now the animals are bold, marching right up to the couple, crying to be fed.

      "They are scared of most people, but they will come out for us," Diane said.

      There are two things Ron believes the animals want.

      "Attention and food, that's their main things," Ron said.

      Those are two things the Schirmers are willing to dole out in spades.

      "We love on them," Diane said.

      Spay and neuter your pets

      But not everyone is in love with the Schirmer's decision to feed local cats.

      "People will say 'Oh, don't do that by my house.' So we don't," says Diane. "You try to help, and sometimes people don't appreciate it."

      But that's not something that would stop the couple from feeding cats in need.

      The Schirmer's try to catch the strays they feed to spay and neuter them. Diane believes many of the cats they feed all came from the same mom, which they've since fixed, and now there's an entire neighborhood of strays. She says it's important to spay and neuter your pets.

      Diane added that the response has been mostly positive.

      "One woman gave us $20," she remembers. "A man offered to go on our walk if we went on vacation."

      But the two have no plans to take a trip or even a break from their walks.

      "We go rain or shine, even snow," Diane says. "They would be so hungry if you missed a day."

      Their fondness for cats is enough to keep the couple making their daily trek.

      "We love cats," Diane says. "And of course there's all these beautiful fun loving cats out there. We just really like them all."

      Ron adds that knowing they're doing what they can to help local animals enriches their lives.

      "It feels good to know that they're being fed and cared for a little bit," he says.