Christine Hinrichs is a trapper, of sorts. She camps out in dark alleys for hours trying to capture wild animals.

"The best feeling is hearing the crash of the trap door," she said. "That means we've caught a cat."

She doesn't do it because she hates cats. Quite the opposite: Hinrichs, a volunteer for Pet Project Rescue, started a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program, which is considered a humane way to reduce the number of feral cats living in neighborhood colonies.

She takes the cats she captures to a veterinary clinic, where they are spayed or neutered and treated for any health problems. After they recover, she releases them in the area they came from.

TNR isn't very well known in the pet rescue community because it doesn't end with a heartwarming story about a stray cat finding a home, said Hinrichs, who launched and implements the cat neutering program for local Pet Project Rescue (PPR).

"But to address animal overpopulation and homelessness at the source, we have to prevent feral cats from having litters of kittens on the streets," she said.

Hinrichs learned about Pet Project Rescue ( in 2010, when she adopted her cat Drizzle from the organization. Before long, she was volunteering to take rescued pets to local adoption events.

When she bought her St. Paul home, she started fostering dogs, cats and litters of kittens.

"Every summer we would see an explosion of cats and kittens at animal control and most were from [wild] cat colonies," said Hinrichs, a litigation attorney for a Minneapolis firm.

When Maia Rumpho-Stellpflug, founder and director of Pet Project Rescue, met Hinrichs, she knew she'd found the right candidate to launch the TNR program.

"Christine had a passion for cats and a legal background," said Rumpho-Stellpflug. "She was the natural person to be the lead on TNR."

Hinrichs applied for grants to fund the TNR program, which requires supplies such as traps and cat food and money to pay for spay and neutering at participating vet clinics. She helped develop the new feral cat colonies ordinance in Minneapolis, which allows for people to care for wild cats.

Later this month, Hinrichs will round up more PPR volunteers and organize a "blitz" to uncover wild cat communities during what is peak mating and kitten litter season.

"Not many people care about feral cats and know they exist," said Hinrichs. "I like working with a population of animals that don't have a voice."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619