This kindhearted cop began feeding stray cats while out on patrol – and ended up rescuing more than 60 of them.
Gretchen Byrne juggles catching criminals with caring for homeless moggies and even takes orphaned kittens to work with her.
The 42-year-old is devoted to rounding up abandoned animals from the streets and caring for them before finding foster families to take them in.
She even drives the smallest, most helpless kittens to the station in her take-home patrol car, bundling them up in the women’s locker room while she’s out on calls.
When she is on breaks during 12-hour shifts she rushes back to HQ to feed them, and through the night she wakes up every four hours to give them a bottle.
Gretchen forks out for their food, vet bills and pays to get them neutered out of her police paycheck – but says she is paid “in good karma”.
So far she’s helped rehome 63 cats in total – mostly through her Instagram account, @bocaratona, which has almost 20,000 followers.
The officer of 18 years said: “Everybody knows me as the cop that loves cats. If I’m not working, this is what I’m doing.
“Because I work such long shifts, I take the youngest kittens with me to the station. They are so small that I can just keep them in their carrier.
“I will get three breaks – a 40-minute lunch break and two 10-minute breaks. Instead of going for pizza with my colleagues I use that time to run to the station and feed them.
“A lot of my colleagues follow me on Instagram and they will ask how the different kittens are doing.
“It all comes out of my paycheck at the end of the day but I don’t have kids so it is probably still cheaper that having kids and I’m paid in good karma.
“The other thing is that is really nice to come home and have kittens to help me destress. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff on road patrol.
“It’s almost like therapy – I help them and they help me.”
Gretchen began her rescue mission two years ago after coming across cats scavenging for scraps in the back alleys of South Florida, where many animal shelters are full.
During her 3am patrols the policewoman – who has four cats of her own – made a habit of revisiting the same spots and giving them snacks.
Meanwhile, a group of moggies had moved into the station where she’s based – so she started giving them meals and caring for them too.
When one of the cats had kittens, she took the litter home with her and nursed them to health before appealing for colleagues to adopt them.
She ended up keeping two, but realized that if she started trapping and neutering strays she might be able to find new homes for them using social media.
Gretchen, of Boca Raton, Florida, said: “As an animal lover, when I saw those kittens in the station I had to take them in.
“I would always worry if I went on vacation about whether they would be fed – they would be in the back of my mind.
“Although I loved seeing them at the police station, I wanted them to be safe and in a home. It just snowballed from there.
“At times I’ll have eight cats in my home at once. It’s a lot, but if I wasn’t doing this, there would be an abundance of cats on the streets.
“I will do it for the rest of my life.”