Cat owners of all ages converged on the Douglas County Humane Society shelter Saturday morning to get their pets spayed and neutered for free.

Terri Schwanangel peered at her flame point Siamese cat, Mistletoe, through the side of the pet carrier.

"She needs to get fixed," the Superior grandmother said. "She tries to get out, she goes into heat and that's ugly."

The Rugg family - Brad and Andrea; Trevor, 8; and Alexis, 11 - dropped off 2-year-old Micah together. The cat belongs to Alexis.

"We don't need kittens," Andrea Rugg said. "But it's good responsibility for her; she understands what it means to own a cat. She wants to bring an animal home every time we come here."

Jani Dalbec lives two blocks from the shelter. She brought in three rescue cats - Darn Cat, Falina and Wicked - to be spayed Saturday.

"It saves in cost and makes sure that we're being good pet owners. I mean, that's really what it comes down to," Dalbec said. "To offer a program like this to make sure that people are accountable is exceptional."

Saturday was the second free spay/neuter event the Humane Society has offered through Purple Cat Mobile Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Angie Ruppel and her staff drove up from Cumberland to spend the day spaying and neutering 53 cats. During the first event in February, they fixed 58.

The free feline surgeries are open to all Douglas County residents and funded by the Humane Society.

"The community has been very supportive of the Humane Society in donations and bequests and we felt strongly that we wanted to show our appreciation," board member Naomi Stein said. "Last year saw an overabundance of cats and kittens coming through not just our doors, but other area shelters as well. This is where we felt we could make the biggest contribution."

The public responded with a flood of calls.

"When we posted it the first time, within an hour and a half we had all 50 spots filled," shelter manager Sheila Keup said. "We could not keep up on the phones."

By the time Schwanangel, Dalbec and the Ruggs called for appointments, they had to be put on a waiting list for the March event. The slots for the second round of surgeries filled within a day, Keup said.

It costs $2,750 to alter 50 community cats (25 male and 25 female) through the mobile veterinary clinic, but it makes an impact.

"We've had people literally in tears so happy that we're able to do this," Keup said.

The initiative aims to reduce the number of cats who end up in the shelter. Keup said one unspayed female cat could have up to 180 kittens over a lifetime.

"A little investment now I hope will save huge down the road," Keup said.

In 2011, Animal Allies secured a two-year PetSmart grant to provide free spay and neuter surgeries to cats in certain zip codes, including Superior, through then-Northland Spay/Neuter Clinic.

"We saw the numbers just plummet as far as stray cats coming in, litters of kittens - it was nothing like it used to be," Keup said. "It's been a few years since we had that and we're seeing our cat numbers go up again."

The Humane Society's program is in much smaller than the PetSmart one.

"But it's a start," Keup said. "It's something we need in this area. We have so many cats just running at large."

The humane society plans to hold at least one more spay/neuter event in April. Keup said they are seeking grants and accepting donations to continue the program.

"We hope to really keep expanding on this, because it is a huge need in this area," Keup said. "Anybody who'd like to donate to this cause, wonderful. We would love to keep this going."

Call 715-398-6784 to sign up for the April event. Visit hsdcpets.com or the "Humane Society of Douglas County, Wisconsin" Facebook page for more information.