Care for stray and feral cats in Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville Humane Society receives grant to help with trap neuter return (TNR) for stray and feral cats and treatment of upper respiratory infections.
By Christina Green

Petey might look like an adorable little flirt winking at you now, but when he came into the shelter in Asheville, North Carolina, his infected, bulging eye made everyone cringe.

Unfortunately, his case is far from unique. Over the last couple of summers, more kittens and cats in the greater Asheville area have been diagnosed with severe upper respiratory infections — infections so bad that they cause eyes to bulge. Although some of them can beat their illness with intense treatment, many, like Petey, must have their infected eyes removed to make them comfortable.

The swarm of severe cases initially caught Asheville Humane Society (AHS) off guard. But once the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network partner organization realized this new strain wasn’t going away anytime soon, staff members formulated a plan to save more cats. All they needed was a little bit of help to implement that plan, and that’s when they called Best Friends.

Upper respiratory infections in cats

Upper respiratory infections in community cats (also called feral, stray or free-roaming cats) are about as ordinary as common cold viruses in people. But this newest strain of the virus, which appeared over the past two summers, took everything to another level.

“We noticed cats and kittens coming in who were sicker than usual, and stayed sick longer,” says Angie Wilt, director of operations for AHS. “They needed more than the standard medications to get better. In the past, we just weren’t equipped to handle that level of care.”

With Asheville’s kitten season approaching, the AHS staff knew they would see kittens and cats with the usual medical needs, but they also knew that another round of this stubborn illness was likely.

Best Friends grants for community cats

Petey the kitten's true personality emerged after his upper respiratory infection healed and his eye was removedPart of the AHS plan was to hire a seasonal veterinary technician who could quickly assess each incoming kitten to determine treatment. AHS also purchased additional humane traps so that community residents could utilize trap/neuter/return (TNR) to humanely control community cat population growth, while caring for more cases of the virus and curbing its spread.

While all of this cost more money than AHS had on hand, the organization, as a member of Best Friends’ network, was eligible to apply for grants from Best Friends to make up the difference.

“This was a situation where we could clearly see how providing financial support could directly impact lives of homeless pets in the Asheville area,” says Robin Politowicz, resources specialist for Best Friends, which eventually awarded AHS with a $15,000 grant. “We were all pleased to be able to help them treat more cats and increase the number of lives saved.”

When all the totals were in, AHS saved 233 cats above normal capacity, thanks in part to the support from Best Friends. Twenty-one of those cats (including Petey) received lifesaving medical care.

With his painful eye removed and his respiratory system back in good shape, Petey’s true nature emerged. Turns out he’s a regular ladies’ man who quickly won the heart of a wonderful Asheville resident, with whom he is living happily ever after.

What you can do

Be a part of the good news by giving a gift to help the animals. You'll be helping our No More Homeless Pets Network partners, too.

About the No More Homeless Pets Network

Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network comprises more than 1,000 animal welfare groups from every single state, all working to save the lives of pets in their own communities. Ranging from animal shelters and rescue groups to spay/neuter and trap/neuter/return (TNR) organizations, they collaborate with Best Friends to save even more lives in every corner of the country. Best Friends provides marketing help, fundraising events, information and webinars, guidance, grants and more so that, together, we can Save Them All.

Photos courtesy of Angie Wilt