Gayle’s Cats

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She lived alone, and she loved cats.” It’s a phrase that is said about many women…the cliché “cat lady.” Noah’s Ark Society has known many such ladies through the years, but there has been no story quite like Gayle’s.

Gayle truly lived alone and loved cats, as she had no family nearby or friends who checked in on her at her home, where she cared for over 40 cats. (inside & outside) Gayle passed away after suffering a heart attack while driving. She did not have her license with her, so days passed before she was identified. When her family out-of-state was notified of her death, they could not have imagined what the next shocking call would be—Nashville Metro Animal Care and Control. MACC had received an odor complaint regarding Gayle’s home several days after her death. The family had no idea what to do, so, at the suggestion of one of Gayle’s coworkers, they contacted Noah’s Ark Society.

After receiving the family’s email request for help, Lori emailed Noah’s Ark Society’s first responders.” Hey ladies, I am going to need some assistance with this. We really need to help this family out. Any suggestions you all might have…please let’s get this moving. Thank you all for your help! Breaks my heart for the family and for the cats. I’m sure they all are mourning her loss!” So the next morning, six NAS volunteers met the family at Gayle’s house. 

The team found 14 cats hiding in her house, without food or water since Gayle’s death. The family had already released some of Gayle’s favorite cats from carriers in her bathroom. Five of the cats were hiding in the kitchen but came out for food and water. The rest were hiding under the sofa and behind boxes and were too afraid to approach anyone. There were about a dozen cats and kittens outside, sitting just out of reach, obviously waiting for food and water.

Standing in the driveway, Lori and the first responders put together a plan to save these cats in place. The alternative was to surrender them to a shelter, where they likely would have been euthanized because of their feral behavior. For NAS, that wasn’t an option. Gayle’s family agreed that volunteers could work on clearing the front room and a couple of bedrooms to give the inside cats a safe place to live. Lori set up a schedule for volunteers to come to the house and feed the inside and outside cats. It seemed simple, but we had no real grasp on the enormity of the experience we were about to embark upon.

That night a volunteer stayed at the house until 1:00 am, making sure that all of the pets came out to eat and drink. She sat in the middle of the front room wearing a mask and gloves, in the dark, coaxing cats and kittens to come out of hiding. It was just the start of an amazing rescue.

Over the next weeks and months, Noah’s Ark Society volunteers fostered all of Gayle’s cats in place, in their home. Lori contacted local vets, searching for Gayle’s vet. When she finally found the right place, she got a list of 9 cats who had been to the vet. With ages and descriptions, the fosters were able to identify Gayle’s favorites.

Having successfully saved Gayle’s cats from the emergency resulting from her sudden death, the next phase of this Noah’s Ark Society project meant cleaning out the house. Her brother was right when he described the house as safe for cats, but messy for humans. Volunteers began bagging debris, and dumpsters came and went. Eventually, we found a volunteer couple who agreed to live at the house, cleaning it, and caring for Gayle’s cats. They worked from room to room, saving family mementos for Gary and clearing four bedrooms where more rescued cats could be fostered safely.

As the weather turned colder, volunteers constructed emergency shelters outside for the feral cats so they would be safe from the elements and dropping temperatures. With limited resources, this meant lining plastic tubs with straw and blankets and creating make-shift wind and rain blocks with tarps. As winter set in, our daily care of the outdoors colony then included breaking ice on the water dishes. We kept track of which cats were seen at each visit, so we could make sure the outdoor cats were remaining safe.

We did not know what we were getting into when Noah’s Ark Society started this project. It was a massive commitment of time and money, resources we did not have, as a small local rescue organization. What we did have was the continued use of Gayle’s house from her family, so we didn’t have to relocate or rehome every cat. We also had the people to provide daily care. We have been able to come up with the resources for feeding and basic vetting of the cats, and we are slowly making progress in providing all the necessary veterinary care. We are also raising funds for a TNR (trap, neuter, return) program for the remaining outside cats.

Future plans for Gayle’s Place:

Gayle’s Place will become a feline sanctuary for Noah’s Ark Society. It will be a house that will allow NAS to quarantine any animal that is in need before we place it into a foster home. This sanctuary will allow us to successfully provide veterinary care to the kittens/cats in need with our very own veterinarian or vet tech. This sanctuary will also allow us a safe place for a mother with a new litter of kittens or babies without a mommy who may need bottle feeding. Gayle’s Place will help us with the unknown future feline emergencies.

Our hope in telling Gayle’s story is to share the “Why”! Why did we choose this email to answer?

Maybe we can’t enumerate all the reasons why, but we believe it was in part Gayle directing us. We also think Gayle is continuing to keep an eye on us and the fur babies in her home.

Noah’s Ark Society receives countless phone calls and emails about animals needing our help. And we try to answer and help them all. When this email came over the president’s email, she could hear the sadness, the aloneness, the desperation in the words of Gayle’s brother. She knew, no matter what the situation, Noah’s Ark Society HAD to help…and we did!!!

So what you can do to help?

We would love to have you sponsor one of our Gayle’s Place felines for the year. We are also in need of sponsors for a feline for vetting needs, monthly flea and tick medicine, and their monthly groceries.

Our plan for 2020

Senior Cats:

Vetting for all the five senior cats living at Gayle’s Place

They all will need senior blood work, x-rays, and shots. $300 per cat.


Funding for keeping all cats/kittens that find us spay and neutered.

Spay: $80

Neuter: $70

(this is not the price most organizations will cover. I know it’s a great price for most vets, but I think the expectation is for something like the cost at PCC)

Monthly Groceries:

1 can of wet food per day (30 cans a month) Friskies Pate any flavor

1 22 lb bag of Meow Mix kibble

Monthly Flea & Tick Medication:

Advantage Multi

The Felines say, “Thank you!”


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