Originally published in The Western Carolina Journalist
A Siamese cat named Samson waits outside the door of the shelter. When entering, the meows of 43 cats can be heard all over the shelter, ready for their first meal of the day. Morning doses of medication, feedings, litter box cleanings, and plenty of playtimes to keep the sole employee of CatMan2 busy. The smell of litter and cat food lingers in the air. Cats surround you, some still asleep and others right in your face, waiting to be played with and pet.
Kaleb Lynch is a 34-year-old “pool boy” for the cats, as stated by the CatMan2 website, and has been the only person running the CatMan2 shelter for 10 years. He spends nearly every moment caring for the dozens of animals that rely on him.
Lynch arrives at the shelter every morning at 8 a.m. and starts off with giving morning doses of medicine to the felines. Then comes the feedings. Wet food in the adult cat and kitten rooms, dry food in the side rooms.
After scooping the litter boxes, Lynch begins cleaning the cages and the floors.
“We have to clean twice a day,” said Lynch in an interview. “It’s just like a cycle of cleaning. You do one thing and go back and do it again.”
In between, Lynch maintains the shelter’s Facebook, answers phone calls and responds to emails. With dinner feedings and night doses of medicine given out, Lynch is able to go home for the evening.
Lynch lives in a house on the same property as the cat shelter and will even come back during his evenings to check on everyone.
Originally from Raleigh, Lynch was a psychology major at Western Carolina University. Before the shelter, Lynch was a rape crisis counselor and a store manager at Walmart before finding his home in CatMan2.
How he got to have the career of ‘pool boy’ is connected to, no wonder, a cat. When Lynch moved to the area he was met with a beautiful white cat and two kittens. She visited the property he lived on frequently. One day, he saw that her foot was badly injured, and was at risk of rotting off. Unsure of what to do, he called the Jackson County Animal Shelter to ask for help. They suggested that the best thing for the cat was to put her down.
At first, he refused. But, eventually, Lynch agreed to let her be euthanized to prevent her from suffering.
While running late to work, Lynch managed to see the white cat being carried into the truck that would take her to be euthanized. “It happened right at the right time,” said Lynch.
Instead of letting them take her, “I got down on my knees and I started crying,” said Lynch. He promised to take her to the vet and take care of her for them.
As repayment for their help, he would start volunteering with the Jackson County Animal Shelter.
After a few months there, Lynch was introduced to Jackson County Animal Shelter’s feline rescue partner, CatMan2. He volunteered to help the original owner and founder, Harold Sims, in his spare time. Eventually, Sims had to retire and asked Lynch if he would work at the shelter full time.
Sims is also the creator of the American Museum of the Housecat, which is currently closed as they relocate to a new building.
Lynch is the only staff member at the shelter because they simply do not have the funds to support any other full-time employees. The CatMan2 shelter operates solely on donations and relies heavily on volunteers to help keep the cats sociable and happy.
“I feel a deep obligation to continue caring for the cats and keeping the CM2 mission alive. I honestly feel that even if I wanted to leave (and I don’t), I couldn’t because there’s no one else,” said Lynch in an email.
Regular volunteers, Caleb, 10, Jada, 14, and their mom Sarah Marsic come every week to spend time with the cats.
Caleb, a fourth-grader, spends time in every room to pet the cats and play with them for an hour each week. Lynch said seeing him every week brightens everything up for him. Caleb is very popular on the CatMan2 Facebook page for his energy and love for animals.
Volunteers Liz Stevens and Debbie Sawyer, both sophomore students at WCU, come to the shelter every day to play with the kittens, clean cages, and help Lynch complete his daily tasks.
While many of their cats are available for adoption, half of the cats in their care are sanctuary cats, meaning they will be with the shelter for the rest of their lives.
Two of the most notable sanctuary cats are Memaw and Todd, two senior cats that are not adoptable but are very friendly. Todd can be found in his pink shark tent and is known as the shelter’s “mascot”. Memaw, a cat that was surrendered a couple of years ago, is usually walking around the shelter and may give you a raspy meow.
CatMan2 is a no-kill shelter. It will very rarely take public surrenders and instead try to help the cats at the Jackson County Animal Shelter.
This year alone, CatMan2 has taken in 157 animals and has adopted out 138 at the time of publication.
The importance of this shelter cannot be understated. There is an abundance of homeless cats in western North Carolina. With the help of CatMan2, many cats are able to find loving homes, even if that home is with the shelter.
To learn more about how to volunteer with CatMan2, click here. All volunteers and donations are greatly appreciated.