Veronica Coit, Asheville Cat Weirdos
The. You tune into the community cats podcast ready. Let's go. Welcome to the community cats podcast. I am your host. Stacey lebaron. I've been involved helping homeless cats for over twenty years with the Merrimack river feline rescue society. The goal of this podcast is to expose you to amazing people who are improving the lives of cats. I hope these interviews will help you learn how you can turn your passion for cats into action today. We're speaking with Veronica quite of Asheville cat. Weirdos. Welcome veronica. Hi, thank you. We're going to take a deep dive into Asheville cat weirdos and your emergency fund at everything. But why don't you? I also a little bit about yourself. And how you got involved in rescuing being a cat lady. And all things cat by two children. And I'm married, and I'm a fulltime hairdresser in Asheville, North Carolina and cat lady for life. It goes back. All. All the generations and of always had cats and a kind of stumbled into count weirdos. And I had the personal background with a feral cat colonies and being a low income person in a bad situations when a can't get sick. Or when you move in. You can't find a place to take you and your cats, and I knew there were other people out there like me that I wanted to work with so tell me a little bit about the history about ashville cat weirdos. But how did it get started winded? It get started in and what's it's purpose. The Asheville can't weirdos is a Facebook group that I founded in March of twenty sixteen where now at just shy of nine thousand members, and we are western North Carolina exclusive. So it's regional everybody west of highway seventy seven in North Carolina's. Welcome join and it just kind of happened. We were in. There was a a post in another community Facebook page, and there were some jokes made about cow cat. People are weird and anti-social and all those like cat lady miss kind of sayings and somebody said you should start a group, and it took me a few days, and I just got started and it took off and we had a thousand members in less than a year. And around this time last year, we were celebrating five thousand members just got the notification for that. So yeah, just kind of happen. And so what do you support? I mean is the Facebook group that then supports initiatives? Like, if you if someone has a cat that is injured or sick, or needs assistance. How does that all work by the first October of the group I randomly decided to make a calendar and a sell it and having the proceeds go to a local nonprofit that works with feral cat colonies. Called friends the number two and Faeroes France to faira lls, and I just used pictures that people had shared within the group that at that point wasn't even a full thousand members, and I had to do pre sales because I couldn't afford to foot the Bill of this calendar myself, so I had to do pre sales, and I was meeting people that I never would've met and then during the pre sales one of our members had a cat pass away because of a genetic kind of mutation saying, and the people that I was meeting to come in purchase these calendars who had never met. This cat would never meet this person most likely they were crying. And there was just this bond that I saw taking place, and I realized how important this was gonna be as a community, and that's what actual count weirdos was in is I is it's a community of people who on ously care about each other. So then I met a woman whose cat is currently worth fifteen. Thousand dollars somewhere there in out. You. Yeah. Wow. He s an appropriate response. The cat has a genetic another genetic mutation and it's caused what's the Qin too brittle bone disease that affects the the lower jaw and the the hips the rear the rear legs and hips Mench. She she kind of inspired what would happen next which was the our logo on a sticker. And I really wanted to help her at that point she'd spent over ten thousand dollars on this cat, and I wanted to help her keep going 'cause she just kept saying that, you know, the cat just has this will to live. This cat was the fifty ninth cat in all the world to be diagnosed with this issue, and it's considered terminal. Most of the cats are put down because it's it's very difficult life and the cat I've met the cat and even when her jaw like, she had this major jaw surgery and her hit it just it's. Bank from the defection. It was so bad, but she would run up to you. And she would per and she would want attention. Oh, gosh. She smelled fearsome, which she didn't care. She just loved life so much. I thought it was mazing, and I had some background, you know, being, you know, the working poor where I'd had to make that scary decision that you know, you can't through no fault of your own just by circumstance, you cannot afford the medical care that your cat required. And I thought about how that wasn't fair. And so we launched the stickers and we gave and then right after that was our silent auction, and I think we donated close to want to three thousand dollars total to that cat to that cats care, and it launched the whole idea of when I met the cat with the joy on the hip thing. She had tried to seek out assistance. She reached out to local humane society and other local rescues. And so she had this this. Massive ten plate page list of all these organizations that helped with general animal, like emergency assistance, animal welfare that kind of stuff. Two thirds three quarters like the massive part A-List was all dogs. It was all per to really specific like breeds of dogs. No dogs in general just dog dog. So there goes almost like the majority of the list. So then what she was left with started to be more specific, and it was disease specific breeds Pacific. There was nothing just for like general cat, or you know, emergency circumstance that there was nothing out there there were there were like our local shelter. They offer you call their emergency assistance. And they have you know, it's done by a grant. So they have X amount of dollars per month that they can give out and they can give a maximum of one hundred fifty dollars per person. And that's great and that saved lives and they regularly run out of funds because it's so needed. But when you're. Looking at a two thousand dollar Bill. One hundred fifty bucks is a drop in the bucket. So I wanted to make a fund that was not dependent on grant money and put this community to work helping each other and the community wanted to help each other. So now here we are with multiple programs all focusing on helping people keep the cats. They have. Yes. So you're talking about this Facebook page, which is obviously it's the core family that you've chosen to use Facebook as the flat form to do that with and that I think really important because so many people are like well, do I go with Instagram to go with Twitter? Do I go with you know, and you really just said it's Facebook, and this is where it's going to be in this is where it's going to sit. And that's where it's gonna live and breathe and become who it is. And so I think that that's a really important thing for any small organization to be able to just say, let's focus on one place. Yeah. And then you know, even in a couple of years. You've massaged that group in also been able to grow it in the way. So that you have even expanded beyond the emergency fund component into a couple of other programs. And I don't know if you wanna share those with us right now to absolutely there's kind of three things that can generally happen to make people not be able to keep their cats. The three big ones that we started to see we watched the post right now, we're at something like over two hundred posts per day. But I noticed there would be kind of like common themes at different points in the early days of the page. We would see pretty regularly like I need how my cat has. You know, the surgery this thing this, and I was like, okay, cool emergency fund, we got it. So let's move forward. And then there was like a six month period. Where I started seeing a lot of these posts about like disease buddy have any natural remedies for flee her flea infestation, or my I have to rehome my cat because. I'm pregnant and the cat has fleas. And you know, as we know the cat has fleas that means a cat has worms. So you know, what are these little rice things that are on my blanket? After my my cat gets. So I said, okay, cool. Here's the idea for that one. Let's take the idea of food pantry. But let's make it different. Let's make it specific. And the thing that sets us apart from men, you can go to any church or any food Bank, and you can get cathode. And then a lot of you can also get cat litter on but they don't cover flea medicine in D wermer. So it was important to me that we kept those things in stock because having pleased having worms can lead to greater medical issues kind of falls under the psych, preventative care. So we started the cat pantry of few months ago, and it's taken off. And then the next step for me was a few years ago. I had heard about a program through the local humane society where they were offering not only free spay neuter and a free rabies vaccination. But they were also it once you got it done after it was paid for you came back with your receipt, and they will give you twenty dollars cash, and I thought to myself. And how I actually have a cat right now who I didn't get her fixed until she was over six months old. She was in heat it caused her to get outside and it did cause her to get pregnant. I had the best of intentions. You know that I love I love it any less. I just you know, I can't afford the gas this week, you know, or I can't afford to miss this hour worth of work move. Awful fire me, I can't take off work whatever the case may be that twenty bucks would have made the difference for me Edmund like, oh, there's the gas in my tank to get to this. You know, spay neuter clinic to get this done. Whereas if it was affecting me as affecting other people, so we had just did our first round of vouchers for our span new to program earlier this month. That's fantastic. Lot of growth in a very short period of time. And you manage to do this with kids and fulltime job. How do you do that? Patients, and I have. I'm a little scattered. Honestly, I think the ADD helps a little bit. I can kind of do multiple things I've got a really amazing partner. My husband, and I have been together for coming on five years. My children are from previous marriage and just over this past summer. My husband adopted my children. So I have an amazing partner. Today's episode is sponsored by space. Kitty express your one stop shop for exotic cat drugs. Everyone's heard of catnip, but what about Valerian root -tarian honeysuckle or silver vine space. Kitty expressed specializes in offering these hard to find catnip alternatives. Both in their herbal form and stuffed into a variety of usable toys, their herbs are one hundred percent pure, not like those quote, unquote, catnip blends you might find in a pet store. There are -tarian honeysuckle would is cut fresh and kept frozen to lock in at citrusy sent their silver vine exudes a menace that tingles the nostrils their organic Larry and route is so Muskie that they've had to blend it with organic lemongrass. 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Please visit WWW dot pro vet logic dot com or call eight hundred eight six nine four seven eight nine. If you could with what you know in Asheville and greater North Carolina. You know, if you did have like a magic wand as to what you could do to help cats in your community and help families in the community. What would you do spay neuter spay neuter would be my number one priority? If I could do nothing else, and I had to focus on a singular activity. It would be spaying neutering because that's how we get. I've seen the charts. And I have some family history with a with a cat colony. That's a very long story, but it can get out of hand really quickly when we recently released the span Neuner program, there were some people who were there that, unfortunately, we couldn't have one person show up who had seven cats and our program was so small, but I wanted to help these people I said, okay, I'm gonna do the research while they were sitting there with me. I would look up the programs. For their specific area. Go I'm gonna take care of two of these guys. I'm gonna give you two the incentives, but you've got or more and we're coming up on spring and cats can get pregnant as early as four months old gotta get these guys fixed. And I would tell them all about the other programs and at what they headed to do where they had to go who they had to call. So that would be my big thing spay neuter, what is your greatest challenge right now funding. No, really it's figuring all out. I talked to a lot of people in the rescue industry here. And I've kind of found there's like two categories, I guess the people in the rescue business people who have you know, work their way up and they've been doing it a really long time, you know, maybe somebody just fell into it. And then there's the people who went to college. There's people who went to college. And now, they work for rescues nonprofits, and so on and I don't have that background. So I'm following the guide of my gut instinct in what the community tells me they need well in the feedback. You get at Facebook group must be absolutely. I mean, that's the family that your your primary service area so to speak, and then just grow from there. Yeah. Yeah. Watched in his family really is a family of people just grow and honestly care about one another and interact. I mean, we see two hundred posts per day within the group, and that's our average. They can spike as. As well. I think the most we've ever had was like three hundred and a single day since sane. Yeah. That's a lot of posts. Definitely. It's a lot. A lot of posted very active in very busy and d you have moderation issues on that Facebook page. No, I don't actually I've really good team. That was something. I forgot to mention in addition to giving my wonderful spouses shout out. I forgot to mention this amazing team that I developed I've got a full five-person board, and they do also double sometimes as like admins within the Facebook group. We have a team of three people who handle all of our intakes for the emergency fund. We have the pantry team. And a a one of the things about our pantries that we also do emergency assistance. So like if your house burned down at midnight, and you got a cat and Salvation Army just put you up at a hotel. But you've got nothing no money in our credit cards and cash went up in the fire. Somebody all somebody has do is Email us, and we have sued his earliest note that night or the next morning got. A lot of night owls on the staff. So the panther team has several people and in the moderators were looking for a couple of new moderators always. But I think there's probably about ten moderators on the page just kinda watching content making sure everybody kind of keeps on the same page really having a positive community occasionally people do get upset about things. So we have some role set in place in everybody usually released pretty well together. But the moderator team is just amazing Cronica. If people are interested in finding out more about your organization, how can they find you? The see we've got ashville cat weirdos dot org. We're still building the website were trying to tap in more stuff. You know, give people more content on the website, if they don't live locally can't join the space, but group because of course, that's our main. That's the home, but it is restricted to western North Carolina. And then we have to Facebook pages. One of them is the AC w cat pantry. And the second one is the actual count. Weirdos emergency fund. And we update post, and we have vents in share pictures and success stories. So there's always a lot of content on there. And we also have an Instagram pages. Well, so you are on a different platform. So you do have Instagram. Yeah. We we've been thinking about getting a Twitter. I don't know I'm considering, but we definitely have it Instagram in Instagram provides a lot of content. Of course, we share lots of cat me in funny, stuff and cute stuff. But we all show share. We've allowed to members who foster I'm a foster Cam onto. So the Instagram team of people will also sometimes share photos of cats that are up for adoption. Well, so you can even find your next best friend on there. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners today be the change? She wished to see in the world. Not everybody is cats. You know, some people are dogs or birds or other human beings. But don't wait for someone else to do it. That's really excellent very empowering hopefully over time, you know, the more of us the merrier that's for sure. Thank you again. Thank you for doing everything that you do in for the cats down in Asheville and. Really appreciate you agreeing to be a guest on my show. And I hope we'll have you on in the future. Thanks for having me on a look forward to another update next. Do something fun to thank you for listening to community cats podcasts. I really appreciate it. If you would go to tunes leave review the show. It will help spread the word to help more community cats.