Tina Lewis, aged 54, runs Filey Cat Rescue in the North Yorkshire coastal town with husband Mark, age 68, and daughter Kate, age 23.
The animal-loving family decided to rescue 18 cats from a farm during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020. Months later, they decided they wanted to take in more cats - and they have now converted the detached farmhouse where Tina had lived since she was a child into a rescue centre.
Cats have taken over every room in the house
The family currently looks after around 132 cats that live in the rescue centre, but that number is expected to increase as several of the cats are pregnant.
As you may expect, their entire home has been taken over by cats. A litter of kittens live in the bathroom and the attic has even been turned into a mini vets where one cat had a blood transfusion. Tina has even moved out of her bedroom into her dining room so she can look after all of the cats.
She said, however, that she has said that she only expected to have “eight or nine cats in at a time” but now it’s “absolutely mad and mental”.
Tina said: "It really has gone massive. Obviously it is a complete full time job for me and a change of everything for everyone who lives here - it’s all cats."
She added: "When we became a charity, I thought we might have eight or nine cats in at a time but it went absolutely mad and mental. There are just so many cats out there that are desperate. I’ve cleared waste areas, I’m everywhere because there are just so many cats that are desperate."
Wedding ring sold to make money for cats’ care
Tina spends around £7,000 a month on looking after the cats and has had to sell her car and even her wedding ring so she can afford to care for them.
She said: "It’s just an unbelievable amount. We’ve been getting donations but just getting nothing like that. We are lucky to have a bed and breakfast so all that money goes into the charity but in winter it’s a different story as the bed and breakfast is quiet then.
"I had a really nice Audi but that’s gone, which doesn’t bother me. With the wedding ring, I looked at my husband and said ‘what do we have to sell’ and looked at my hand and just thought ‘I don’t need this’. I’m still married, it doesn’t make a difference at all.
"I’m also going to sell my dad’s old Mercedes that he had before he passed away. I’ve had it in a little barn for 30 years, but that will be leaving as well. I’ve run out of things to sell now.”
Dreams of a forever rescue centre
The cats may have completely taken over her house, but Tina said she never wants to move the rescue centre and always wants it running out of her home.
The married mum-of-two said: "We’ve got about an acre of land, and it’s perfect for them, it’s just beautiful. We can accommodate more cats, we have a barn and the dream would be to have more cats in there. We want to do this forever and leave it so that after our days, it’s here forever.”