MILLS RIVER, N.C. (WLOS) — A man who calls himself a "cat guy" turned his love of felines into a nonprofit to make a dent in the exploding community cat population here in the mountains.
"Cats that live in neighborhoods, cats that live outside," explained Eric Phelps, of Sister Kitten Animal Rescue.
"Yeah, that's one we haven't gotten," Phelps said, looking around a Mills River site.
He showed News 13 a kitten in an old washing machine, part of a rapidly growing cat colony.
"I've got to put traps here to get this guy, entice him out," said Phelps.
"The eight to 10 adult cats can quickly become 30 to 35 cats within sort of the blink of an eye," he said.
Phelps founded Sister Kitten two years ago. He sets up traps for adult cats that will be spayed or neutered and then returned to the property where they were found.
"It just sort of made sense to me, because I'm a cat guy, and I'm a community cat guy, so it made sense to me to start the organization to help as many people -- and as many cats -- as possible," Phelps said.
His phone has been blowing up lately, and he says the pandemic has a lot to do with it.
"Because of COVID last year, with the clinics being closed, nobody doing spay and neuter, I think now it's starting to catch up with us," he noted, comparing his work to herding cats.
"When you can come out here and trap these cats and stop them from giving birth, you're really stopping the cycle of suffering that these cats go through," he says.
Our interview lasted just long enough for some kitties to take the bait in a couple of traps.
"Oh we got somebody!" he said gleefully.
The kittens will be put into foster care and eventually adopted out. The previous day, he wrangled 9 adult cats from the same location.
"Spay/neutered, rabies vaccinated, they'll get a distemper vaccine, they'll get an exam," he said.
Eric posted video of the moment he released the older felines back to the property. One by one, they scurried back to the place they call home.
That's the moment that makes the work so worthwhile.