Woman Won't Leave House Until Her Cats Are Safe

ST. PAULS -- Look inside Lessie Smith's house in St. Pauls, and it's clear she's a cat lover.

What started as a handful of kittens two years ago quickly multiplied to close to 60.

"I love these cats," Smith said of her feline "children."

It is not uncommon to see small kittens in Smith's house. Every couple of days, another litter is born.

That is only part of Smith's problem. Robeson County has condemned Smith's house, but she said she will not leave until she knows her pets are going to new homes and will not be put down.

Smith sleeps lightly on a small section of her bed, watching after the little ones. While she said she had never missed a meal, neither have the cats.

Over the past several days, word had spread about Smith's situation. So far, 25 of her cats were taken to a shelter for adoption.

Smith never meant to have this many cats, but she said she was thankful for their company.

"When my husband died, I was here by myself, so they kept me busy," Smith said. "I didn't have time to sit down and feel sorry for myself. I said, 'Thank God for the cats.'"

Eventually, Smith will move into a new home provided by the county, but she only will be allowed to keep three cats.

One way or another, some hard goodbyes are ahead.

Reported by Sarah Warlick

If you are interested in adopting one of the cats, please call 618-0696.