Between tornadoes in early March and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic not a month later, communities in Tennessee have been hit hard this year. Alley Cat Allies is providing the support needed to feed and care for cats and kittens through both crises—and we’re saving lives.

“As people lose paychecks, there is a risk they may consider relinquishing the animals to shelters, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that from happening,” said Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Our goals are to provide food to help families, including people and animals, to stay together, while also providing food for caregivers to continue supporting community cats.”

Alley Cat Allies gave emergency grants to New Leash on Life, a member of our Feral Friends Network® in Wilson County, just outside of Nashville. The grants are providing veterinary care for cats affected by the tornadoes and keeping New Leash on Life’s animal food pantry stocked for anyone who needs a helping hand.

Angela Chapman, director of New Leash on Life, says our support is both filling food bowls and lifting spirits.

“I’ve seen so many tears and so many people who looked utterly defeated in these past weeks,” Chapman says. “But once they have a bag of cat food in hand, they suddenly stand a little taller. They tell me that knowing someone cares means so much.”

New Leash on Life has served more than 500 cats and kittens with help from our grants so far—including Blu, a senior cat found after the tornadoes with wounds on his mouth and nose. Alley Cat Allies’ emergency funding paid for Blu’s care, and now he’s recovered and in a loving home of his own. He even has a best friend already—his new family’s young daughter.

All of New Leash on Life’s staff members follow strict COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing face masks and holding adoptions by appointment only and with social distancing guidelines. Animal food from the pantry is either loaded into individuals’ cars or sorted into separate bags so people can grab and go with minimal interaction.

Chapman says that care for the safety and wellbeing of people and their animals is making an incredible impact in a difficult time.

Adam, who lost his job due to COVID-19 related closures, agrees. He and his wife came to New Leash on Life’s pantry to pick up food for their two cats and two large dogs.

“COVID-19 has brought so many uncertainties of tomorrow. Like how will bills be paid and food remain stocked in the fridge,” said Adam. “But because of New Leash on Life’s food pantry, we don’t have to worry about how our fur-family will be taken care of.”

Alley Cat Allies’ grant has supported New Leash on Life through multiple adjustments to its new “business as usual.”  At one point, the group’s veterinary clinic was unable to provide spay and neuter surgery for weeks because of COVID-19. However, Alley Cat Allies support enabled the clinic to remain open for other no-cost care for cats impacted by the tornadoes or the COVID-19 crisis.

Today, spay and neuter is back on the table on a limited basis. In just the last week, says Chapman, 22 cats and kittens were neutered through Alley Cat Allies’ tornado relief grant.

Chapman has also stayed connected with community cat caregivers who have pregnant cats in their neighborhoods. She plans to resume Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as soon as possible and prepare for the influx of kittens that may arrive soon.

We have a long way to go before our new normal goes back to normal. Alley Cat Allies is committed to helping New Leash on Life, and animal organizations across the country, stay open and active to save cats’ lives through it all.

“With Alley Cat Allies’ help, we’re figuring it out,” says Chapman, heartened. “I really think that if we take care of people and take care of their animals, it will work out in the end. We’re letting people know that there’s no shame in asking for help for their dogs and cats in these times. It’s what we’re here to do.”

Learn more about Alley Cat Allies’ COVID-19 emergency response at alleycat.org/Coronavirus.