Laps and Naps saves senior cats

NEW COMPANIONS: Diana Wortham, a local philanthropist, is among those who have adopted from Laps and Naps. Here, she is featured with her cat, Pearl. Photo courtesy of Laps and Naps

Wally the cat arrived at Laps and Naps scrawny, anemic and elderly, his matted hair covered in fleas. His owner could no longer keep him, after years of loving care.

Buster the cat had hyperthyroidism and needed medicine twice a day, and his fellow feline companion, Sabu, struggled with diabetes. They lived in a loving home until their owner had a stroke.

In both instances, these homeless, elderly cats could have been at high risk for euthanasia. But Laps and Naps, a local nonprofit founded in 2020 by Nancy Gavin, Pamela Havens and Tina Kannapel, provided them a second chance.

Today, Wally is regularly cuddled by his new owner, Eartha McQueen, who calls him Wally Boo. Meanwhile, Buster and Sabu are currently living with a foster family.

In 2023, the nonprofit placed 62 senior cats in new homes and recently purchased 5 1/2 acres to expand the organization’s mission.

Xpress caught up with Gavin, who shared what it means to specialize in the rescue of senior felines.

Xpress: What is the mission of Laps and Naps?

We started Laps and Naps to create a cage-free, homelike environment for senior cats. We don’t have a sanctuary yet, so we find temporary homes for senior cats. When people die or are moved to a facility, their cats, used to comfort at home, end up scared and in cages. In shelters that euthanize, senior cats are hardest to adopt out and most likely to be euthanized. Some fosters do kitty condos with crates, but not ours. We don’t want our cats crated. We want them to have room to roam. We let senior cats live out their retirement years.

How did you begin?

Laps and Naps received 501(c)(3) status in February 2020, right before the country shut down. In 2020, we had one cat, Cinny, an 18-year-old who died of lung cancer eight weeks after we received him. In 2021, we found permanent homes for nine senior cats. In 2022, we adopted out 27 cats; and in 2023, we had 62. We have exceeded our goals. In 2024, we have adopted out 34 cats. Our goal this year is 75 cats.

Do you help with medical expenses of senior cats?

In addition to having cats in foster homes, we have sanctuary homes — a cross between foster and adoption. We maintain guardianship, pay medical and other expenses, and the cats stay at that home for as long as everyone’s happy. Cats in these sanctuary homes are cats harder to adopt out due to age, medical condition or behavioral issues.

What has surprised you about this work?

We’re helping people as much as we’re helping cats, though it isn’t what we first set out to achieve. People who’ve had to surrender cats are so worried about them. Sometimes the people are going into hospice care, and we’re able to give them peace of mind about their pets before they die. Our foster families also get real emotional comfort from the cats.

What are your future plans?

We recently purchased 5 1/2 acres of cleared land near a paved road, gently sloping and not steep, in Marion. The land used to be Pinto Acres [Sugar Hill Rodeo]. We received a one-time donation for the land.

James Thompson in Hendersonville will be the project manager, and he found the architect, Emili McMakin, at Form & Function Architecture, through the Asheville Cat Weirdos group. Our architect is redesigning the McDowell County Animal Shelter. Alice Dobson in Asheville did conceptual designs.

What will the sanctuary be like?

The sanctuary will be designed for the care and comfort of cats, with exercise wheels, cat trees, vertical spaces, water features and a backyard enclosed in cat-safe fencing. We will have room for at least 100 cats, cat TV and music. We also will have live-in caregivers on-site in a separate, small house. We’re anticipating that the person will be a vet tech who can give fluids, injections and medications, plus help with special diets.

Cats love sunlight, so the sanctuary will have big windows, and they can watch wildlife. Four horses graze on the land now. We would like to keep the horses out there once the facility is built, as it is a nice pastoral setting.

What’s the advantage of a sanctuary over a traditional shelter or foster care?

Many people simply want to be with cats and connect with cats. It will be more like a spa than like a traditional shelter, with a comforting atmosphere. We will adopt out more cats with this facility because people can come look at cats, play with them and get to know them.

Only approved adopters can meet cats in foster homes. Right now, we have no feral cats because they can’t go into foster homes. Plus, we’d like to arrange for people at senior facilities to come to the sanctuary and enjoy a relaxing time with the cats.

What support do you still need?

We are in phase one. We will need volunteers. We would like to fundraise $1.2 million for a house for the caregiver, paid staff and building the sanctuary. Our website,, has a donation link for a capital campaign or to support the cats. We also have a Facebook page, We’ve had good support, and we believe it will continue. If you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, then you open up the universe.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Monday, May 20 to accurately reflect Emili McMakin’s project portfolio.  


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

3 thoughts on “Laps and Naps saves senior cats

  1. Emili McMakin

    So excited to be working on this project. But I didn’t do the Cats in Play Cafe. Not sure who did that one. We are working on another cat cafe near the Tourist Stadium.

    • Thomas Calder

      Hi Emili. Thanks for the information. We have updated the online version.

  2. Jt

    Thanks for showcasing this wonderful group. We’re on our third foster cat for them. Seniors are incredibly rewarding!

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.