Silvana Valentino-Locke isn’t your textbook spinster cat lady. For one, Tony, her husband of 32 years, is as wild about felines as she is; two, her sons, Daniel and Tony Jr., have come to admire Silvana for her spunk and tenacity in advocating for abandoned felines. How many abandoned kitties are we talking about? To be exact: 122.
Silvana has been positively mad for cats since a young age, having rescued her very first (a pregnant gal) when she was just 11-years-old; but twenty-years-ago, after settling in Downe, Greater London, she decided to devote her life to cat rescue – an endeavor Tony, a courier firm owner, partially supports financially, and fully supports emotionally.
“Every man who comes to adopt a cat always asks, ‘have you got a husband?’” Valentino-Locke told The Mirror. “They can’t believe anyone would tolerate all these cats. Luckily Tony works long hours so he doesn’t see all the work of caring for them. He sees the results of what we do and it’s a reward for him as well.”
Transforming their home into a virtual cat haven known as the Romney House Cat Rescue, Silvana had nine cat houses erected between her yard and a neighboring field, which contain a total of 70 cats – half of whom are currently waiting to be adopted. The other 52 felines reside inside Silvana’s four-bedroom home – and all harbor a sob story that will tug at your heartstrings.
Despite the very full feline house, she manages to keep things sparkling with the help of two live-in cat nannies.
“It takes about an hour and a half,” says Silvana. “We hoover and mop every bit of floor and furniture. It’s a long, exhausting job. All the time the phone is going with people with cats that need to be rescued. But I do it for love.”
Relying on donations, fundraisers, and a charity shop to keep things running smoothly, Silvana spends an estimated $140,600 (£90,000) per year for the care and keeping of her furbabies, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“It’s an addiction,” Silvana told The Mirror. “It’s like I have OCD about cats. I feel like it’s my job to look after them all. Every time I get a phone call about an abandoned cat, I can’t say ‘no.. My car number plate has ‘mad cat woman’ printed on it. You have to be mad to do what I’m doing. What with feeding and vet bills, I’m chasing my tail all the time.”
Mad she may be, but the cats definitely aren’t complaining. In the past 12 years alone, Silvana has re-homed a whopping 7,000 cats, and rescued 600.
“This is my life’s work and I feel very lucky to have a family who support what I do,” says Silvana.
Want to learn more about Silvana’s feline escapades? She’s currently the subject of the documentary ‘90 Cats & Counting: Cat Crazies’ set to air on Channel 5 on Wednesday, July 1.