March 7, 2013 at 8:11 AM ET
The term “cat lady” typically brings to mind that crotchety neighbor down the block with a strange affinity for felines.
Siglinda Scarpai is not that “cat lady.”
The five-foot, 100-pound, 72-year-old runs Goathouse Refuge, a no-kill animal sanctuary tucked away on 16 acres in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
Jill Rappaport recently paid her a visit and learned what it takes to maintain the shelter, which has helped find homes for 900 cats over the years.
“I have to raise $20,000 every month," Scarpai explained. “And what I do, I put it on my credit card and little by little, I pay 'em back.”
Rappaport says the nonprofit is particularly important because many shelter cats are never adopted. She was humbled by Scarpai’s dedication to the animals, including the many felines that live in her home.
Scarpai knows each and every one of her cats' names (like Pappagino and Massimo) and their individual histories.
“This woman is a hero to me,” Rappaport gushed. “An angel to all the animals that were so blessed to end up in her care, and then hopefully will all end up in permanent wonderful homes.”
Because of attention from TODAY viewers, Scarpai’s website, GoathouseRefuge.org, has crashed. Until it's back up you can reach her at (919) 542-6815or (919)542-6813.