Hoarding: A person who has a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A hoarder accumulates an excessive amount of items, regardless of their sentimental or monetary value.
The word “hoarder” makes me itch. The idea of hoarding makes me queasy. I don’t even like plates with too much food. Maybe I lived with a hoarder in a past life. Or maybe my sweet mom spoiled me with a clutter-free childhood, ironed sheets, and dusted closet shelves. Whatever, I never planned for my path to cross a hoarder’s, especially one who hoarded cats.
The other night, I drove past a house on my block and came to a screeching halt. Lounging on the lawn of a house in foreclosure were at least 50 black cats. I pulled over and got out of my car. The cats covered the house’s front and back yard and were coming out of a hole in the side of the house. The smell was overwhelming.
Neighbors began to gather. I learned the crazy cat man who had lived in the house slept in it as long as he could and then moved to his car in front of the house. He continued to bring food and water to the cats. The cats began to appear outside the house when workmen, who showed up briefly, put a hole in the side of the house. A cat door of sorts allowed the cats to come in and out of the house; neighbors repeatedly reported the smell to animal control. The picture above was taken in very poor lightening and only represents a few of the cats. There are well over 100 with about 35 trapped and rehomed.
Bank of America has been foreclosing on the cat house for over a year. Technically, this kind of problem falls under the jurisdiction of animal control. But they are slow to act without the knowledge of the foreclosing bank. This is complicated by the fact that it is next to impossible to find the foreclosure officer on a piece of property. Our local shelter’s PAWS and Treehouse, to name a few, work best alongside animal control. After animal control traps the cats, they determine if they are healthy enough to move on to a shelter and be placed for adoption. It’s a matter of everyone working together—quickly, which has been the biggest problem. While bureaucracy has dawdled, cats were having kittens, and the problem was growing.
We’ve become a neighborhood of cat advocates. Bank of America is going to court regarding the foreclosure on Monday (August 10). Their goal is to board up the house on Tuesday—cats or no cats. The people at Treehouse are heading to court to slow down the process so they can remove more cats. Animal control has promised to show up and do their part. Innovative neighbors brought the press to the house to draw attention to both the cats and the lack of early action taken to save them. A number of us have agreed to help trap the cats if they have a place to go after being trapped. My house is not that place.
Hoarders aren’t just a part of a reality show. It’s our neighborhood reality. We won’t save all the cats, but we will save some of them. Hoarding happens in all neighborhoods;across all socioeconomic groups. We hope our neighborhood will bring awareness to the importance of acting swiftly when a case of animal hoarding has been identified.
Odd Loves Company,
Update 4pm: News crews have been at the cat house since 6:30 a.m. The alderman showed up along with the media. Animal control arrived around 11am. Both Paws and Treehouse are on hand to help trap.