Tragic Case of Cat Hoarding: 113 Dead Kittens, 51 Live Cats in California

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Usually I prefer to keep Feline Fridays upbeat, but with the recent news release about a search and rescue operation in which 113 dead kittens and 51 live adult cats were found housed in horrible conditions, it was clear that the issue of animal hoarding needs to be addressed. This particular story is from Seaside, California, but a similar story just came out of Kansas City, Missouri which gives better insight into how the desire to love and nurture can turn into an unhealthy situation that affects the cats, people, and whole communities.

A Good Heart, but a Growing Problem

Ann Dunn at least had the insight to surrender her cats to a shelter in Kansas City, knowing that her love for felines had gotten out of control. I brought it all on myself, said Dunn, who says that she was just trying to help. I got too many, it got too expensive, got to be too much work for me. She took in several stray cats who then started reproducing, and she didn't have the resources to spay/neuter and feed them all. Eventually there were complaints from neighbors about the odor and animal control officers got involved.

Ms. Dunn fits the typical stereotype of a "crazy cat lady," being single and elderly, though one third of animal hoarders are men. This is a complex issue where the people involved often feel that they are the only ones able to help the animals, but in reality, in severe cases, living in a hoarder's home is a slow death for the trapped creatures due to neglect.

Gruesome Details Emerge

Though the hoarders in California have not yet been identified, the conditions the cats were found in were appalling with little ventilation and feces and urine covering the floor. Additionally, 40-50 professionally cremated cat remains were also found, carefully labeled with names and dates of death. Every piece of furniture had to be disassembled to locate the cats and kittens. Apparently the couple also took in cats off the street, which may have been pets belonging to other families. Pet owners with missing cats in the area are urged to call the Monterey shelter.

Are Average Cat Lovers at Risk?

So, I must confess that someone slapped a "Crazy Cat Lady" magnet on my van today. It was a loving gesture by my coworker, and many cat lovers even embrace the title. Including me. But how can we make sure we don't let love turn into unhealthy obsession where health an hygiene are sacrificed for some strange emotional attachment to animals?

According to the ASPCA, "It's important to note that not everyone who has multiple animals is an animal hoarder. A person may have a dozen animals, and all are spayed and neutered and provided with regular veterinary care and a sanitary environment. This person would not be an animal hoarder. Even rescuers who occasionally become overwhelmed are not considered hoarders if they are actively trying to modify the situation. That said, if you think you might have too many animals to care for properly, please contact your local shelter or a veterinarian for help."

Visit the ASPCA's site for more information on the signs of animal hoarding and guides for helping people and the animals involved in hoarding situations.

Photo by AP Photo/SPCA for Monterey County.

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