Asking for help is something that many humans struggle with doing. Thankfully, an elderly man in New Jersey made the difficult step to admit he needed help. And it wasn’t just for himself. He finally found the courage to ask for assistance with the 172 cats living on his property.
For those ready to be angry, know that these 172 cats weren’t just a “collection” to the man.
Sadly, his wife had passed away almost 2 years prior. This left the grieving 80-year-old widower to manage the large colony alone. All while dealing with his loss. He did the best that he could over the years. But he finally admitted that the cat population was too overwhelming to manage.
Unfortunately, during that time, the home fell into ruin. Water and electricity were turned off, yet the man couldn’t part with the property or it’s felines. Quietly he suffered for years trying to maintain an existence.
Then concerned neighbors began noticing the cats venturing further and further from the property. Working with the homeowner, they contacted a local group, Kittens on a Mission. The group sent members to evaluate the situation on June 13th and devise a plan to help.
They could never have expected what they found when they arrived.
With their estimate of 100 cats on the property, this was a job too large for them to handle alone. They reached out to local shelter St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center who devotedly joined the rescue efforts.
The team located a veterinarian who had been working with the owner of the property for years, already having removed over 150 cats!
Dr. Karen Dashfield had continued to work pro bono when adoptions of the rescued cats slowed, but knew stopping the breeding was the first priority to reduce the colonies exploding growth.
So Kittens on a Mission, veterinarians and St. Hubert’s worked in conjunction for the 172 cats.
And they began accepting donations from their Amazon Wish List and their supportive community. Estimates set the cost of the rescue between $10,000-15,000!
Keeping their Facebook page updated of the situation, Kittens on a Mission shared a touching and honest encounter with the property owner. They did so to remind us all that this is a disease he is suffering from.
Through the amazing angel, Doctor Karen, I just met the owner on the property. As I said before, let us not judge. His story is a sad one.
Because of is dedication to his late wife he enabled her love of and eventual obsession with housing cats. They were “her children”. It got out of hand. He is an older gentleman and has spent his retirement money on trying to feed the cats. He is in tears over the situation. I told him of our desire to get a dumpster and clean the place up. [So] that we can go about the process of trapping and ultimately removing the cats from the property.
He is 100% behind our efforts and if you saw him you could tell that he was relieved by the hand of friendship. Please please please don’t judge anyone before we know the true situation. This man is suffering over the situation. We are one family and one love..❤️.
Volunteers began trapping the animals on the morning of June 19th and a professional crew was brought in to handle the dangerous cleanup.
There are many health risks associated in hoarding situations from infestations and both canine and rodent feces being present. The owner of the home has decided that once the cats have all been rescued, he will be applying for permits to demolish the dilapidated home.
“In the end, this will be a kitty/human rescue, which couldn’t be better”, Kittens on a Mission expressed.
The more than 170 cats were removed from the property and transported to St. Hubert’s. They were all treated for fleas, given vaccinations and de-wormed. The majority of the felines were undernourished, but in otherwise good health. Only a few needing additional medical treatment.
Two cats are suffering from entropion, which is a genetic condition where a portion of the eyelid folds inward against the eye, causing irritation. These unfortunately will require surgery.
While the original plan was to remove them slowly, heat waves in the area forced the dedicated rescuers to speed up their timeline.
Being the largest rescue in St. Hubert’s history, staging intake areas were set up. Existing shelter animals were temporarily moved to other locations to provide room for the massive amount of cats rescued, quickly overshadowing their estimations of 100 felines.
St. Hubert’s Noah’s Ark Campus location was cleared and the spacious dog “pods” were transformed into a safe space for the cats. Now numerous cats could recover together, taking comfort with their familiar feline companions. Beginning at dawn to avoid the heat and working well into the evening, the field team spent days, eventually turning into weeks, trapping and transporting cats.
By the night of June 30th, 123 cats had been saved…
19 more were brought in the next day with 20 already vetted and cleared for adoption…
As of July 3rd, more than 140 cats and kittens had been trapped…
On July 6th pallets of food and litter arrived for the now 172 cats rescued in the dubbed “PROJECT SAVE THE KITTIES”.
The “clowder” came with a few pregnant cats, one who gave birth as soon as she arrived at the shelter. The majority of the cats rescued from the property were male however.
Basically living as stray outdoor cats for their whole lives, many of the felines will require special care and attention if they are to become “adoptable”. Some strays unfortunately will never trust humans enough to become indoor kitties. The shelter plans on re-homing these cats as barn cats which can provide the animals with the freedom they desire balanced with a territory where they are still cared for.
Volunteers continue to work with the cats who are quickly learning to apurreciate their new caretakers…especially after a warm cozy night, greeted with a tasty breakfast! Local veterinarians dedicate their days off to performing spay/neuters so recovery can begin as soon as possible under watchful eyes.
This is truly a case of a dire situation bringing a community together for the good of all.
Volunteers remain vigilant at the site to ensure that no cat has been left behind. Without the unbelievable efforts by Kittens with a Mission, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, volunteers and veterinarians, the life of these cats and their loving human may not have been turned around.
Sadly, we at the Cole & Marmalade household know first hand how difficult, time consuming and financially exhausting animal hoards like this can be. Rescuing 42 cats & kittens with Purrfect Cat Rescue, Inc. in Northern Illinois in 2017 was a life-changing experience.
If you would like to help by donating to the organizations, please visit them at: www.sthuberts.org/emergencykittyrescue. Be SURE to stay updated on the ongoing rescue mission on their Facebook pages; @kittenwithamission and @StHubertsAnimal.