In awareness of World Spay Day, which traditionally takes place on the last Tuesday of February every year, I wanted to share with you a personal experience I had when I lived in my previous home. I lived right next door to a cat hoarder.
The fact is the couple living next to us were hoarders in general but the cat hoarding affected the entire neighborhood. The cat population in their home had become so out of control that the couple had to move out of their home, into a small RV parked in their driveway.
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My neighbors were not too secretive about how many cats they had, although I never knew an exact number, I remember her specifically telling me, over the years, the names of at least twenty of the cats. The neighbor lady also had no qualms about discussing the 48″ round plastic kiddie pool she brought home from the store to use as a giant litter box.
I know in my heart she truly loved her cats and thought she was providing them a good home, with plenty of love, but she wasn’t. When one cat became sick, they would drop, one after another, and with each death she truly did mourn. Although she mourned, she refused to accept that they would get better care, and as much love in a home with fewer cats. She did not believe anyone could love her cats “as much” as her.
Over the years many of these cats would be allowed out of their home, for what reason, or how she determined which cats to allow to stray, versus which to keep locked up in a horrible environment is beyond me. I could only push her for so much intel. Honestly, I did not want to ask too many prodding questions because I did not want her to know it was me who was reporting her to various animal welfare agencies. Maybe I should have been bold, and simply told her to fix the problem or I would report her. I do not think that would have been effective anyway. People with hoarding problems just do not respond well to being forced to do anything.
Since they were allowing some of the cats to stay, we obviously then began to have a feral cat population. It was amazing to me that with each new litter of cats to crop up, the neighbors would act as if this was a big new surprise as if they had no idea where the new litter could have possibly come from, and of course, they were happy to see more cats roaming the neighborhood. Out of each litter, they would take more inside. Either into their home or into their RV. So now their home and their RV were overrun with cats.
My husband and I would try to find homes for some of the strays that we could get familiar enough with, and close enough to. Other stays we had to call animal control for after we were able to corral them to be picked up. These cats were just far too sick to find a home for and would need veterinary care before being homed. Thankfully here in own town we have a shelter that has plenty of room, it is a brand new facility nice enough for me to live in! They are not having to put animals down at this time.
As someone who has lived right next door to an animal hoarder, I have to say, it is not pleasant. The smell is horrendous! We could not sit outside in our yard and enjoy the outside. Even entering and leaving our home we had to hold our breath. In the heat of the summer, it was intolerable and sometimes we could smell the odors even with all our windows closed. Opening the windows for a nice spring breeze was not something we could enjoy.
All of that aside, we both felt horrible for the animals! We were distressed that they were distressed! We tried so many times to get some agency to do something about the situation. We learned really fast that there was very little any agency could do. Without being able to say we saw with our own eyes some form of abuse, dead animals in the house, mistreatment, etc they could not legally just go into their home and check. We were never invited into their home, so we could not honestly say we had seen anything.
Hoarding cats is not a loving thing to do, even if you can afford to pay for spaying, neutering, health care, vaccinations, and so forth, animals need room to roam, room to themselves, space to call their own. Most who hoard however are not getting their pets the vet care they need or deserve.
There have been times in my life I could not afford the spaying or neutering of a pet. In those times I was able to find resources to get reduced cost care or free care for my pet. Almost every state has an agency or veterinarian that is willing to help. If you are in a situation where your pet needs spayed, neutered, or vaccinations please check with the following agencies. Most of the links below offer a zip code search to find free or reduced-cost services in your area.
Did you know that pups can conceive as young as 5 months of age?! I didn’t until I did a little research. Cats can become pregnant as young as 4 months of age! Don’t put off getting them spayed or neutered, please. There are already too many sweet, adorable, loving pets in the world needing your love and care.