It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years when I went deep into hoarder rescue after a horrific local hoarding incident with over 80 cats. Most of the cats were rescued by The New Rochelle Humane Society ( renamed Humane Society of Westchester in 2015).
We began a weekly Shelter Volunteer feature and created fun adoption graphics to get these sweet survivors homes.
One-by-one they got adopted. Some like Pablo waiting until January 2016. During my time volunteering, I met and became friends Leslie Howard, a professional pet sitter and volunteer who quickly fell for and decided to foster hoarder kitty Gabby, an orange female. Gabby is still happily living with Leslie. There was another lovely female orange tabby name Kit but Leslie adored but knew her place was too small for 5 cats.
We tried hard to get Kit a home but destiny had other plans.
I’ll let Leslie tell you the story and why she has a thing for orange tabbies.
I adopted my first cat from the NRHS at a very difficult time in 1990. Fast forward a few months to 1991, which saw the end of my marriage, the death of my mother, and the loss of my job. That cat was an orange tabby I named Aunt Sue. I don’t think I could have gotten through 1991 without her. She gave me a reason to wake up in the morning, go to work, and come home at night. She is the reason I love orange tabbies.
And I have had a few orange tabbies. When Aunt Sue died in 2006, I adopted a male, orange tabby from a shelter in N.J. that rescued him from a high-kill shelter down south. That was Max, who passed away last month from cancer.
I currently also have 3 other orange tabbies: Thomas (a diabetic cat adopted from my vet), Dora Huh? (from NRHS, formerly known as Karlie) and Gabby (AKA WhatAreYouDoing) – a hoarder rescue. And then there Mouse (formerly known as Rochelle) a tiny orange tabby I adopted from NRHS in 2006 and died in 2013.
People who know me, know that my catchphrase is “I loves me some Furry Purry Orange Things.”
While I did volunteer work for the shelter off and on since the adoption of my first cat, Aunt Sue, I became a regular after the Greenburgh hoarding cats arrived. The Humane Society’s Facebook page had put out a post about an orange tabby from the hoarder that needed his leg amputated, and being such an expensive procedure, asked if anyone knew of a vet who would do it either at a discount or pro bono. All I needed to see was a furry purry orange thing in need, and I immediately transferred money from my savings account into my checking, and went in the next day to give them a check towards his medical needs. At that time, I also got the OK from shelter manager, Dana to work with these cats. I immediately started doing Reiki on them every spare moment I had, 5 or 6 days a week (Reiki is an ancient form of hands-on healing). So many cats to Reiki! It was extremely draining, and very emotional.
Along the way, I ended up taking Gabby home with me as a foster. I have never fostered before and got fabulous support and guidance from several employees and volunteers at the shelter. I am not sure if the shelter calling the GB hoarding situation one of “abuse” or “neglect” is appropriate. I understand the hoarder had a mental illness, and she thought she was doing the right thing hoarding these cats. My experience was that they all came out of it with a kind of “sensory overload” due to the conditions they were kept.
Gabby came home with me and lived in a large dog crate in my living room for several weeks. It was covered with a sheet, and little by little, I would roll the sheet back and expose her view to a little more of my tiny apartment. Through the safety of the cage, she got to know my other cats. After several weeks, I opened the cage door. It took her a couple of days before she would venture out of the cage, and about a month before she would leave my living room. She would come to the bedroom door, look in, get scared, and retreat to the safety of the living room.
Gabby, I was told, was two years old. Barely out of kittenhood, but she had never played before. I had to teach her to play. Now she zooms all over my apartment and is making up for lost time. She purrs ALL the time. While she still has a lot of feral in her, we can lock eyes, and she will run over to me, purring and demanding a head rub. She is clearly one happy cat, not to be in a tiny cage, in the dark, in a room full of other cats in tiny cages in hoarder hell. Her happiness makes me happy!
Kit Finds her Forever Home
And now Kit will join our happy home! I can’t wait! The cage is set up in the living room, for all the cats in my household to get comfortable with each other before the full integration. Incidentally, Kit, who is about 7 years old looks remarkably like Gabby. They are both the same buff orange tabby, and they both have this rather odd mark in their fur, which I liken to that of a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I have never seen anything like it in a cat, almost as if they had been sliced right down the middle and put back together again. It’s not always visible, but when it is, it just strikes me as very odd. I wonder if perhaps Kit is Gabby’s mother. I guess I will never know, and I don’t think they are going to tell me. 😉
Update: Kit has arrived and is assimilating to her first real home. She is the last of the hoarder cats to leave the shelter. Some cats find homes instantly and others have to wait and wait but all good homes are worth waiting for. I’m grateful for all the support from our readers who helped us help so many shelter cats. This marks the end of one hoarder incident and one lucky hoarder cat but there are many cats like Kit still waiting on Petfinder and a shelter near you.
There were a number of hoarding rescued cats with too ill to recover. I got exceptionally attached to a few but most of all, Gray Boy. who lived in hell for years and finally rescued but never knowing true freedom or a true home. He was covered in oozing sores but he was of full of spirit and played like a kitten. I had so much hope for him and still cry when I think of his destiny. Only 48 days out of hell, and never seeing the sky or breathing fresh air, he died but he knew he was loved at last.
- An individual possesses more than the typical number of companion animals.
- The individual is unable to provide even minimal standards of nutrition,sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death.
- The individual is in denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household and human occupants of the dwelling.
This definition comes from the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, an independent group of academic researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Click for full definition and more info at vet.tufts.edu/hoarding.
Hoarding whether of animals or objects is officially classified as Hoarding Disorder, a new psychiatric diagnosis since 2013 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The American Psychiatric Association
studies show that the prevalence of hoarding disorder is estimated at approximately two to five percent of the population and growing. Every month there are news reports several of new animal hoarding incidents. Some hoarders respond to treatment with psychotropic drugs but most will fight the urge to hoard again even after arrests. Recidivism is almost 100%. With those kinds of odds, it’s important to help someone get help before innocent cats suffer.
250,000 animals fall victim to hoarders in the U.S. every year.
What can you do to help.
- If you suspect animal hoarding on your street or neighborhood, call your local animal control or shelter. If it’s someone in your family or close to you, find a qualified therapist to consult and possibly stage an intervention.
- Not sure if the hoarder is a hoarder? This assessment form checklist may help which can given to a therapist.
- Every time a hoarding incident happens, the rescued animals put a physical and financial strain on the shelter that takes them. Please help those shelters by volunteering or donating.
- Most hoarder cats can be turned around into loving adoptable cats. They may require more patience but Please consider adopting a hoarder cat.