Chaotic life of woman and her seven cats made homeless because of domestic violence

It is difficult to know where to start. This is a story of the chaotic lifestyle of a woman, Cynthia Serna, who has seven cats (5 + 2 rescues). She sought help on Facebook. I have read a lot of comments and I do not see a woman who is coping very well. There’s lots of talk about whether she is running a scam to get money. This does happen, as we know, on Facebook. It’s hard to know where the truth lies. I don’t think she is running a scam but it is chaotic and without wishing to be unkind the woman is not coping well but this could be due to the unusual circumstances.

Cynthia Serna's Cats
Cynthia Serna’s Cats. Photo: Cynthia Serna?
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

“We are staying in my car. When I work they stay in the car my whole shift. They are being traumatized even more. I just don’t know what to do. And I still need to go back and get my other calico, Ttuntthine, from this awful person”.

Living in Car

To put some detail on it: Cynthia was apparently forced out of her home because of domestic violence. She stayed in a motel. Remember she has seven cats to look after at the same time. Her savings ran out and she ended up living in her car with her seven cats. That is obviously an impossible situation. She searched for a foster carer for her cats. She appealed on Facebook and people came forward. Facebook is a good place to appeal for help in the cat world.

Sadly, she entrusted her cats to the care of the wrong person who she has not named but who appears to have been in the cat rescue business. This person let her down badly. She would not let Cynthia see her cats and when she got them back bar one, they were in a terrible condition. The cat that she could not get back was a calico. The cats needed medical attention and probably still do. This is a live matter. It is ongoing. She may still be staying in her car. She goes to work while her cats are in her car throughout the entire day. She is living in California and therefore no doubt it gets very hot. I’m sure the situation is very hazardous for the cats.

The Cat’s Whiskers

She posted on The Cat’s Whiskers Facebook page and entered into a long discussion with members of that group who offered her help. My reading of the comments are that Cynthia did not show commitment in taking the advice provided to her. She was advised to seek assistance by people involved with helping woman who are the victims of domestic violence. It seemed that she did not go to these people. This prompted some members of the group to think that she was running a scam.

One kind person even provided her with the telephone number of a veterinarian and asked to call the veterinarian who was ready to receive the call and provide assistance. To the best of my knowledge Cynthia did not call this veterinarian or did not persist and make sure that she made contact with the veterinarian. This indicates a lack of ability to cope or perhaps Cynthia’s lifestyle is so chaotic that it is impossible to function normally.

Karen Jacobs

There appears to be one lady who has provided hands-on help through Facebook. Her name is Karen Jacobs and she is the founder and director of the Tactical Team for the Protection of Animals. She is a former law enforcement officer and a member of a group of officers who are active in retirement working with the LAPD. She is working on the Cynthia Serna matter. After all, it all started off with domestic violence and therefore this is a potential criminal matter as well as a cat welfare matter. Karen Jacobs confirms that this is no scam. She is trying to get money to Cynthia and a motel room. In the medium to long term the intention is to get her into regular housing because it is obviously a dangerous situation for both Cynthia and her cats to be living in a car.


I think that is the current state of play on this story. Cynthia is being helped on the ground but the cats, as I understand it, are still living in her car which would seem to be an impossible state of affairs. This state of affairs could not last very long but it has. I think I have read stories where people have lived in cars with their cats and where they’ve been prosecuted under the animal welfare laws for animal cruelty. I’m not saying that that is going to happen but it is not good. It exposes Cynthia to action by the local authority.

One great problem with Facebook is that there’s lots of fakery on it. We all know about it. We know about the fake news. We’ve seen fake cat rescue situations and people pleading for money to help their cats. Cynthia has a fundraiser. She started this two days ago on the advice of a member of The Cat’s Whiskers. The goal was US$1000 and at present it has raised nothing. But the trouble is that good people become suspicious when people ask for help but appear not to accept it. Users of Facebook have become more wary and less trusting of people posting for help on Facebook. This may be a long-term trend and it may severely dent the effectiveness of Facebook.

Finally, I don’t wish to criticize Cynthia Serna. It sounds like I am. I think she is genuine. It is just extremely frustrating when you read the comments because it is developing in a less than positive way.

Update 5th June 2018

She posted this:

“Our blessing came via The Compassion Project.
Staci, the founder contacted me yesterday morning. And TCP will be providing foster care for all 7 of my kitties. And have helped me keep a roof over my head for a few days.
We are at pet friendly motel6. Exhausted, but safe and relieved.
In a few days these babies are going to camp (foster care) and I can’t be more excited for them.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart The Compassion Project, Cat Whiskers Group and everyone on FB that advocated for us.
You Rock!!!!!”

10 thoughts on “Chaotic life of woman and her seven cats made homeless because of domestic violence”

  1. If her story is legitimate, I pray she gets help soon. Summers are way too hot to live in cars, even with the windows cracked just enough to keep the cats inside. What a horrific situation!

    • Yes, I agree. It is a horrible situation and although I am concerned for her the cats are particularly vulnerable as they are in the car all the time. Not good.

    • Irish gofundme are very irritating. They don’t take you to the page even though Google links to it. They take you to their home page to try and force people to explore the site. Horrible. Sorry I can’t find the page.

  2. I understand 100% that many people on FB wont help because they think it is a scam,it has happened to me and cost me funding but by haters,I even had one horrible woman in FL accuse me of not having cats and only scamming for $ so I could fly to the UK and that the photo’s were not my cats but cats I got off google images and then she told me if I did have cats that she wanted me to fly them to FL and I’m thinking this woman is unhinged and finally I needed help from FB to get her to stop trolling me,I’ll share her gofundme and hopefully some will donate but I cant until next week.

    • Yes, your experience does not surprise me. There is a lot of good on FB but also a lot of stuff which is unhelpful and downright horrible. Sorry I can’t find the fund raising page. I should have linked to it when I wrote the article but pressure of time got to me.

  3. This looks like a train wreck in the making. It is really easy to destroy appeals by voicing doubt. I am so glad she has an ex police officer on her side.

    For people not to judge is hard when real scams exist, but to base negative judgement in the aftermath of a domestic violence situation is foolish. For cat advocates to get snotty that she did not do what she was told/suggested shows up those judges as 100% ignorant of DV situations. I can understand their frustrations, but Cynthia is about as vulnerable as someone on 21st century earth can be.

    I hope help can help her.

    I know of a lady in a US state who is in late middle age, living in her car with her six cats. She is almost invisible, as are her pleas for help. She is difficult to communicate with partially because she has been traumatised badly and partially because she is clinging on, barely coping and at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Fear is her main driver, it keeps her and her cats alive. Her reason for living in such an awful way is an example of how one person (not the lady in the car) along with crack and meth can destroy an entire and fairly functional family pretty quickly.

    • Thanks Jane for your thoughts on this. DV must be hell for the victim. And to be responsible for 7 cats is going to make things almost impossible.

      • I think that those who
        escape & survive DV are some of the strongest, bravest people on earth.

        Both of these women, despite virtually impossible conditions, are still determined to do the best for their cats, this ups their vulnerability considerably, as shown by the one cat remaining with the dodgy temporary fosterer.

        For a person who probably is at the brink of existence, their compassion to provide for their remaining, true family members can be the very reason she is harmed again.

        Last year I became aware of women in the UK living in cars due to losing their homes due to the harsh social security system, domestic troubles, mental health etc. One woman was 82, her daughter,59. Neither in great health. Both still looking for work. Any work, to pay for food and extra bedding in the winter.

        It struck me, their hopes for income were not high enough for even a deposit on a rental (UK rental prices are often very high) This is the shock of homelessness speaking, it’s a necessity for survival – a person’s horizons shrink in all directions to the limit of immediate, physical need.

        At least the two mother & daughter had each other, they acknowledged their “good fortune” too, in a humble way. It is said that social isolation is akin to heart disease in that it can trim decades off of life. Having my cats would focus me I hope, into meeting their needs & getting back to stability & function. But I don’t know if anyone can accurately predict what they would do if these circumstances were foisted on them, no chance to make even a “wrong choice” – a common response from those who judge those who are homeless to be at fault. As if blame and fault is of any use! Would the same people judge the cats? Often there is simply no fault. We just have vast systems that are terminally broken.

        Life is too cruel too often.

        • Jane, I think you describe the situation very well as usual. We have to be very sympathetic to people who are victims of domestic violence and who have become homeless. There are refuges in the UK as you no doubt know for women who are victims of domestic violence. They don’t take pets as far as I know. So it is a great sacrifice to hang onto your cat companions under the circumstances. For me, it is borderline whether it is acceptable to hang onto your cats under the circumstances but then again to relinquish them to a cat shelter may lead to their death. It is a very difficult situation. Facebook can come to the aid of these people as I describe in the article. I just felt that this particular individual was not very resourceful even though the circumstances were dire.


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