Categories: hoarders

How do you stop ‘things getting out of control’ at cat hoarding situations?

Hoarders often say it, ‘things got out of control’. They are also the words of a man, Ryan Ross, who has found himself in trouble with the law because he had more than 100 cats at a home in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, USA. He did not live at the house.

Ross’s house is cleared. More plastic for landfill! The picture is uncredited on CBS58.

Ross inferred in conversations with law enforcement that he took in some cats but did not have them spayed and neutered (‘fixed’) so they bred. This is the root cause of the problems he created for himself.

He deliberately shunned another place he could have gone to for help. Ross said that he was upset with the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) because he had taken cats to them before and they had been euthanized. Ironically he was unable to stop MADACC euthanizing the cats because 67 were euthanized on this occasion when they were recovered from his house.

Why didn’t he take the breeding stray cats to a veterinarian to be fixed? There can only be two reasons: ignorance or money. The former is unlikely in this instance because he indicates that he was aware of the problem of breeding. It had to be about money.

At one point there would have been a manageable number of stray cats in his home that he was caring for. Let’s say there were five stray cats. That was the magic moment when he could have done something to manage the situation and stop it getting out of control. But he let it pass. And there comes a moment when things become uncontrollable. The cost of fixing the cats becomes prohibitive and he said that he did not know what to do.

He could not take them to MADACC for fear they’d be killed at the shelter so he closed his mind to the problem and walked away from it and the house which he visited occasionally. The house was trashed by the cats which is to be expected. They must’ve been kept inside.

Averting this situation

Provided the person is not totally ignorant of what they are doing – and I believe that nearly all cat hoarders are cognisant of the fact that things are getting out of control and know how to resolve it – it is essential to get the cats fixed as they are taken in. As mentioned, that is the root cause of chaos. Cat rescuers like Ryan Ross have to get their cats spayed and neutered as their first task. Everything flows from that first step. If it is done it is much less likely that things will get out of control.

Secondly, it seems to me that if MADACC were a genuine no-kill shelter Ross would have taken some of the cats to them. It seems that this is another beneficial spin off of no-kill shelters which are sometimes criticised. Cat rescuers do object to taking cats to shelters if they firmly believe that the cats will be euthanized at the shelter. What’s the point of them taking a cat that they have taken the trouble to rescue if the shelter then kills the cat? Animal shelters need to be no-kill for many reasons and the Ryan Ross story is one of them.

Time to see an end to cat hoarding cases

To an observer it is strange to see that little is done to reduce the number of cat hoarding cases in the US. It appears to be accepted that there will be some cases and they pop up in the press all the time. The problem is not being addressed with sufficient vigour.

In addition to the points made above, the authorities have to go back one more step to find the cause: the small minority of ignorant cat owners who are much too casual in their dealings with domestic cats. They let them bred and roam. This irresponsible minority needs to be tackled by the authorities. There has to be education and punishment applied to them. It should be a two-pronged attack on poor cat ownership. It is something which people in authority don’t want to address because it is hard to enforce laws like these and in general people want the freedom to do as they please. But the cats are suffering at the hands of careless people. And a lot of people don’t like seeing stray cats. It is time to create a proper statewide program to tackle poor cat ownership.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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