Cat hoarding: what can happen when pets aren’t spayed or neutered

Written by Tori Gass

Saturday, March 30 was a busy day for EHS volunteers. We were called in to help with an urgent rescue operation involving more than 100 kittens and adult cats living in the same home. By the end of the day we had welcomed 39 cats into the shelter as Toronto Cat Rescue and the Toronto Humane Society had removed the others earlier in the week.

Herding cats

Taking in so many cats at one time is a big undertaking for our small shelter. To manage the enormous task, 15 volunteers were involved. After the cats were captured and transported to the shelter, an assembly line of sorts was established, with cats being brought into a room to be weighed, receive flea treatment, get a nail trim and a name. The process took about two hours once the cats had been unloaded inside the shelter.

The plan was to separate the boys and girls, sending all the females into foster and keeping males at the shelter. It was soon discovered that most of the cats were male, with only 16 girls in the group. So, once the girls were handed over to waiting foster families, there was still room for one boy – a 5-month-old kitten – to go to a home. We later discovered that one girl had been mistaken as a boy, and remains at the shelter.

For most of the cats, it’s suspected that this was their first introduction to people aside from their owner. While they were understandably skittish, they were easily handled and seemed to be in good health although a little thin.

How does this happen?

In this case of animal hoarding, the owner recognized the number of cats had grown out of control and reached out to Toronto Animal Services for help. It appears the owner had tried to care for them to the best of her ability, but that the sheer number of cats living in the home made the situation unmanageable and unhealthy for everyone in the home.

Animal hoarding can happen when someone compulsively “collects” animals – taking in strays for example – but this situation was the result of the cats being left to breed on their own as they weren’t spayed or neutered.

Animal hoarding is a complicated issue and sometimes is the result of a mental health condition. But simply having a large number of animals is not enough to qualify as hoarding. In a typical hoarding situation, owners don’t attend to the needs of the animals, neglecting health issues or not feeding them. Owners develop a deep attachment to their animals and believe they’re doing the right thing by keeping them, but they aren’t able to recognize that their pets may be suffering.

What’s next

The next step for these cats is to get settled into their new surroundings. Then they’ll all be spayed and neutered before becoming eligible for adoption. And our volunteers will be spending extra time with the cats to make sure they’re socialized and getting used to people.

Thanks to our supporters

All of this wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers and the generosity of our donors. The Margolis Foundation once again stepped in to support us, providing a much-needed special grant of $15,000, which will go a long way to ensure these cats receive the care they need. Rescue Foodie donated a truck load of supplies and the community dropped off all sorts of critical supplies – litter boxes, food, toys – and donated funds to help with the rescue. We can’t thank both the Margolis Foundation, our donors and our volunteers enough for their tremendous support that enabled us to rescue these sweet cats!


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