My heart dropped to my stomach as I answered my desk phone and heard the words, “We have a situation.”
Our head of Operations continued, “Our officers are currently on scene at a house that has a horrible odor that you smell from the outside and there have been reports of multiple animals on the inside. We have been at this home before and removed multiple cats, so we are preparing for the worst.” So many different thoughts ran through my mind as I hung up the phone. Smells can mean many things. Was there a dead body inside? Were we dealing with an abandoned home where wild animals took up residence? Or, were we dealing with a hoarder situation? Regardless, we needed to jump into action and prepare for the possibility of a multiple animal impound.
When reports came back that there were dozens of cats living in a home in horrible conditions–feces and urine on the floor, an ammonia smell so strong it could knock you off of your feet–we knew that it was going to be a long evening. While the field officers worked to rescue the cats, the team back at the shelter began preparing for their arrival. Quarantining off two rooms of kennels to house the incoming residents was fairly easy as it is a slow time of year for cats at the shelter (I shudder to think what problems would have occurred if this was the middle of the summer and we had no space). The animal care team began readying kennels with blankets, hiding spaces, and food and water, while the medical team prepared vaccinations, de-wormers, materials for blood draws, and skin observation materials. The communications team responded to media and public requests as the word got out that there was a possible animal cruelty or hoarder situation. And, the administration team shuffled around schedules and communicated with multiple agencies–code enforcement, adult protective services, mental health crisis teams, and public health–to start the ball running for the human side of the case. It was an impressive, well-oiled machine that got to work that day.
As the cats began to arrive we could tell that they were traumatized. Living in squalor with no human contact, they were so scared. The mostly orange and white adult cats stared at us with eyes wide as they hid in the backs of their kennels. The staff felt a sense of excitement as they knew this was the first day of the rest of their lives. From now on, they will only know a world that provides a clean environment, proper care, and love.
Fifty-four cats were rescued and transported to the shelter that evening. Any cat that had obvious injuries was treated immediately by the veterinary team, but, for the rest of them, the decision was made to give them an evening to get comfortable before their full exams. The first night was rough as many didn’t want to eat or even use their litterbox due to fear. As the days went on, some began to relax and show their full personality. Each day was different as more and more allowed handling, exams, and even head scratches. The team is prepared to work with them patiently and lovingly to give them the time they need to settle in and recognize that humans are good.
Many folks have already reached out asking how they can help the cats that are now billed as the “Fabulous 54”. Some have brought items such as canned cat food and clean towels. Others have signed up to become foster parents and cat volunteers. Some have given direct cash donations to help support with their continued medical care. The next step is to find them all new homes and families. Pasadena Humane Society is planning a special adoption event to be held this Friday through Sunday, February 2-4, during regular adoption hours. The adoption fee for the cats will be just $10, which includes the spay/neuter surgery, microchips and age-appropriate vaccines. These cats have suffered a lot of trauma in their lives and will need a quiet and patient home. It may take days, months or longer for them to adjust to living with a family. Adopters should be aware that these cats may never be fully accepting of human interaction, but we hope with time they will become loving companions. To support the Fabulous 54, visit pasadenahumane.org.