Hoarding case: Adoption is the cat’s meow
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — When six-year-old John accompanied his mom Tracy Kimball to volunteer at the temporary cat shelter set up at the Casco Memorial School, he preferred spending his time in the kitten room.
He thought it would be a great idea to surprise his mom for her birthday, and bring home a kitten as a present.
“I really, really wanted him. He was a playful cat. The person who named it Samurai probably liked the Power Rangers,” John Kimball Jr. said.
“I was trying to get him for my mom’s birthday,” he said.
But, the cat was already out of the bag.
Instead of being surprised, Tracy Kimball surprised her son with a pet cat for his upcoming birthday. Actually, the family adopted two cats, Cocoa and Samurai, because it was too difficult to split up the playful pair.
The newly-adopted kittens were among the more than 40 cats that were rescued recently from a cat-hoarding situation in Casco.
According to Casco Animal Control Officer Susan Fielding, only nine or 10 cats may be considered too feral to be adopted. Those cats will likely be turned over to the organization “Friends of Feral Felines,” which provides a barn atmosphere where cats are given food and water and allowed to exist without human interaction.
The remaining cats will be available for adoption through Harvest Hills Animal Shelter.
“Not all of the cats were actually being handled. Some might get used to humans with a little work and patience,” Fielding said during a tour of the Memorial School on Tuesday.
“They are not unfriendly. But, they don’t know how cats should cat,” she said.
“Over time, handling them and showing them that we aren’t going to hurt them, they will start getting out of their shells,” she said.
“We try to enrich the lives of the cats by letting them out of the crates, and letting them roam and play. We try not to keep them in the cages,” Fielding said.
The friendlier felines were separated in a room from the more feral ones. Two male cats — possibly from the same litter — were estimated to be between 12 and 14 years old.
“Everyone who volunteers falls in love with these guys. I hope they can stay together,” Fielding said.
Several of the cats had upper respiratory issues as a result of being in a structure with too much ammonia, she said. However, with twice daily treatments, the cats’ breathing problems have improved.
Kimball agreed the chance of adoption was good for most of the cats, and she was glad none of the felines had been euthanized.
“Some of the cats haven’t had enough human contact, but the majority of them are adoptable,” Kimball said.
“Some are very sweet cats. Some are really funny. They look forward to seeing people,” she said.
Kimball stepped forward to volunteer at the town’s emergency shelter after hearing about the cat hoarding case during a Casco Board of Selectmen meeting in July. Kimball serves on the board.
In July, Town Manager Dave Morton said the situation – the third cat-hoarding case in three years — would likely require the town to set up a temporary shelter. While the town was waiting for the results of tests to rule out communicable illnesses, many shelters were unable by state law to take the animals. Secondly, the town’s contracted shelter, Harvest Hills Animal Shelter, was already dealing with an overload of animals from another hoarding case in another town. So, there was not enough room for the 40-plus cats being recovered from the Casco residence, Morton said.
According to Fielding, a network of organizations assisted the town with the crisis. She credited Harvest Hills Animal Shelter, the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Cumberland Animal Rescue Team.
Pet Smart Charities in Biddeford provided crates, kennels, a large supply of dry and canned food, and pee pads, she said.
“A lot of groups have stepped forward to help us out.” Fielding said.
“We are not a shelter staff, but we have become shelter managers,” she said.
It has been taxing on Fielding and the Assistant Animal Control Officer, Jessica Jackson. Both women have put in an additional five to six hours a day to feed, water and medicate the animals as well as cleaning the kennels and rooms.
“When you get home at night and your dogs bark at you because they don’t recognize you, you know you are working too many hours,” she said.
The person who had the cats removed from the home was allowed to keep four felines, according to Fielding. However, the animal control department has to capture four more cats still loose on the property.
Also, the owner recently surrendered a female cat named Nibbles — after Fielding and Jackson helped deliver four kittens. Those newborns will not be available for adoption for another eight weeks.
An organization is in the process of finding a foster home for the mother and the quartet of kittens — since the temporary shelter might not be the best environment for the brood.
On Thursday, Aug. 30, a mobile veterinarian will spay and neuter the cats, which will open the path to adoption.
Meanwhile, in the Kimball home, the new “family members” have bonded well with the humans, the two other cats and the family dog, Tracy said.
“Samurai, he is hysterical. He is playful. He defines the word ‘kitten.’ He is so lovey-dovey,” she said.
“The two cats are stationed in the kids’ room,” Tracy said.
Her daughter, Zoey, 8, said she has assumed the responsibility of cleaning the litter box and feeding the kittens.
“Cocoa is a very playful cat. At night, she comes up on my bed and curls up with me,” Zoey said.
“At the shelter, everyone was fighting over Cocoa. Everyone wanted to take her home. She’s so adorable,” she said.
“There are still so many cats that need homes,” she said, adding, “I think there is a cat for everyone who wants one.”