ADVICE NEEDED: possible cat hoarder neighbor

tutubean

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
NJ, USA
I'll preface this with saying that I do not want to call animal control. I am trying to TNR these cats and some of them are very sweet (if mostly distant) and I don't want them taken away/killed.

I was talking to a neighbor, who keeps chickens cooped in her fenced yard, about the neighborhood cats. Apparently my neighbor has seen cats literally crawling all over the property next to her from the ground to the roof of that house. This was confirmed by a man and his young son who sometimes stop at that house to see the cats outside. Yesterday, I saw a kitten of socializing age under a covered car. It disappeared before I could photograph it. We've been seeing cats for a year+, and yesterday I confirmed that some of the cats we see on our property are being harbored on this "hoarder" property.

I say "hoarder" because what I saw was moderately alarming. Plush cat beds are left outside the house (bad idea for our environment where they could harbor mold, bedbugs, etc), and there were about a dozen open, half-eaten cat food cans just outside the front door, bugs everywhere. The area had a stench that I couldn't place. I went back there a second time and saw one of the cats I'd seen on our property. This one has a tipped ear it looks like, but the others we know of do not.

Despite being home, the owners of the property did not answer their door.

I don't know these people, but I know that family has lived there for 35+ years (same as us). There is a 90 yo woman and her ~60 yo daughter with I think the daughter's husband.

My immediate neighbor, the one with the chickens, told me that a cat once attacked her chicken which cost her $265 at the vet to save its life (it lived, but it was 'never the same'). Since then, the chickens are cooped and protected by chicken wire on the open side. This neighbor sees cats on their property all the time, as we do. They do not mind the cats and do not want harm to come to them, but they do not want so many cats around.

My immediate neighbors have given me permission to set up traps on THEIR property next to the neighbor harboring all the cats. I intend to TNR as many as I can, though it will taken time as I am doing this alone with the indirect help of a local rescue group.

In our state, it is an offense to harbor cats in such a way that leads to them becoming a nuisance (this includes destruction of property, such as chickens). It is also an offense to let unfixed cats (esp females) roam off your property, which they absolutely are.

The advice I want pertains to how to deal with the neighbor who is irresponsibly feeding cats. The food left there is attracting raccoons, possums, and skunks, activity increased lately judging by how many more times we are hearing, smelling, and seeing these critters. I also hear raccoon and cat screams from that direction occasionally.

Is TNR the only option I have short of calling animal control (which I don't want to do)?

Thanks in advance.
 

shadowsrescue

Advisor
Staff Member
Advisor
Joined
Apr 27, 2011
Messages
6,522
Reaction score
3,814
Location
Ohio
I would look into calling a rescue group for help. Certainly TNR will help, but I would want to know more information. Some of the cats might be sick and there is possible inbreeding going on. I commend you for wanting to help, but I would think it might help to get the advice and help from a rescue group in your area.

Hoarding situations can be very ugly and very very sad. Often the animals are in bad shape and need medical care. TNR will help the healthy cats.
 

Sylvia Jones

TCS Member
Alpha Cat
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
307
Reaction score
433
My main focus would be the welfare of the cats. Stories I have read are indeed very sad People sometimes start out with the best intentions of helping stray or feral cats and it can quickly get out of hand without the proper help and resources. If there are as many cats as you suspect the chances are they may need some health intervention. Different states have different laws But I agree a local rescue may be be the safest place to start. They could even have prior knowledge of the family since they are long time residents.
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
1,826
Reaction score
2,802
Location
Los Angeles
You said you had indirect help from a rescue and I wondered if that meant that you are basically in this alone but they are letting you use traps or the like? I agree that this is going to take more than just you and a trap, no matter how noble your intentions are...and you really are a saint for trying to intervene. The one hoarding situation that I experienced was the tip of the iceberg and, as with many of these, there were sick animals in the house, etc.This is way beyond that one litter that someone needs to fix. I would try other rescue groups, possibly contact Alley Cat Allies to see if they have any support people in your area...they are called something like Friends of Ferals and it is on their website. I did not have much luck with them but you are in an entirely different location so you might.

Often hoarders are not evil people, but just people with a disorder that allows them to think that they are helping and does not allow them to see that they have made things much worse. Some feel that they are actually protecting the animals in question. I am not sure that a nice heart to heart is going to get you anywhere, even if you tried.
 

jefferd18

Ms. Jeff's Legacy
Top Cat
Joined
Jul 2, 2019
Messages
1,780
Reaction score
1,046
I would call animal services, perhaps to get the owners some jail time or punishment.

If the authorities are alerted chances are good that the cats will be put down. Hoarders usually have mental disorders and are not bad people- they are not people who purposely abuse animals. I would suspect in this situation things just got out of hand.
 

heyitskevinn

TCS Member
Adult Cat
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
126
Reaction score
3
As others have said perhaps they have good intentions and are good people who need mental health health services and just became over whelmed. Best of luck to you,please keep us posted.
If the authorities are alerted chances are good that the cats will be put down. Hoarders usually have mental disorders and are not bad people- they are not people who purposely abuse animals. I would suspect in this situation things just got out of hand.
If you hoard animals, AKA, mistreat them, you're not a good person; regardless of anecdotal intentions. Feline populations are insane, not trying to be immoral but..
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10

tutubean

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
NJ, USA
You said you had indirect help from a rescue and I wondered if that meant that you are basically in this alone but they are letting you use traps or the like?
Precisely. They are great people and leant me a Tru Catch and gave me a choice of clinic where they have standing appointments. I pay for nothing, just transport the cat. They are a non-profit so they can only extend so far.

I would try other rescue groups, possibly contact Alley Cat Allies to see if they have any support people in your area...they are called something like Friends of Ferals and it is on their website. I did not have much luck with them but you are in an entirely different location so you might.
Thanks I'll do this!
 

moxiewild

Seniors, Special Needs, and Ferals
Super Cat
Joined
Aug 4, 2014
Messages
811
Reaction score
929
I would call animal services, perhaps to get the owners some jail time or punishment.
As someone whose job entails checking out potential hoarder situations, I can tell you this rarely happens.

Often times, we confinscate the animals, and owner gets a fine. They’ll probably be evicted if renting.

Then they’ll move somewhere else and do it all over again. Rinse and repeat.

They virtually never see jail time. They’re virtually never banned from pet ownership, and if they are, it’s extremely temporary (few years at most), and it isn’t enforced either way.

But it’s not punishment they need in the first place. Almost all hoarders are either rescuers who got in over their heads and are unlikely to be repeat offenders, and those with genuine mental health issues, who are very likely to reoffend regardless of any punishment or threat of.

It’s not punishment these people need, it’s professional help, which we are not great at facilitating in the US legal system.

If the authorities are alerted chances are good that the cats will be put down.
Unless you’re in a very rural area with little other options, this rarely happens. Even in a situation like that, with enough effort, outreach, and fundraising, you can (usually) find rescues across the country to take the animals, so not all hope is lost.

Most of the time, local/regional rescues come together to split the load, and only the animals whose health genuinely requires humane euthanasia are put to rest.

If the cats are feral or poorly socialized, some TNR/community cat groups will also step in to help place the cats in a sanctuary, relocate the colony, find a caretaker, support the property owners in managing and providing for the cats, get the cats in a working cat program, etc.

OP seems willing to advocate for the cats, and that’s the single most important thing. Access to local rescues and a cooperative government/AC help immensely, but a citizen advocate is most important.

And if the cats are suffering, unhealthy, and breeding, euthanasia isn’t the worst option. TNR alone can work in some cases too, especially if the cats appear to be outdoor only.

That said - I would exhaust all other options first if at all possible!

And you are completely right on all other accounts!
 

moxiewild

Seniors, Special Needs, and Ferals
Super Cat
Joined
Aug 4, 2014
Messages
811
Reaction score
929
If you hoard animals, AKA, mistreat them, you're not a good person; regardless of anecdotal intentions. Feline populations are insane, not trying to be immoral but..
Intent matters.

They’re absolutely not bad people in the majority of cases - in fact, research indicates they have above average empathy.

But they’re sick, and they need appropriate help.

Or less commonly, they’re rescuers who simply got in over their head and need resources and a little practical help and support to get things under control. Sometimes, a severe lack of education regarding pet care is the primary issue. Both are easily addressed, and the hoarders are not bad people.

When faced with a problem, it’s important to identify the cause if you actually want to fix it. It’s not as simple as good vs bad. The world is not black and white.

Painting animal hoarders with the same brush as abusers, and therefore implying punishment is the answer, neglects to actually address and fix the problem.

This is why it’s extremely common for the most common type of animal hoarders to have very long histories of hoarding after being charged/fined/convicted multiple times - because legal ramifications don’t remotely address the underlying cause.

You might then advocate for harsher punishment. But it still won’t be a deterrent in the first place for someone who is mentally ill, and no government is going to lock away an animal hoarder for life or dutifully ensure they never own another animal again - and anything less than that means the problem will continue.

However, if you actually care to prevent reoffending, then understanding the underlying cause and addressing it accordingly is the solution - not retributive justice.

Appropriate mental health services and medication prevents more animals from suffering, while also helping to alleviate the hoarder’s suffering (mental and physical) too.

Why would anyone be against that?
 

heyitskevinn

TCS Member
Adult Cat
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
126
Reaction score
3
Intent matters.

They’re absolutely not bad people in the majority of cases - in fact, research indicates they have above average empathy.

But they’re sick, and they need appropriate help.

Or less commonly, they’re rescuers who simply got in over their head and need resources and a little practical help and support to get things under control. Sometimes, a severe lack of education regarding pet care is the primary issue. Both are easily addressed, and the hoarders are not bad people.

When faced with a problem, it’s important to identify the cause if you actually want to fix it. It’s not as simple as good vs bad. The world is not black and white.

Painting animal hoarders with the same brush as abusers, and therefore implying punishment is the answer, neglects to actually address and fix the problem.

This is why it’s extremely common for the most common type of animal hoarders to have very long histories of hoarding after being charged/fined/convicted multiple times - because legal ramifications don’t remotely address the underlying cause.

You might then advocate for harsher punishment. But it still won’t be a deterrent in the first place for someone who is mentally ill, and no government is going to lock away an animal hoarder for life or dutifully ensure they never own another animal again - and anything less than that means the problem will continue.

However, if you actually care to prevent reoffending, then understanding the underlying cause and addressing it accordingly is the solution - not retributive justice.

Appropriate mental health services and medication prevents more animals from suffering, while also helping to alleviate the hoarder’s suffering (mental and physical) too.

Why would anyone be against that?
I have no idea why you're still on this old topic but I genuinely have zero empathy for hoarders. Done and done.
 

moxiewild

Seniors, Special Needs, and Ferals
Super Cat
Joined
Aug 4, 2014
Messages
811
Reaction score
929
I'll preface this with saying that I do not want to call animal control. I am trying to TNR these cats and some of them are very sweet (if mostly distant) and I don't want them taken away/killed.

I was talking to a neighbor, who keeps chickens cooped in her fenced yard, about the neighborhood cats. Apparently my neighbor has seen cats literally crawling all over the property next to her from the ground to the roof of that house. This was confirmed by a man and his young son who sometimes stop at that house to see the cats outside. Yesterday, I saw a kitten of socializing age under a covered car. It disappeared before I could photograph it. We've been seeing cats for a year+, and yesterday I confirmed that some of the cats we see on our property are being harbored on this "hoarder" property.

I say "hoarder" because what I saw was moderately alarming. Plush cat beds are left outside the house (bad idea for our environment where they could harbor mold, bedbugs, etc), and there were about a dozen open, half-eaten cat food cans just outside the front door, bugs everywhere. The area had a stench that I couldn't place. I went back there a second time and saw one of the cats I'd seen on our property. This one has a tipped ear it looks like, but the others we know of do not.

Despite being home, the owners of the property did not answer their door.

I don't know these people, but I know that family has lived there for 35+ years (same as us). There is a 90 yo woman and her ~60 yo daughter with I think the daughter's husband.

My immediate neighbor, the one with the chickens, told me that a cat once attacked her chicken which cost her $265 at the vet to save its life (it lived, but it was 'never the same'). Since then, the chickens are cooped and protected by chicken wire on the open side. This neighbor sees cats on their property all the time, as we do. They do not mind the cats and do not want harm to come to them, but they do not want so many cats around.

My immediate neighbors have given me permission to set up traps on THEIR property next to the neighbor harboring all the cats. I intend to TNR as many as I can, though it will taken time as I am doing this alone with the indirect help of a local rescue group.

In our state, it is an offense to harbor cats in such a way that leads to them becoming a nuisance (this includes destruction of property, such as chickens). It is also an offense to let unfixed cats (esp females) roam off your property, which they absolutely are.

The advice I want pertains to how to deal with the neighbor who is irresponsibly feeding cats. The food left there is attracting raccoons, possums, and skunks, activity increased lately judging by how many more times we are hearing, smelling, and seeing these critters. I also hear raccoon and cat screams from that direction occasionally.

Is TNR the only option I have short of calling animal control (which I don't want to do)?

Thanks in advance.
Okay, OP, sorry if I missed it - how socialized are these cats as far as you can tell? Are they adoptable? You said some of them are friendly.

First thing’s first - try to document everything you can. See if your neighbors (the chicken lady, the man and his son, etc) might be willing to document what they see too through photos and videos. Hopefully you won’t need such documentation, but it’s vital insurance to have if you do.

(Plus, sending evidence like this to rescues and advocacy groups honestly gets their attention more than words alone, as it lends credibility to your claims and sticks out in memory more).

Do you know of anyone who personally knows these people? A neighbor who can shed some light on things and maybe talk to them? (Like really knows them)

It’s frustrating that they didn’t answer the door! Have you tried again? Maybe they were napping or didn’t notice. If you can find a neighbor who knows them, maybe they can accompany you and the home owners would be more likely to answer?

If talking to them in person isn’t working (some people just don’t like answering the door!), you might consider leaving a friendly note.

Say you’ve noticed some cats around their property and were wondering if they owned them or not.

Then explain you do TNR in the community and would be happy to/would like to get the cats neutered (at no cost to them), you just weren’t sure if anyone in the neighborhood owned them or if they’re strays, so you are asking around to try and find out/find out more information about the cats in general.

That way it doesn’t sound like you’re accusing or blaming them specifically - maybe your chicken lady neighbor would be willing to be “in on it” and keep a similar note on her door to make it look like you really are just going around door-to-door in the neighborhood.

This is primarily a means to open the door for communication in a non-threatening way.

With your note, leave some printed out educational brochures on the benefits of spay/neuter, and TNR (especially if the cats seem mostly feral and/or are mostly kept outdoors). Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society, Neighborhood Cats, Feral Cat Coalition, ASPCA, etc often have brochures available to print or purchase. Some local vets and rescues might, as well.

Alternatively, you could also make one of your own with information gathered from those sites.

Leave a number they can call AND text you on, as well as email. Many “shut ins” have preferred ways of communicating, so you want to increase your chances of receiving a response as far as you are comfortable.

If they respond favorably, it opens the door to broach other subjects later in the near future, like the bedding/shelters, food, attracting wildlife, and finding homes for the friendlies and kittens (do not broach the subject of rehoming the cats/kittens until you get a feel for what the root problem is and how open to that they would be - you might ultimately need to proceed with such efforts more covertly if they seem like they would be resistant). For now, just focus on them accepting TNR help.

If they don’t respond at all, try contacting various rescues, both local and national, to see if someone could send a representative and advocate to help you communicate with them and advise you generally of how would be best to proceed.

You can also email or call your local animal control/care services to see what they suggest and what your options might be. You can do this anonymously, as to protect both yourself and the cats.

If you receive a hostile response from them whatsoever, thoroughly document it and do not engage further. Try to find an advocate/representative who is more experienced to reach out to them, or alert authorities if it is particularly hostile or threatening. Your safety comes first.

But try to exhaust your outreach and education resources - don’t make too many assumptions until you have a better grasp of the situation and how and why it came to be. This may not be a hoarding or neglect case at all.

If covert trapping is the best you can do - so long as the cats have outdoor access - TNR will go a long way. It’s far more dangerous when a hoarder keeps the animals confined indoors.

Another option to consider is whether you are close enough and might be willing to take on the “colony” yourself.

If you can make your property more appealing to the cats with adequate, clean shelters, ample, yummy (read: stanky!) food, a fresh, clean supply of water, and a heavy dose of catnip, so long as you’re close enough for them to smell it, you might be able to slowly convince them to migrate toward your property.

You might also be able to just release them on your property too after TNR, since it seems many of them have already ventured over to you before? Even for the ones who haven’t, it sounds like you might be close enough to their house that your property might still be a safe release site.

The rescue you’re working with may be able to help you with food and other supplies to do this and maintain the colony, along with helping to find homes for any adoptable cats or kittens - so if this seems viable to you, it might be the best course of action to officially resolve this.

But I want to stress something I said earlier - this very well may not be a hoarding situation or a case of neglect. Most hoarders do not keep their cats outdoors.

Which leads me to suspect that these people may only have a casual relationship with the cats, rather than full blown mental illness, which is usually much easier to work with. Many people just feed out of the goodness of their hearts and have no idea TNR is an option. They provide what they can, but end up overwhelmed or simply can’t provide the full on “pet treatment” for all of the cats.

Old, pest-attracting, half eaten cans may look horrid to you, but if these people do not consider the cats “pets”, then they are actually helping them by providing at least some amount of food so that the cats aren’t totally fending entirely for themselves.

And washing the beds simply may have just never occurred to them, rather than being willful neglect. Not everyone is taught about what’s sanitary and what’s not.

Or perhaps the cats never used them when they were clean in the first place, so the home owners don’t even pay attention to them anymore? Heck, I do this with some of our shelters because they’ve gone years without any use or even interest! Cats are picky! Have the cats been witnessed using them? Maybe the beds had always been ignored and the homeowners don’t even know cats are using them now?

There are a lot of possibilities here, but the fact that they have bought beds shows that they at least do care and are trying to make the lives of these cats a little easier, in the ways that they know how and as they are able to.

People like this can often be educated and/or are very accepting (or sometimes just neutral) toward help for the cats.

The big question here is whether any cats are kept strictly indoors under similar conditions. Because that absolutely and immediately changes things.

If these are primarily free roaming, community cats that they try to help out as/when they can/best know how to, then the cats are arguably not being neglected, and (mostly) just need to be fixed.

It’s just not the same situation as a hoarder locking up “pet” cats or dogs indoors, or chaining up a dog outside.

So finding out the nature of their relationship to the cats, how the situation came to be, whether they will accept assistance, and whether cats/pets are kept indoors in similar conditions, are going to be key factors here and shed some much needed light on exactly what you’re dealing with, and how bad it really is.

Thank you so much for caring and taking so much initiative to better the lives of these cats, regardless of the exact circumstances. This is a huge and precarious undertaking to take on (mostly) on your own.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #15

tutubean

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
NJ, USA
Update: I tried trapping last night. The mama is the twin panther of a tom I just TNRd. The kittens are definitely of weaning age. Couldn't trap them, but mama and I exchanged slow blinks before she decided to take her kittens away somewhere. I'll be trying again, and I'll also try to contact neighbor again. I'm also reaching out to local rescues.

1593094050243.png
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #16

tutubean

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
NJ, USA
Update: I tried yet again to get the neighbor to come to her front door (I knew she was home), but no go. Again, there was about 10 small open cans and a HEAPING pile of kibble.
I went back and put a note in her mailbox that I noticed feral kittens on her property and offered to help TNR them at no cost to her. So... we'll see. But a mutual neighbor says she'll never cooperate, and so he's given permission to set up traps on his property any time.
I really wanna catch those kittens, and after them, the mama.

Curious thing: the mama is the triplet of another panther (boy) and a B&W girl who was spayed pre-puberty I just found out, but she was never chipped. So now panther boy and B&W girl are both microchipped and fixed. They mostly hang out on our property. I have no idea who got the girl spayed, but I have doubts that it is this neighbor as she's obviously lazy in terms of caring for these cats and has let a 2 yr old cat have a litter.

I'm trying for the kittens this Sunday, tuna at the ready.
 

Norachan

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
May 27, 2013
Messages
23,506
Reaction score
20,226
Location
Mount Fuji, Japan
Thank you so much for stepping in to help in this situation tutubean tutubean It sounds as if these two women are well meaning, but they've obviously let the situation get out of control. Hopefully they will understand that you area friend and accept your offer of getting the cats all TNR'd

I had a similar situation when I first moved into this area. A couple of cats were hanging around my house, I fed them and then realised there were dozens of semi-feral cats in the neighbourhood. I TNR'd over 40 in a 3 year period. I knocked on a few doors (The ones with cat food bowls in the front yard) and let people know what I was doing. No one objected to me trapping at all.

Later on I met a women who lived just five minutes walk from where I lived. She had previously TNR'd over a hundred cats and got new homes for dozens of kittens. She eventually had to stop as she had elderly parents that needed full time care, but some of the cat's she'd fixed as adolescents were still around. I think people tend to keep it quiet if they're trapping and fixing cats, but it sounds like you might have an ally somewhere close by.

Good luck. Let us know if you need any trapping hints.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #18

tutubean

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
NJ, USA
it sounds like you might have an ally somewhere close by.
I do! Unfortunately most clinics/rescues don't chip feral cats. I'm working with a rescue group (who leant me the traps) and they chip all their rescues. Good thing too, because I'm happy to be "on-record responsible" for the cats I have TNRd, as it is actually against regulations where we are to a) let outdoor cats become a nuissance (I would assume attracting skunks etc counts on some level) and b) let intact females prowl onto other properties. So now I have documentation that shows I'm doing my best to take care of the cats I'm feeding.

There is another adult cat with an ear tip who I didn't TNR. Definitely not related to the siblings who have been around about 2 yrs (different body shape). I have to wonder if it just found its way here due to the food being let out. Again, someone around here is TNRing kitties....
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #19

tutubean

TCS Member
Thread starter
Young Cat
Joined
May 3, 2020
Messages
77
Reaction score
84
Location
NJ, USA
Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to call it on trying to TNR the mama and rescue her kittens. The neighbor is completely unresponsive and so I cannot get onto the property. By the time the kittens leave the property, they will be potentially too old to truly socialize.

I also watched the feral-born mama run up to said neighbor as she checked her mail, then walk alongside her back to the house, tail upright, just like the mama's semi-feral siblings do with me. I have no way of knowing if this neighbor cares about vaccinations or population control, or if she IS spaying the females then why she let one get pregnant.

Since the mama acted that way with the neighbor, I feel very uncomfortable trying to trap her without her permission, and now I'm not even sure about the kittens.
 

Norachan

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
May 27, 2013
Messages
23,506
Reaction score
20,226
Location
Mount Fuji, Japan
I understand that you are feeling reluctant tutubean tutubean Unfortunately I think someone needs to step in here before the situation gets completely out of hand. You and your immediate neighbour seem to have the cat's best interests at heart, but if other people start to find the cats a nuisance they may call animal control and the cats could well end up being euthanised.

You said there is there a TNR group that is helping you? If the group could send an official looking notice to the women who keep the cats, letting them know that TNR is being done in your area, you wouldn't be breaking any laws by trapping and neutering and free roaming cats.

If you set up the traps next to your neighbour's property, in the yard of the family with the chickens or in your own yard, you should still be able to get quite a few of the cats fixed. It might be too late to get the kittens socialised and re-homed, but at least there would be fewer kittens being born every year. Not an ideal situation for the kittens, but better than letting them get a few months older and then start having kittens themselves.

I found this.

Department of Health | Veterinary Public Health | Free-Roaming and Feral Cats

I don't think you're breaking any laws by trapping and neutering the cats, even if the woman who feeds them hasn't given you permission.
 
Top