When Do We Take Cat Hoarding Seriously?

A cable TV technician is repulsed by the stench of cat urine emanating from the home of a woman in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and makes a phone call to police. Just a few hours later, Animal Care and Control officers descend on the house and remove more than 50 cats, along with the woman’s two teenage sons.

Christa Rupprecht is arrested and charged with child neglect because of the hazardous conditions inside the house.

That quick action was great, wasn’t it?

Well, not so much. You see, it really wasn’t quick at all.

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Authorities seized several dozen cats from Rupprecht’s house in January. According to WPTV News, the conditions in the house weren’t nearly as awful back then. I suppose ACC figured that despite the fact that there was no follow-up care, Rupprecht would turn away from her hoarding ways. For some reason, her children weren’t a factor at that time.

“But Jane,” you might say. “The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, and I can understand how months could go by without even a visit from animal control to make sure things are still under control.”

Yes, that’s true. But has Rupprecht been reported before?

“It’s been like this for three or four years. The stench is awful,” Rupprecht’s neighbors, Melissa and Louis Broz, told WPTV. “The kids haven’t been outside in like three years.”

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If they or other neighbors made previous complaints to authorities about Rupprecht, then I’d say that the city government and child protective services were negligent in investigating the situation. But if they didn’t — if all they did was bitch and complain to each other and say, “Somebody ought to do something,” then they themselves are just as guilty as Rupprecht when it comes to the endangerment of the children and cats in her home.

And what about school authorities? Teachers and other school officials are mandated reporters for suspected child abuse and neglect. If kids come to school reeking of cat piss every day and they always seem to be sick, you’d think somebody would have gotten a clue that something was going on.

If, as Rupprecht’s neighbors said, the kids “hadn’t been outside in like three years,” does that also mean they never went to school? If so, why didn’t school authorities notice that?

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This kind of stuff makes me so angry! It’s our responsibility to take action when we see living beings who depend on others for their care being abused and neglected by those who are supposed to be doing the caretaking.

I’m not saying you should barge into your neighbor’s house if you hear a fight going on, but you could at least call the cops instead of sitting on your hands and thinking “somebody ought to do something.” I’m not saying you should form a vigilante brigade to secretly remove cats from a hoarder’s home, but if you think someone is hoarding, you should definitely contact authorities, and keep on calling them until something is done.

Situations like animal hoarding, abuse and neglect thrive in isolation. The reason animals continue to be hoarded and children continue to be abused is that too many of us are so passionately dedicated to minding our own business that we forget that sometimes human decency demands action.

What do you think? Would you report, or have you reported, an animal hoarder or a case of suspected child abuse or neglect? Have you seen the aftermath of a hoarding situation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo: Kittens looking out from behind the bars of his cage by Shutterstock

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This post was written by JaneA Kelley, regular contributor to Catster Magazine.

89 comments

Cheryl Mallon-Bond

There are definite things that signify hoarding; but I have also seen rescue people that have a lot of cats, unfairly judged as hoarders as well. If you are a long term cat rescuer, like many I know; it almost becomes inevitable that you will acquire more than you really ever wanted to end up with, because of various circumstances. With that said; the woman being spoken about in this article, is definitely a hoarder. Cats that are not spay/neutered, & allowed.to continue reproducing is the first sign. She probably started out w/ a few, that turned into way too many!!! The other obvious sign is poor health, horrendous litter box heigene, & flea infestation. I have a rescue friend that has been dealing w/ a woman w/ these bad conditions going on. She is so delusional, she doesn't see how in bad shape many of these cats are. They would have died a slow agonizing death had she not intervened! Problem is, social services did not intervene properly w/ this woman. She is mentally unstable & couldn't properly care for herself its a long story). This friend has worked her fingers to the bone, & exhausted her self in he process. She knew if she called local town municipality, the cats would have been doomed to death!. She raised funds, & after a long arderous process, all the case were vetted, back to good health & in new good homes. 2 had to be euthanized, it was the merciful thing for them. Outside ferals we're vetted & relocated. The whole process was a

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Monica D.
M D3 years ago

It is better to do something, contact authorities.

Patricia H.
Patricia H.3 years ago

thanks for posting

Amy Fisher
Amy Fisher3 years ago

thanks.

Marianne B.
MARIA B3 years ago

I remember sitting in a house with 16 cats and the odor was horrific. Went out to my car to rub Vick's vapor rub under my nose...that didn't even help. I can only imagine the stench of 50 cats Sorry, folks. beyond 4 or 5 , are too many.

Anne F.
Anne F3 years ago

Troublesome: support spaying, and report noxious conditions - the cable guy did the right thing.

Spencer Young
Spencer Young3 years ago

Nobody should turn a blind eye to an animals basic needs even if it hurts the caregivers feelings

JL A.
JL A3 years ago

Marie makes good points

Heidi R.
Past Member 3 years ago

I know an animal hoarder. I know that the animal hoarder has a friend in the police department, they are known to teachers and nursery staff and no-one phones the authorities. Even the pet shop gives the hoarder pets that are not adoptable. It's so hard to phone in a complaint when you know that the animals may not be taken by other owners. When you know that the animals are well fed and given medical attention too it's even more difficult to make the call. Yet, having over 20 cats, 6 dogs, a rabbit and chickens when living in a city home is horrid, disgusting, smelly and shows signs of mental illness.

I am wrong for not making a report to the Department of Health, I admit. I just don't know what to do to help the person, their children and the animals without causing trauma.