Friday, December 10, 2010

Your help needed to rescue cats from hoarder

'I could smell it as soon as I entered the apartment building.  As I walked up to the fourth floor the smell got stronger and stronger.  Knocking on her door, I knew I was not going to be happy with what I was about to see,' said Maggie Shaarawi, one of the founders of Animals Lebanon.

'An old woman came to the door but did not want to let me in.  There were no lights on and the smell was terrible.  I showed her the cat food I brought and told her how much I love cats.  This was all it took to gain some trust, and she opened the door for me to come in.'

Recently, Animals Lebanon received a call from the Beirut Municipality concerning an elderly woman living with a large number of cats. The neighbors in the building were filing a law suit against this woman as the conditions had become so bad that they could barely live there anymore. We were suspicious at first as sometimes people exaggerate greatly just because they don't like animals.

The Municipality was under orders to catch the cats and remove them from the building, but not knowing how to catch them they called Animals Lebanon for help.  Animals Lebanon pleaded with the Municipality, asking them to hold off on any action and that we would see what was going on and how we could help.  

'The door only opened halfway, but as it did the smell became overwhelming.  There was no electricity and very little light.  I used my mobile phone as a flashlight to be able to see a bit, and realized the door did not open because there was so much trash behind it.  There were things everywhere, old bottles, mattresses, furniture, newspapers, all piled up in the tiny apartment.  And then I started to notice the cats ' their eyes shining from the light from my phone, quiet meows seemed to come from everywhere.'

The Municipality explained that all the neighbors were complaining as the smell was so bad, they were no longer able to live comfortably in their apartments.  Some had moved their children to relative's homes as it had gotten worse over the summer.

'There were old chicken bones on the floor, and the cats had made the entire apartment their bathroom as there was no litter box.  This poor woman was gathering scraps from the trash to feed the cats,' Maggie continued.  'Two kittens were suckling from their mother, all three of them were laying inside an old cooking pot.  After only about five minutes I became sick from the smell and walked back out to the hallway with the woman to talk more.'

Neighbors explained that the woman was alone, she did not seem to have any relatives and people had stopped visiting her.  No one was able to explain exactly what had happened, but the woman used to be very active and social and seemed to live a normal life.  Sadly, something happened about a year ago and things quickly got bad.  She spent more and more time inside her apartment and the number of cats she had kept growing.

'She let me take two of the sickest cats, but I counted at least ten more inside.  Their eyes were shut from an infection and they had the flu.  It was sad to know I couldn't take all the cats to the vet's clinic immediately, but I could not risk harming a woman who also needed help.  I got her to accept me, something the neighbors were surprised about as she doesn't usually trust anyone, so I knew I could come back soon for the others.'

Having witnessed the misery in which both the woman and the cats are living with, Animals Lebanon spoke again to the Municipality and got their agreement to hold off.  We explained that this situation did not need force, and that to just take all the cats would harm the woman so much.  She needed help herself, and we couldn't just take the cats from her as she based her whole life around them.

'I encourage Animals Lebanon for the compassionate work and all the similar NGOs,' said Father Fadi Khawand.  'They aren't just helping the cats, or the old lady, but the entire building.'  We had contacted a church nearby to see how they could help the woman.  Father Khawand explained that once the cats are taken out the church will be able to assist the woman.  Another local humanitarian organization has agreed to help the woman and give her the care she needs to regain her healthy.

'I have been back to her apartment five more times since the first visit.  She let me take out five more cats, one was too sick and died, and there are at least nine more to go.  One is so beautiful, all white, but she had some eye infection and is now completely blind.  All the cats I have gotten so far have had fleas and worms, are dehydrated and under fed, and they are all being treated for respiratory infections,' said Maggie.  'I give her food and make sure it is given to the cats so that they can hold on until we get the rest of them out of there.'

It is a matter of urgency that these cats are removed safely and with the understanding of the woman.  We have started undergoing a process of slowly getting them out of the house and into a clinic where they are being diagnosed, medicated, and kept in quarantine until they recover.

'We simply don't have the space in our shelter to care for so many new cats at one time, and the medical bills grow with each new cat.  We need help finding homes for these cats and donations to cover the vet expenses.'

Animals Lebanon has joined with the municipality, the local church, and a humanitarian group, but we need your help to rescue the remaining cats.

Click here to adopt a shelter cat and help give space for these cats, or check back to see the cats rescued from the apartment over the coming days. Click here to donate now and  make sure the last cats in the apartment receive the treatment and care they need.  Your help now can turn a terrible situation into a story of cooperation and compassion.
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Registered Charity #1036, Founded 9 Sept. 2008 | PO Box 113-5859, Beirut, Lebanon | Contact us