By Sue Suchyta
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Twenty-eight Himalayan cats were removed from a feces-filled and urine-soaked apartment Wednesday afternoon after an anonymous caller alerted animal control officials.
Animal Control Officer Chuck Gillenwater Sr. was called at 3 p.m. and arrived minutes later at the apartment building at 1323 Ford Ave., where other police officers arrived soon after.
A 49-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman, both unemployed, were attempting to breed the cats in the one-bedroom apartment to sell to pet stores and online.
The 28 cats, including kittens, appeared to be well fed, but were covered with excrement and fleas and were moving freely about the apartment. City ordinance generally limits households to two cats and two dogs.
Litter boxes were found in the apartment, but not enough of them, Gillenwater said.
“You could smell it when you walked in,” he said. “The smell was unbelievable. When I went home … my eyes were still burning.”
Gillenwater noted that the apartment was air-conditioned.
Rescue workers reported that the carpeting in the apartment was so worn that threads could be seen. Both the carpeting and the furniture were soaked with cat urine.
The male resident, a smoker, mentioned to rescue workers that he has respiratory problems from which he has been unable to recover. Gillenwater advised them to see a doctor for a health evaluation.
Kim Skidmore of Pound Pals and the Wyandotte Animal Pound and Karin Pigget of the Precious Animal Welfare Society coordinated the rescue volunteers. The Fire Department provided respirators for the rescue workers.
Shelter volunteers spent over two hours Wednesday night preparing the cats for intake at the pound. Feces were removed from the cats’ hindquarter fur.
During intake evaluations two of the cats were found to be pregnant. Another had given birth four days ago by cesarean section.
Rescue workers said only one adult male cat was removed from the apartment, a breeding situation that could result in the kittens being inbred.
Shelter supporters planned to use an assembly line of volunteers to treat the cats for fleas, to provide each with its first distemper shot, to deworm any as needed and to provide a basic health evaluation of each cat’s eyes and teeth.
City Engineer Mark Kowalewski declared the apartment unfit for human occupancy in accordance with city ordinance. The apartment may not be reoccupied until it has been sanitized and reinspected.
The building owner, a Troy man, was contacted by city authorities and reportedly is cooperating .
The residents reportedly had lived in the apartment southwest of Ford and 12th for more than 20 years. Officials believe they had been breeding the cats for several years.
The animals rescued last week are not free for adoption yet. Legal issues must be cleared before the cats either can be released to their original owners or placed in adoptive homes.
The pound is most in need of cash donations to pay for the medications and vaccinations for the rescued Himalayans. Checks may be made payable to Pound Pals, Attention: Animal Control Officer, 1170 Grove, Wyandotte MI 48192. The shelter also welcomes donations of Purina Kitten and Cat Chow.
Gillenwater said last week’s hoarding case is just the second he’s encountered as an animal control officer. In 2004, 100 live cats were removed from a Wyandotte house, but only one was restored to health.