CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. — Earlier this week, Calhoun County deputies got a tip about a bad smell coming from a one-story home on South 'A' Avenue in Athens. A short time later, they received another complaint about the same house. This time it was about its living conditions. Thursday, deputies went to check it out and found dozens of cats living inside.
“We did find deplorable living conditions for the cats,” said Sheriff Matt Saxton during an interview at the Marshall Post. “The homeowner had a few cats in her living area of the home. But the areas where majority of the cats were living was just, just not good conditions.”
In total, 113 cats were living in the house, basement and garage he said. The health department deemed it uninhabitable and immediately had the house evacuated. The deputies put the cats in crates and removed them from the home.
“The oxygen levels were low in the home because of the ammonia from the cat waste in the home,” said Sheriff Saxton. “The ammonia levels in the home were too high for humans to be in there.”
The house was evacuated for the following 24 hours, he said. Ninety-seven of the cats were taken to the Calhoun County Animal Center for grooming and medical treatment. The rest were taken to Irwin Avenue Animal Hospital in Albion.
“Many of them are underweight,” said Cynthia Buford, CEO of the Calhoun County Animal Center Inc. “It seems that the ones that are there have severe upper-respiratory infections that is not responding to treatment and therefore viral infection is probably setting in.”
She said they also had scars and lesions on their bodies. The ones that arrived at the center on Union Street Thursday night were scared and confused. Some had runny noses and goopy eyes. But all have since received the medical treatment they needed.
“Some of them are still cowering in their litter boxes, which is a real sign of stress,” said Buford about the cats who are paired together in crates. “If they’re housed with maybe 4 or 5 together then that’s a little bit of a crowded situation for them. So they’re probably still really stressed.”
Most of them have calmed down since first arriving, she said. Once they're deemed healthy and groomed, they’ll be placed in various shelters and animal facilities throughout the county. She sees these kinds of cases from time-to-time. To prevent it from happening, she recommends pet lovers keep a manageable number of animals in their homes, ones they can remember by name
“Hoarders seem to have wonderful intentions,” said Buford. “They have great intentions and it just goes wrong. It spirals out of control.”
Sheriff Saxton agreed. He said deputies have worked with this homeowner in the past to minimize the number of cats in the her home. But this time around the problem became bigger than she could handle. Now, she's likely to face charges of animal cruelty.
“This is a situation of a person that was trying to start out in a positive manner, to help save cats,” said Sheriff Saxton. “Over time I think she got overwhelmed and was unable to care for the sheer number of cats she did have in her residence.”