MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) — After receiving a call from the sheriff’s office last month about a possible hoarding case, Manatee County Animal Welfare officers were dispatched to a home in the Myakka area.

Photos from the scene show cluttered and unsanitary living conditions. So far, 31 cats have been rescued, but it is believed there could be at least 30 to 40 more on the property.

Photo courtesy: Manatee County Animal Welfare

“A lot of them were injured or were ill, a lot of them had respiratory issues from the actual environment that they were living in. We have given them medical attention and put a few into fosters even. Now these cats are starting to become available. The majority of them will be available through our Working Cats Program,” said Hans Wohlgefahrt with Manatee County Animal Welfare.

The program was created back in 2019, when the animal welfare department was faced with a situation of not knowing what to do with community and outdoor cats that came to them through the Trap Neuter and Return program.

“Typically, cats are trapped outside and they get sterilized and vaccinated and sent right back to where they came from, but in cases like this one that we are dealing with, and others due to development, and some other issues, cats can’t necessarily always be taken back to where they came from,” Wohlgefahrt explained.

Photo courtesy: Manatee County Animal Welfare

The Working Cats Program allows cats that are not socialized to live a happy and healthy life outdoors doing the things they love, such as hunting small critters. In the past, cats which are adopted in pairs have been placed at businesses, warehouses, community centers, church yards, and even fire stations.

Since launching the program, about 100 cats have been adopted and placed at different properties around the area. With this sudden influx of felines from the hoarding case, MCAW is working to get the word out about the program.

“We really want to reach out to the community right now and try to get some interest in having people learn about this program and try to help us out right now because we really need it,” said Wohlgefahrt.

Cats that are adopted through the program must be kept in a crate for two weeks. The adopter will feed them every day to allow the cats to become acclimated to their new home. Eventually, they are released onto the property and the caretaker just needs to feed them and give them water daily.

“Sadly, I think the alternative would be these cats wouldn’t have much of a future, they could possibly be euthanized or something like that, so this is really a life-saving program that allows cats more options when they come into our system,” Wohlgefahrt said.

Anyone interested in adopting a working cat can do so by contacting MCAW at You can also visit the Palmetto Adoption Center during hours of operation. For more information about the program and its criteria, please visit