BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Animal welfare officers in Manatee County continued to rescue cats from a hoarding situation in Bradenton on Wednesday. So far, they have found 51 cats at the home on 38th Avenue East, but there are expected to be between 20 and 30 more hiding in the ceiling and inside walls of the home.
Manatee County deputies came across the unsafe and unsanitary living conditions inside the house two weeks ago when they were asked to do a welfare check by a relative of the homeowner. When they arrived, they found the 80-year-old woman dead and dozens of cats spread across the property. The medical examiner’s office told 8 On Your Side the woman died of natural causes.
An orange ‘danger/warning’ sign was posted on the front door on Wednesday, saying the home was declared unsafe due to ‘poor air quality’.
“It was so bad that we actually had to call hazmat out first,” Steven Bell, Field Services Supervisor for Manatee County Animal Welfare, said. “They went in and measured the readings for the ammonia. It is safe to enter without a respirator if it is under 5 ppm, it happened to be 32 ppm, so we had to get respirators for all of our guys to go in and it was still hard, even with a respirator, it was hard.”
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The large and sudden influx of kittens and cats has impacted shelters in Manatee County.
“Receiving 51 cats from that house, it has become a real challenge for us,” Hans Wohlgefahrt with Manatee County Animal Welfare said. “Luckily we have people who are fostering and coming here to volunteer and socialize with these cats, but that is a lot of cats to get at once, so we have dedicated a whole cat room to them.”
Most of the cats came to the shelter sick, with upper respiratory issues, eye infections and parasites. They are on the mend, but more fosters are needed to care for and help socialize the cats to get them ready for adoption.
“It is summer; over-capacity is always an issue,” Wohlgefahrt said. “When you combine that, though, with kitten season and then you combine that with this cat hoarding case, is a lot of animals. We are way over capacity.”
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Anyone who adopts a dog or cat this month will have the adoption fees waived. With the cats involved in the hoarding case, there will be unique adoption opportunities available, according to MCAW.
“The challenge with some of these cats too, is that they had very little interaction with people. Some of these cats may not necessarily be suitable for living back inside of a home. They are not all going to be friendly,” Wohlgefahrt said. “We do have a ‘working cat’ program and we have been doing that for over three years. It places cats into workplaces or environments, so everything from garden centers to churches to warehouses. We call them ‘working cats’ because they love to be on rodent patrol. We place the cats in teams of two and we do have a whole separate sort of adoption process for that. We want to assess whether the place is going to be safe for the cats. These are cats that don’t really want to be friends with you, but they can also be part of your life and you are still going to be their caretaker.”