Gratitude and compassion go hand in paw in animal-hoarding cases

It’s Thanksgiving weekend. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to cook; I’m very thankful that a local resident brought Jack, the stolen German shepherd, home after being missing for three weeks; and I’m thankful for the heroic efforts of our animal community.

One such effort involved animal hoarding, cats in particular. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), hoarding disorder is a need to acquire and hold on to random items. It’s frequently accompanied by other mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit. Suffering is amplified when a human hoards pets, creating dangerous, miserable conditions for both animals and humans.

In February, Long Beach Animal Care Services pulled 15 cats from a hoarding situation. Each was, thankfully, healthy and benefitted from the help of the shelter’s staff and volunteers and particularly Helen Sanders CatPAWS rescue, which cared for a number of them and placed them in homes.

Shelter manager Staycee Dains, who has had extensive experience with animal-hoarding cases, explains the condition in detail in the Long Beach Post article about the case.

Then, last month, in an ongoing case, shelter officers removed almost 40 cats from a small apartment. These cats were in far worse shape than those pulled in February. They were all exposed to panleukopenia, a highly contagious feline viral disease, and several were ill with or dying from the disease. Panleukopenia is curable only if caught quickly and treated aggressively to prevent death and disease spread. It’s preventable through vaccines, which kittens should receive from their veterinarian at 6 to 8 weeks old.

Most public shelters, including LBACS, have space restrictions. Shelter veterinarians are too limited in number to provide care for that many animals, and the health and safety of pets already in the shelter must be considered as well. None of the 40 cats had been vaccinated, none had been spayed or neutered or given any veterinary care, and all would have to be quarantined for 14 days because of exposure to panleukopenia. This would involve shifting around current shelter residents, which Dains said would have been stressful for them and have a risk of cross-contamination.

“Most of the cats looked physically fine,” Dains said. “We could take in 35, but our shelter was at capacity. With that many panleuk cats, many shelters would have to make euthanasia decisions. We would consider euthanasia for animals that were longtime management with no improvement, but euthanasia for space is morally unacceptable.”

Long Beach’s animal community again came to the rescue when a shelter volunteer contacted The Little Lion Foundation about the situation. Little Lion put together a plan that involved an emergency trailer, medical volunteers, transport, adoption and scrambling for solutions when emergencies came up.

“None of us wanted euthanasia either,” said Claudia Otis, one of the top cats at Little Lion. “We contacted Staycee to see if the shelter would borrow a trailer to house the cats. Little Lion Foundation’s volunteers would go into the trailer and take care of the cats until their quarantine period of 14 days was over. Our volunteers are trained to provide this care—they receive training on the use of PPE and disease transmission at the Little Paws Kitten Nursery. We like to say they possess a special skill to save the lives of cats.”

The Little Lion team visited the trailer at the shelter twice daily for three weeks to care for 16 cats. On the first day, one of the cats went into labor and gave birth to six kittens, and the entire family was immediately transferred to the quarantine room in the Little Paws Kitten Nursery. The animal control officer who worked the hoarding case took home six of the 6-week-old kittens found in the home and fostered them for the quarantine period, after which Little Lion took them in, too. During the three weeks that Little Lion cared for them, none of the cats came down with panleukopenia.

“Little Lion Foundation was able to take in 24 cats and kittens in total,” Otis said. “Then, they were either sent on transport through ASPCA to one of our partner organizations in Oregon or were placed in foster homes, where they are now up for adoption through us. The remaining cats have all either been adopted or pulled by another organization.”

Pets have miserable lives in hoarding situations, and LBACS and The Little Lion Foundation were relentless and resourceful in their lifesaving efforts. Know, however, that the lives of hoarded animals aren’t the only ones needing saving. Dains said that people who hoard pets suffer from a trauma-based compulsion disorder and can transfer the process of healing themselves to that of saving animals. They believe that they’re the only person who can save a pet, which leads to trying to save far more pets than they can handle and developing unsanitary conditions for both themselves and the animals. When handling hoarding cases, LBACS makes a mental-health referral to the city; sadly, Dains said, gaining compliance from the individuals is difficult and there’s “110% recidivism.”

“It’s definitely a part of the landscape of animal welfare that complicates lifesaving,” Dains said. “But the person who is doing this is not evil—some of them are kind and identify with homeless animals. And there’s no gender, race or age limit for someone hoarding—it affects people from all walks of life, every socioeconomic status. Yes, the animals are suffering, but so is the person—and isn’t that always the case? Showing compassion for the person who is hoarding takes nothing away from what you naturally feel for the animals.”

Virtually pets

A lavender-point Siamese cat sits with folded paws, with a darker Siamese cat looking over her shoulder.

The Little Lion Foundation gave the hoarded cats shelter and is hard at work finding them forever homes. Sophia and Olivia are two such beneficiaries of community heroics—they form a bonded pair, both in good health and ready to go home together. They’ve been close mates for the full year and a half of their lives. With a little patience and dedicated bonding time at the start, in a couple of days, they’ll warm up to their surroundings and will command the house and your heart!

Siamese cat with lavender points sits up against a pink-and-green tile background

Olivia is a super-affectionate and curious cat. She loves to explore every nook and cranny! Nowhere in the house is off limits to her. She is very interested in whatever the people around her are doing. She has a big, silly personality and makes her foster parents laugh. She loves to get pets and will rub herself all over you if you let her. She also loves cuddling her sister, Sophia.

Siamese cat with dark-lavender points sits up against white cabinetry and a pink and green tile background. She wears a dark-red collar.

Sophia is Olivia’s shyer counterpart. She loves to get pets but needs a bit more dedicated attention to get comfortable with her surroundings. She’s a calm girl who also loves to explore, but at her own pace. She loves to play—toys are the way to this girl’s heart. And of course, she also loves to cuddle with Olivia.

To apply to adopt Olivia & Sophia, email www.littlelionfoundation.org/adopt

In the spirit of the season, great thanks are also owed to all the lone cat trappers and dog rescuers. They team up with the community to save pets in some of the most wretched states you could ever not want to see.

Pickles is such an animal. She once knew the other side of street life in someone’s warm home, with food to eat and carpets to roll on. She was a beautiful dilute tortie, and would you believe from that first photo that she’s only 5 years old? Her human died three years ago, but Pickles stayed close to the home, sleeping in the cold and subsisting on scraps, waiting for her person’s return. She got thin and developed mange. Thanks to the compassion of a neighbor, a veterinarian and a lone rescuer Ewa, she’s been treated for mange and fleas, received her vaccines, and has tested negative for FeLV /FIV. She’s safe and healthy in the home of one of those intrepid, kindly cat rescuers and is happy to once more use her litter box, eat nutritious meals, and sleep safely like a cat.

She’s still waiting for her human, though, but this time, it has to be someone forever—someone who’ll be willing to continue with the good care she’s been given and love her for the rest of her days.

If you’re interested in adopting Pickles, email [email protected] for adoption information.

A helping paw

Pet License Amnesty extended to Dec. 31

 The city of Long Beach has extended the fee and penalty waivers for pet licenses to Dec. 31. Anyone living in the highlighted Community Development Block grant neighborhoods, as shown on the above map, may request a waiver by phone at 562-570-7387, by applying by mail at 7700 E. Spring St., or in person at the shelter. The waiver program is not available online. Visit this link for license requirements. Call 562-570-7387 for additional information.

Great furballs of fun!

Courtesy of Long Beach Animal Care Services

Long Beach Animal Care Services’ Inaugural Happy Howlidays Series

A size 16 stocking full of holiday events is waiting to be opened by you! Pull out your new best friend who’ll share memories beyond holidays, discover ways to keep all your buddies healthy, and join the party at the shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services for a wrap-up! What a gift!

The events in order of appearance are:

Saturday, Dec. 10

Happy Howlidays Adoption Event, Houghton Park, 6301 Myrtle Ave., Long Beach, 1 p.m.–5 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 16

Adoption Waggin’ at Pet Supplies Plus

2086 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17

Happy Howlidays at LBACS, 7700 E Spring St. (at the entrance to El Dorado Park, no parking fee for shelter guests), 4 p.m.–6 p.m.

At this event, you’ll stuff our pets’ stockings in the kennels, register for an ugly sweater contest, decorate ornaments, donate gifts, enter a raffle and shop at vendors.

Sunday, Dec. 18

Pet Wellness and Adoption Event, MacArthur Park

1321 E Anaheim St., Long Beach, time TBD

 Helen Sanders CatPAWS Calendar on sale: $15 at this link

Start 2023 off with heart with this calendar that features 13 months—you’ll start 2024 off right, too—of rescued cats whose humans want nothing more than for them to live the full, cherished lives they deserve. Each cat in the calendar donated funds to CatPAWS to further the rescue’s efforts to give the cats and kittens they pull from the shelter the care they need: bottle feeding, spay/neuter vaccines, lifesaving medical efforts and loving hospice care. Now, each calendar sold will go toward all these good things for cats. As you begin your holiday shopping, please consider adding a CatPAWS 2023 calendars to your gift list, and get one for your own stocking! Purchase by December 13 to ensure we can get them to you by year’s end!

 Foster for a while—or furever!

Long Beach Animal Care Services has expanded adoption hours as follows: Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests are welcome to browse until closing. To speed up any adoption process, email [email protected]. To foster, email [email protected].

If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!

These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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