Hoarding cats

WANTAGE — More than 170 cats will be looking for new homes after they were rescued last month from a Sussex County home that was so overcrowded, the felines forced the humans out.

The cats had been found after neighbors saw them leaving the property. When members of a group known as Kittens on a Mission went to take a look, they found more than 100 cats roaming the property, including an abandoned house and a trailer. That number has now grown to more than 170, according to Kathleen Schatzmann, Chief Operating Officer for St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center.

"Our team has been out there virtually nonstop to ensure that we bring all of the animals in so they can be safely evaluated both medically, provided vaccines, good food, safe dwellings, and of course they will all be spayed and neutered," Schatzmann said.

The owner of the property had told rescuers that the cats had belonged to his wife before she died. Since then, he has worked to feed them, but was relieved when Kittens on a Mission and St. Hubert's came in to get them the help they need.

Since the cats were removed from the property Schatzmann said, they have been living in pods and getting "incredible enrichment," including listening to classical music, aroma therapy, and getting regular brushing. She said all the rescued cats will be spayed and neutered "to ensure that they are not reproducing again before they go out to adoption."

Once the animals have been treated and evaluated, the next step will be finding them homes. Anyone interested in adopting one of the cats should send an email to info@sthuberts.org with a phone number. Once a list is assembled it will be used to contact potential adoptive parents.

Evaluations of the cats and how they respond to treatment will determine which ones will be good for homes, and which might be better suited for barns, farms and other large properties, according to Schatzmann.

With more than 170 mouths to feed and cats to treat, Schatzmann said, St. Hubert's is "absolutely going to be in need of both financial assistance as well as in kind donations." Those donations can include things like wet cat food and cat litter, that will be needed over the next several months.

Schatzmann said information on monetary donations can be found here, while information on other donations can be found here, or brought right to one of the organization's shelters.

While the rescue of the cats has been daunting and their largest such operation to date, Schatzmann said St. Hubert's agreed to help because it is one of the few organizations that can handle so many animals at one time. She also said the hoarding of animals is an issue that needs to be addressed not only in New Jersey, but across the country as well.

"We do know that there's virtually a 100 percent recidivism rate. It's time that we start in our state to discuss this. To discuss how we can all work together, because just going in and rescuing the animals is not the answer," she said. "We've got to come up with a proactive approach to handle situations such as this.

More information about the cats can also be found on the St. Hubert's website.