WARNING: The below article and the above video contain descriptions and images of extreme animal neglect that some may find disturbing.
STRATFORD, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma animal shelter rescued dozens of malnourished cats as the owner’s health deteriorates in Garvin County.
“We got in and there were cats everywhere,” said Katherine Piatt, president of 9 Lives Rescue of Oklahoma. “There were cats on the front porch. There were cats in the grass area.”
Piatt’s affection for animals started at a young age.
“Ever since I was little, I love people, I love animals, but it’s heartbreaking to see the situation that these animals are in,” said Piatt.
She, along with Caitlin Sumler, started the nonprofit in early 2017. This is the second time the organization has been called to Stratford for help.
Eight-year-old Merlin was one of 14 cats rescued from deplorable living conditions at an overgrown home.
Piatt said the pet owner could not care for them after being sent to hospice care and diagnosed with brain and lung cancers.
“The house was caked in feces. Everywhere the ground squished when you walked in it,” said Piatt.
At the home, Piatt and Sumler counted 31 cats, but they could only take in 14. They said most of them weren’t spayed or neutered.
“It was just devastating to see that somebody was living in these types of conditions with the smell of ammonia in the air,” said Piatt.
Piatt said the cats have upper respiratory infections and flea dermatitis. She said animal hoarding was a factor in this case.
The C.E.O of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, Dana McCrory, said animal hoarding is much more common than you think.
“We can’t say for certain that animal hoarding cases are on the rise in Oklahoma, but they are definitely present,” said McCrory. “Many times, when the hoarding situation is brought to our attention, it’s too late. So, act on your instincts. If you think it’s happening, if you see, if you smell it, tell us you need help.”
The Humane Society receives at least one call a week about animal hoarding. The society, along with Piatt, said in most cases, owners mean well, but simply cannot afford to care for them.
“They really and truly believe their animals are loved and being cared for,” said Piatt. “Sometimes, it’s a happy story. Sometimes we get perfectly healthy fluffy kittens that need homes – that’s easy. But more often than not, we get heartbreaking cases where they are in terrible conditions and they have been suffering for a long time.”
Piatt said Oklahoma needs more people wanting to foster pets. Her nonprofit operates fully on donations.
If you would like to help or adopt the animals, click here.