BRUNSWICK – After a massive rescue effort this past weekend that netted roughly 60 cats from the house of a cat hoarder in Freeport, the Coastal Humane Society of Brunswick is looking for prospective homes for the felines.

“We’ll need a lot of support for these cats, including donations of supplies such as large cages, dry and wet food, kitten food and cat carriers,” said Karen Stimpson, the shelter’s executive director. “Each cat will likely cost us about $500. We also need substantial volunteer support for daily care for these animals, who will be led by our veterinarian Dr. Mandie Wehr, staff, and the Cumberland County Animal Response Team.

“However,” she said, “the most important thing we can ask for – the most important thing – is adopters. These cats are friendly, healthy, well-socialized, and they need homes now. They will be so happy to live in a home that isn’t crowded with cats.”

According to the shelter, more than 50 cats had already been rescued from the home with the full cooperation of the owner. Stimpson said the cats had been reproducing rapidly and the shelter decided to accept all of the cats at once. Needless to say, said Jane Siviski, marketing coordinator for the Coastal Humane Society, the shelter is literally filled to the brim with cats.

“The shelter is already extremely full and this will put a lot of stress on our resources,” said Siviski. “We really had to get creative for this rescue.”

The shelter transformed administrative offices at 190 Pleasant St. in Brunswick into a temporary shelter, with veterinary equipment, cages, food and linen. In addition, the shelter has rented out the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic in Freeport to perform high volume spays and neuters.

To address the problem, the Coastal Humane Society will hold an adoption event, dubbed “Catapalooza,” on Saturday, Sept. 14, and Sunday, Sept. 15, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

According to Siviski, a neighbor of the man who was hoarding the cats contacted the Freeport police to alert them of the situation.

“It was getting out of control, as it’s a very small house,” she said.

The owner – who was not identified, for confidentiality reasons – will not face charges and has been making an effort to feed the cats, according to the shelter.

“He’s an animal lover but didn’t understand how to handle it in the proper way or spay and neuter protocols. There was no indication of cruelty or overt neglect,” said Siviski. “We will actually be leaving four spayed and neutered cats with him so he won’t be completely without cats.”

Both Siviski and Stimpson said cat hoarding is not unusual in southern Maine and the shelter receives numerous requests and tips annually.

“We do about one a year and probably have the opportunity to do roughly four or five more,” said Stimpson. “We’re glad the hoarders don’t all come forth at once, because even one hoarder situation is a huge strain on a shelter and we’re no exception.”

So who hoards cats and why?

“I know it’s been linked to an actual disease,” said Stimpson. “In my six years here, it’s followed a familiar pattern. It’s typically a big-hearted person who loves their cats and not a case of neglect or cruelty. In this case, the man saw a few cats crying and wandering about and wanted to help. He kept taking in more, and as people caught wind of that, they would start dumping cats on the property.

“There are two types of hoarders,” said Stimpson, “one who goes out and collects animals to fulfill a deep need inside themselves or the ones we see that are kind people who won’t seek help because they are too embarrassed and quietly soldier on.”

According to the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), experts on hoarding behavior believe that dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health problems may play a role in hoarders’ behavior and the consequences for hoarders, their human dependents, animals, and the community can be devastating.

With nearly 170 cats in total, the Coastal Humane Society acknowledges the considerable challenge it faces in finding homes for the animals. The shelter averages roughly 25 cat adoptions a month.

“These are all well-socialized cats that won’t be facing any huge medical hurdles,” said Stimpson. “They are friendly and ready to find a good home, with space to roam.”

Katie Hainsbury, Maine state representative for the Humane Society of the United States, towels off a rescued cat after it was given an anti-fungal bath this weekend. Hainsbury was one of roughly 30 volunteers who turned out for a massive cat rescue effort in Freeport on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8.Empty cages on a makeshift cat triage area at the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick Sept. 8, where volunteers and shelter staff prepared 60 rescued cats for adoption. The cats, all in reasonably good health according to shelter officials, were rescued from a cat hoarder in Freeport.Starburst and Degas, two of the cats rescued from a home in Freeport on Sept. 8, relax in their crate just before Coastal Humane Society volunteers gave them shots. The shelter will hold two-day adoption event this weekend.

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