Unless you’ve been in the home of an animal hoarder, the effect of the situation is impossible to imagine.
So says Kitty Elder, founder of Tailless Cat Rescue, a North Carolina-based organization dedicated primarily to rescuing tailless breeds, including Manx cats, American Bobtails, and Japanese Bobtails. Elder would know – in 2010, she led an effort to rescue more than 69 animals from a hoarding situation.
“When we got there, it was just unbelievable,” Elder says. “She must have had 90 animals. At that first visit she wouldn’t even let me in the house. A lot of the cats were in cages on the back porch. They were five inches deep in feces, and there was dry food thrown in on top of the mess for the cats to eat. Some of them were very sick.”
Elder had initially gone to the home because she’d heard from another rescue group that the woman had two tailless cats that needed help, but after seeing the severity of the situation, Elder knew she had to rescue as many of those animals as she could. The tailless cats were also extremely ill – one was eight months old and only three pounds, the other a year old and five pounds. Both were emaciated and malnourished.
“When she did let us into the house – you cannot imagine,” Elder says. “You’d walk in and she’d hand you a can of bug spray to spray your feet and legs. You’d look down and it would look like pepper all over your shoes and socks, but it was fleas.”
After pleading for help on social media, Elder got responses from multiple rescue groups from New Hampshire to Georgia. With the support of these other organizations, she secured veterinary care and adoptive homes for many of the cats and dogs – including Serena and Sierra, the two tailless cats she’d originally set out to rescue.
“I got on the computer and started shooting out ‘help, help, help, help, help,’” Elder says. “It was one of those situations where I couldn’t just stop when I took the two tailless ones. We got other rescues to take as many as we could.”
Naturally, a few “regular” kitties have ended up at the Tailless Cat Rescue as well, but Elder is primarily focused on the tailless breeds. The group has been around since 2006, though Elder first fell in love with Manx cats when she adopted one in 1995. When Elder started her rescue, she quickly realized the demand was there.
“It doesn’t take very long, once you say you’ll take in cats and you open your doors, to fill up,” she says. “We encourage people to adopt, don’t shop – and to spay and neuter. Unless animals start getting fixed, there’s always going to be more out there that need homes than there are homes for them.”
The majority of people who adopt from Tailless Cat Rescue are, like Elder, those who have fallen in love with the breed. Manx cats are very people-oriented, Elder says, and always in the mood for a good cuddle. She describes them as “dog-like,” noting that they love to pay fetch and be where you are at all times – and they’ll even run up to greet you when you get home from work. They’re so energetic and outgoing that one adopter who lives in New York regularly takes his tailless cat, Abigail, out for walks on a harness.
“He takes her everywhere – well, almost everywhere,” Elder says. “I don’t think they go to the grocery store. But he takes her the laundromat, to PetSmart, to Home Depot. He even takes her to the local school and he walks her on the track.”
Such interactions with adopters, Elder says, are her favorite part of animal rescue. She feels grateful that she can get cats out of bad situations, but there’s nothing quite like seeing a kitty thriving and happy in a forever home.
“The most rewarding are the adopters that stay in touch with us – getting to see pictures of the cats in sunny windows, or the people that come back for another cat later because they’ve been so happy with theirs,” she says. “It’s almost as much about the people. They love their cats, and the cat adds to their family and makes their house more of a home.”