Small Army Steps Forward to Care for Hoarded Cats


In a tiny Montana city, dozens of volunteers have stepped forward to help more than 100 cats seized from an area couple last month.

Edwin and Cheryl Criswell had been hoarding 112 cats in gruesome conditions — cold, dingy, urine-soaked trailers. Authorities seized the cats last month, and on Thursday they were charged with aggravated animal cruelty. An arrest warrant has been issued, but the couple has not yet been arrested.

Meanwhile, in the last two weeks, almost 60 volunteers have given between 700 and 800 hours of their time to care for the cats.

The Spay and Neuter Task Force clinic near Columbia Falls, a city of about 3,700 people, volunteered its facility after news of the animals condition came to light in mid-December. The animals are being housed in surgical rooms but will soon be moved to a mobile unit currently being renovated outside the clinic.

Volunteer Myni Ferguson, who is helping to coordinate the effort, said, Everybodys kind of put their lives on hold for this.

The animals are suffering from a variety of health problems. Some are blind and others have advanced periodontal disease.

That can be pretty ugly, Ferguson said. Were trying our best to save some of their teeth with antibiotics.

Most of the cats are suffering from ear mites and skin lesions, she said, but the biggest potential health crisis seems to have been resolved. Almost all of the cats were suffering from severe dehydration when they arrived at the facility on the night of Dec. 23.

The lack of water combined with the freezing temperatures inside the trailer could have combined to create a fatal situation. I really think if we hadnt got those trailers out of there by New Years, they wouldnt have survived,” Ferguson said.

Volunteers are preparing for the likelihood of an extended stay for the cats. They will most likely remain at the clinic until the criminal charges against the Criswells are resolved.

Ferguson said care of the animals has been a team effort involving Task Force volunteers, the Flathead County Animal Shelter, and the Humane Society of Northwest Montana.

She hopes to maintain the level of volunteer assistance in the coming weeks as spaying and neutering efforts continue. So far, 47 of the cats have been spayed or neutered and plans are in place to surgically alter all of them by Jan. 17.

In addition to assistance with spay/neuter clinics, volunteers are needed for tasks as simple as holding and playing with the cats in order to keep them well-socialized.

Many of the cats stick their paws through cages and purr when visitors pass by, and all of them from adults to kittens eventually will make great pets, Ferguson said.

Cat litter, food, donations and expertise are also highly needed.

Im not envisioning these cats going out fast, she said. Were kind of at the mercy of the court.

[Source: Daily Inter Lake]

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