STANHOPE, Iowa - It was one of the most "unusual" cases of hoarding, according to rescuers, at a home in Stratford, just eight miles from Katherine Flockhart's business in Stanhope.
Flockhart and other rescuers said when you approached the home, nothing on the outside seemed off. But upon opening the door, you could immediately smell the ammonia - and hear the sound of cats meowing. With 49 cats hoarded in a home, Flockhart said it's impossible to not hear them.
"When I went to the house, I didn't expect the need to be as urgent as it was," she said.
Flockhart owns Flocky's Tap in Stanhope. An avid animal-lover and rescuer, Flockhart said her bar often runs fundraisers for local animal charities. When she heard of a hoarder in Stratford, she called a veterinarian and they went to take a look for themselves. With the help of the City of Stratford, they were able to rescue 49 cats from an elderly woman's home.
"She took very good care of them, she loved every single one," she said. "I don't feel like she was just taking and taking and taking. She was trying to help these animals, which, you know, thankfully so. But there comes a point where help is actually hurting them."
According to the veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Hindle - who has dealt with animal hoarders before - the elderly woman in Stratford wasn't a stereotypical hoarder; she wasn't taking in cats from the streets or off of Craigslist ads. Rather, the cats she already owned were not spayed or neutered, and continued to reproduce until the number was out of her control. The elderly woman is not being identified as the city is not charging her with anything and she has been cooperative in resolving the problem. The rescuers said they don't want to expose her to public shame.
"It could have been a lot worse," Hindle said. "A lot of these cats are extremely friendly, and even the most timid of them, are re-habitable."
Flockhart said the cats were rescued late last week and taken to a vacant building she owns connected to Flocky's Tap. With the help of volunteers, they spayed and neutered the cats over the weekend. They also micro-chipped them, checked for routine feline diseases and cleaned the animals.
Now, Flockart said they just need more help: the cost of food and litter for the cats, as well as the energy bill for air conditioning the vacant space, is solely falling on Flockhart and Dr. Hindle. They are working with the hoarder and the City of Stratford to help offset the cost, they still need volunteers to donate supplies. Additionally, the cats need loving homes.
"We really aren't looking for any kind of cash donations," she said. "We just need the supplies - the cat food and cat litter are the two biggest things that we need."
Flockhart said she hopes they can find homes for the cats as soon as possible. She hopes this shows the City of Stratford that there is a need for funding for animal control; as of now, the city has no funding for such a program, which Flockhart said is why it was left up to concerned citizens like herself to intervene and help.
" If there was animal control, there would be a number to call, there would be people willing to help out because they do have someone knowledgeable of what to do in this situation," she said.
If you are interested in donating supplies, money, or time to their cause, or details on specific cats for adoption, Flockhart said to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To file paperwork for adopting a rescue cat, call the Jewell Animal Hospital.