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Created: 22nd June 2005
Ailurophilia Gone Bad: A New Mental Illness?
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Ailurophilia can be defined as the love of cats. It is obvious that large numbers of cats end up loved to death. There are hundreds, or even thousands of cases like this that occur every year. The examples in this article are almost enough to make anyone wonder exactly how many dead cats will fit into a freezer1.

Cat collectors (also known as hoarders) are a common problem in the USA. The Tampa Bay 'Catman' lived on a floating raft with a collection of twenty to thirty cats for many years. He is gone now, but often it was possible to smell the raft approaching long before 'Catman' and his floating collection came into view.

Collectors usually suffer from good intentions gone horribly wrong. They start out with the kind idea of providing a home for any strays they come upon, but as the numbers mount they simply become overwhelmed by the logistics of litter trays, parasites and disease. Collectors often cannot bear to give up a single cat, even after death2. Another, less benign motive for such collections is that of breeding kittens for profit, without much regard for their living conditions.

Many cats in close quarters can quickly become an unmanageable problem for the collector. The cats may begin excessively 'spraying' to mark their territories, for example. In extreme cases the odour and urine impregnation of walls and flooring may require a house to ultimately be demolished.

Some authorities estimate that as many as 2,000 cat collector incidents occur each year in the United States3. Often the collector is later institutionalised.

Omaha, Nebraska

Often a large cat collection has an overpowering odour and the smell gives it away. Police were giving chase to a suspect when they encountered a very strong smell emanating from a nearby residence. Investigation revealed 270 cats in the home; 58 of these were dead in the freezer along with a possum, a dove, a squirrel, a pigeon and several rabbits.

The woman who owned the home was licensed to operate a cattery4. She was later charged with animal cruelty and child neglect because her 17-year-old son was living in the filth among the diseased cats.

Cooper City, Florida

A Florida cat collector's activities were revealed by the tell-tale smell. In this case, the collector had credentials as a former volunteer for animal rescue, and was once an animal control officer.

Police entered the woman's house after neighbours complained of an overpowering odour. She was charged with 92 counts of animal neglect after 31 kittens and 36 cats were discovered in her freezer. Another 24 cats and one dog were found alive. During her career as an animal control officer she once wrestled and captured an alligator trapped in a storm sewer. She also adopted a 12-foot escaped python after the owner refused to take it back. Neighbours believed that she had a kind heart and took in strays, but simply could not cope with the numbers.

Boston, Massachusetts

Cat hoarders are not necessarily stupid. One in Boston went to some lengths to keep the smell confined, but a barking dog was the giveaway. Police entered the apartment and found 60 dead cats in the freezer. They also found syringes and medical supplies as well as animal body parts on the floor and a thick accumulation of faeces. The apartment had plastic covers on the windows to contain the smell as well as a lot of fans and a fragrance machine.

The woman who rented the apartment, Heidi, did not live there. She later claimed to be a cat breeder and accused police of throwing cats from the freezer to the floor to increase the 'on floor' body count. Five malnourished cats and a very thin Great Dane were found on the premises and removed. The apartment was condemned by the City authorities.

Heidi later also claimed that the animal parts discovered by the police were 150 pounds of beef kidneys and that the police were using photographs of dead cats belonging to someone else. She also said that the full body protection suits worn by city workers was merely a 'sick show' staged by the City. Heidi has previously been involved in numerous employment related lawsuits against Harvard University and against former landlords.

Prescott, Arizona

In addition to dead cats, a man in Arizona also had his wife in the freezerwrapped in a survival blanket and packed in dry ice5. He stated that he intended to revive his wife when the technology became available. He explained that he intended to experiment on the cats first. His wife died of natural causes six years before she was discovered in the freezer by a daughter. Although the wife had been autopsied, the man planned to engage micro-surgeons to reattach the organs. He was able to obtain the release of the body because he was a director of a local cryogenic organisation6. He was clearly worried, when released from custody, that his neighbours might think that his behaviour was 'odd'.

Piedmont, California

While an estimated 46% of cat hoarders are thought to be single women, sometimes a couple is involved. In this case, 394 dead cats were found in a freezer in Piedmont. For the 150 cats found alive, only one litter box had been provided, despite expert recommendation of one litter box for every two cats. The live cats had upper respiratory infections and suffered from diarrhoea and leukaemia. Only six could be saved. When questioned about the cats in the freezer the response was, We just loved our animals, that's all. I'd rather not say anything, if you don't mind. Psychological tests run on the couple indicated that they were 'competent'.

East Orange, New Jersey

A woman in New Jersey was discovered to have 200 maggot-infested dead cats in rubbish bags in her back yard. The bags of dead cats were discovered after neighbours complained of the stench. She had used a spade to dig a large hole in which she apparently intended to bury the bags. She operated, ironically, one of the few 'no kill' cat shelters in the New York metropolitan area which she called 'Kitty-Kind'. 48 living cats were discovered and 38 of these were in one room. She was charged with a variety of health code violations and then allowed to keep the remaining live cats after promising to separate the sick ones from the healthy ones.

Genoa, New York

The reader may wish to evaluate the following report's credibility. It indicates, at least, that cat hoarding is becoming a widely-recognised activity, acknowledged by the public as often being an advanced indicator of mental illness and dementia.

A man gunned down by police on Sunday after a 16-hour stake-out thought aliens had killed some of his pets and kept the remains of about 50 cats in the freezer. Margaret Sullivan, director of the Cayuga County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said on Tuesday that investigators searching Rolf Rhan's home found about 50 dead cats and kittens, a rabbit and a chicken in plastic bags in the freezer. Rahn was shot and killed on Sunday after refusing to drop a gun he was pointing at a police negotiator. 'It's mind-blowing, just awful,' Sullivan said. 'I can't see all these cats dying of natural causes.' Sullivan said three live cats, thin but healthy, were also found in Rahn's house. The SPCA will try to find homes for them, she said. The dead animals were in plastic freezer bags labelled with the name of the animal and the time and cause of death.

Sullivan said the notes attached to the frozen animals were mostly illegible. Some said the animals had died 'because of a demon', and others mentioned injections of drugs and alcohol. One note said the injection was 'to keep them from lying on the floor'. Rahn was gunned down by police on Sunday when he emerged from his home after a 16-hour stake-out and pointed his pistol at Investigator David Gould. Police say Rahn apparently fired a single shot during the exchange but hit no-one. The dead man was accused of shooting Kevin St John, a 30-year-old plumber, at about 3pm on Saturday. Rahn apparently thought St John was an android. St John is recovering in an Elmiria hospital.

- Subgenius Digest

Be Alert for Signs of Animal Abuse

This has been a brief glimpse into the contents of the freezer of the cat collector next door. It is immediately obvious that large numbers of cats end up loved to death. There are hundreds, or even thousands of cases like this occurring each year. It is possible that a classic 'cat collector' may be your neighbour and you may not recognise the signs. Strangely, there seem to be few cases of this behaviour reported in countries outside the US. Be alert and notify authorities if bad smells and constant yowling and shrieking come from the neighbour's place.


1 A typical freezer has 20.3 cubic feet of storage.
2 In one case a woman eviscerated the bodies of her dead cats and dried them on her fire escape. She then kept the dried bodies in her kitchen cabinets.
3 This estimate, assuming a population of 300 million, results in an estimate that 0.00067% (one in 150,000) of the US population annually engages in cat hoarding to a degree that it becomes public.
4 A cattery in this sense is an establishment where cats are kept for breeding purposes.
5 A block of dry ice has a temperature of -78.5°C (-109.3°F). In contrast, cryogenic liquids such as nitrogen have temperatures of -196°C (-321°F).
6 Freezing a whole body cryogenically can cost over 55,000. Discount prices for only the head are widely offered. This 75-year-old Arizona man may not have had the financial resources for a proper cryogenic solution and was attempting a do-it-yourself approach.


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ENTRY DATA
Written and Researched by:

Leo
Phred Firecloud

Edited by:

Joe C (goodness me!)

Referenced Entries:

Cats
Possums
How to Perform Artificial Respiration and/or CPR on Your Cat
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Rabbits
An Overview of Greater Tampa Bay, Its History and Heritage
Adopting a Pet Cat or Kitten
The United States of America

Related BBC Pages:

Cats
Obsessions

Referenced Sites:

The Problem of Cat Collec...
270 Cats Found In Home - ...
Dead Cats Found in Woman'...
The Freezer Lady
About cryonics
Cat Collectors - Ailuroph...
Hoarding fact sheet
Handling Hoarders
Caring for cats

Please note that the BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites listed.


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