Five days before Christmas, deputies with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office discovered a trailer home crawling with cats in the town of Superior. When the owner agreed to surrender them, the feline flood began.
To date, more than 40 of the cats have been transferred to the Humane Society of Douglas County. Shelter director Sheila Keup expects they will have collected more than 60 once all the animals have been rounded up, including a litter of kittens that was born this week.
"We're still bringing them in," Keup said. "We're going back several times a week to get more."
When cats come in, they get immediate care including a bath, tests for feline leukemia, and worms and ear mite treatment, which includes daily ear cleanings.
"Every one of them has mites," Keup said, and quite a few have respiratory infections from the poor ventilation in the trailer home. According to the Douglas County Sheriff's reports, the smell in the home was enough to make deputies nauseous.
Some of the cats need eye or dental care and all are slated to be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. All that medical care adds up.
"When you get 60 cats, even if you spend $100 per cat, that's a lot of money," Keup said.
The humane society has launched a YouCaring campaign, "Help our cat hoarding case," to raise money for the care of the cats. By Thursday afternoon, it was one-fifth of the way to its $5,000 goal.
In addition to funds, the humane society is seeking homes.
"We're trying our best to place as many in homes as we can," Keup said, but many of the felines are better suited to roam as barn or warehouse cats because they aren't used to using a litter box and are not very social with people. As of Thursday, there were 18 adoptable barn cats listed on the humane society's website, hsdcpets.com.
Families can pick their own fee when adopting barn cats.
"These cats just need to be out, hunting," Keup said.
Although they aren't very social with humans, the cats coming from the town of Superior do enjoy each other's company.
"We're trying to pair two at a time," Keup said
The cats range in age from 1-16. Some are friendly house pets, many are barn cats.
"It's going to be quite difficult to get homes for all these cats," Keup said. "We'll do what it takes."
No charges have been filed against the 65-year-old owner of the cats, who is cooperating with authorities.
To help financially or learn more about the cats, visit the website or Humane Society of Douglas County, Wisconsin Facebook page, call (715) 398-6784 or visit the shelter at 138 Moccasin Mike Road. The YouCaring site can be found by searching for "help our cat hoarding case" on www.youcaring.com.