ALpina – A deadly New Year’s Eve crash north of Alpina drove police into a messy hoarder house that also served as the headquarters for breeders of some of the world’s rarest cats.
According to the police, dozens of cats have lived, apparently for years, among mountains of litter, hundreds of empty and rusty cat food cans, and the carcasses of other animals unable to survive the conditions in the Albina townhouse.
The former Albina County Jail building has been set up as a temporary shelter for the rescued animals, some shivering and dying in hoarse, emaciated sounds.
Alpina County Animal Control Officer Michelle Reed, who led the process of getting the animals out of the house, said the researchers found the cats in conditions “deplorable, to say the least.”
Candice Massey, a resident of the house, died in what police suspect was a medical accident at the intersection of North 23rd and Golf Course Road around 10 p.m. Friday.
Reed was called to the scene because responders found four cats in Massey’s car, and Reed recognized the cats as brown Havana. Reed knew that Massey was the only local breeder of extremely rare cats.
“There were cats everywhere,” Reed said as I looked out the garage window of Massey’s house the next morning.
Reed and workers from Otsego County Animal Control removed 38 cats from the home over the weekend, hunting as many animals as they could amid the debris and excrement that covered much of the house.
Reed estimated that another 40 or 50 cats remained in the house, many hiding in voids above ceiling tiles or hiding under piles of household goods and litter.
On a Monday morning trip home to check out the live traps she had set the day before, Reed was disappointed to find one cat trapped.
Little crackling sounds from the living room ceiling indicate that some of the cats she saw in the house were still alive, but none could be seen in the mostly silent house.
“There are a lot of cats here, still,” said the animal control officer, tears in her eyes. “How do you explain to your cat that you are trying to save them?”
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