In addition to being an attorney and a fierce defender of the downtrodden (all who know me can stop laughing now), I am also a proud and crazy cat person.
My wife and I have taken in the homeless, tempest-tossed and fleabitten for far too many decades. At one point, our happy home was overrun with no less than 9 cats.
We have given cats insulin shots, pushed asthma medication down their tuna-coated
gullets, and turned our living room into a temporary ICU by hanging Foley bags of Ringer’s solution over the back of a door using a wire hanger. I also once gave a cat mouth to mouth
resuscitation. No, really, I did.
So, it was with some humor and trepidation that I read the above NY Times article on
what to do with, and how to react, when a tenant with far too many cats has been delinquent in changing the old litter box.
To backtrack briefly, my wife and I are homeowners. The only people we torment with
our odd desire to save the cats of the world are ourselves. We don’t inflict our ‘hobby’ on anyone: not so, however, with apartment dwellers.
The complainant in this article is concerned that their apartment (a co-op) will be devalued by the less than pleasant smell of cat urine and Satan- inspired yowling coming from
a neighbor’s den of cats. Believe me, I sympathize.
The article concludes with the sadly true observation that the tenant who seemingly has
far too many cats and no way of handling them needs help.
The article ends there.
The problem is, a landlord or co-op board will have to do something, such as commence an eviction action, and once that action is set in motion, the smell of cat pee will be the least of their problems.
People who dwell in apartments and collect strays often do have serious mental health issues. These people cannot hope to care for themselves, yet somehow think they can save the
lives of 20, 40, 60 or good God, yes, even 100 cats by taking them into their apartment. These
people are not selfish: they don’t think of their neighbors enough to be inconsiderate. They don’t think of their neighbors at all. All that counts is ‘saving’ the cats, even if the cat hoarder cannot
hope to feed them, provide fresh litter, or afford to take them to the vets.
When the landlord/unit owner or co-op board takes this person to court to evict them,
often their shambling gait and smell of cat piss will tip the Judge off that there is a problem.
Any housing court case will be delayed for months while the Court appoints a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) who will monitor the case and protect the interests of the tenant. Such an appointment, in this kind of case, is usually only a holding pattern while interested parties and/or the government (note my distinction) gear up to commence an action in Supreme Court for the appointment of a Guardian of the actual person.
Such a Court proceeding (known as an Article 81) will delay the housing court action,
sometimes for months, and often for well over a year. The delays are often caused by the tenant cat hoarder, who may well find nothing wrong with housing 100 cats in a studio apartment and who will contest the proceeding.
Often this is a most unpleasant proceeding which will result in the cats winding up in a
shelter, the hoarder being relocated to some form of assisted living, and a landlord/unit owner
or co-op board having to spend thousands of dollars having floors torn up and replaced, and walls
re-sheetrocked, so pervasive has the smell of cat urine and feces become.
There is no happy ending here. This is just one of many instances where apartment dwelling in New York City is not for amateurs or the faint of heart.