It was 4:00 a.m., and staff were getting ready for another busy day at the animal shelter. But when other employees turned up to start their shifts an hour afterwards, they stumbled on something in the dark. There, by the sanctuary gates, were 14 plastic boxes. And what lay inside would shock everyone.
In February 2017 that alarming sight surprised workers at The Cat House on the Kings, an animal shelter in Parlier, California. The facility is the biggest no-kill sanctuary and cat adoption outpost in the state. And, as part of their work, staff rescue our feline friends before finding them devoted forever homes.
Lynea Lattanzio founded the shelter a quarter of a century ago now and since then has shared her five-bedroom house and six acres of land with more than 7,000 dogs and 28,000 cats. She is a trained veterinary technician and can therefore provide hands-on care for the animals under her supervision.
Lattanzio is well aware that her circumstances make her rather unusual. In fact, while describing herself in a 2016 interview with the Daily Mail, she said, “I’m at the top of the list of eccentric cat ladies. I don’t think there has been anyone who has lived with 28,000 cats in 24 years. That’s probably a record.”
So, given her rather unconventional lifestyle, Lattanzio is no doubt well known in her local community. And the shelter’s policy of never saying no to a needy animal means that the facility remains busy all year round. In February 2017, in fact, approximately 800 rescue cats were living at The Cat House on the Kings.
At the beginning of that month, it was pretty much business as usual at the sanctuary. And in the early hours of February 9, employees trickled in as they would on any other day. Everything was apparently normal – until, that is, they found the 14 plastic containers.
Interestingly, it seemed as if the culprit – or culprits – had gone to great lengths to avoid detection. For one, they had left the containers just out of sight of security cameras. And they also seemed to have carried out their task during the one part of the day when staff wouldn’t be at the facility.
But, of course, employees at The Cat House on the Kings couldn’t just ignore what they had found. Instead, they carried the crates out of the cold and the rain into the warm shelter. And when they lifted off the lids, what they found was astonishing. The makeshift pet carriers contained a total of 16 cats.
Even more disturbingly, the poor creatures had no food or water in their boxes. It was fortunate, then, that they hadn’t apparently spent all that much time cooped up in the containers. Still, the situation was not without its seriousness, as abandoning animals is very much against the law in the state of California.
At least the person who’d dumped the animals had tried to ensure that they were safe and comfortable in their captivity. “The plastic tubs all matched and had carefully drilled air holes in them and were zip-tied closed to keep the kitties inside,” shelter volunteer Harvie Schreiber would go on to tell website Love Meow in February 2017. She added, “Every tub had a fleece blanket.”
Meanwhile, the group of felines included one mother with two kittens, while three additional cats were expecting litters of their own. Altogether, then, there were 11 females and three males plus the pair of babies in the group.
And while the cats were understandably a little shaken from their ordeal, fortunately they otherwise seemed healthy. Indeed, as Harvie Schreiber would go on to tell Love Meow, “The cats were not dirty, ill, or skinny. They seemed to have been well taken care of.” After their assessments, then, they were each moved to snug little rooms and left to make themselves at home.
Upon inspection, however, something unusual was noticed about the cats – namely, that several of them have polydactyly. This condition causes felines to be born with extra toes. And as the trait is genetic, this seems to suggest that many – if not all – of the cats are part of the same feline family.
But while the cats were apparently in good condition, The Cat House on the Kings’ Beth Caffrey did have some words for the person or people who had dumped the animals at the shelter’s premises. In a February 2017 interview with ABC 30, she said, “We are glad they are safe and sound, but this could’ve been avoided had they gotten the cats spayed or neutered in the first place – especially if they’re all related and this is a perpetuation of family.”
While at The Cat House on the Kings, however, all of the cats were spayed or neutered. The shelter will also provide medical assistance, food and a place to stay for the felines until permanent homes can be found. Naturally, though, doing all of these things for 16 cats will put a substantial amount of financial pressure on the facility.
To help give the cats the care they need, then, The Cat House on the Kings staff took to social media. It was a shrewd move, too, as the shelter’s Facebook page has more than one million followers. As a result, thousands of people are likely to pick up on any post – whether it be a simple update or, as in this case, a plea for donations.
The shelter made its request in a post in February 2017 in which it also explained what employees had found on the premises that day. “Abandoning animals is a crime,” the message said. “But people often choose to dump cats instead of getting help with low cost spay/neuter options. We’re now facing a lot of unplanned expenses… Can you please help us with a donation?”
Thankfully, within days over 6,000 people had reacted to the update. And the shocking post clearly touched many hearts, with numerous commenters expressing their sympathy for the kitties’ plight. Meanwhile, yet others tried to understand how or why the individual or individuals involved had dumped all of the cats at the shelter’s door.
In among the speculation, though, one commenter in particular had nothing but kind words for The Cat House on the Kings and its part in the animals’ care. “There is no one – no place like Cat House on the Kings – they do the work of angels,” they wrote. “Thank you so much for your total sacrifice to help these cats.”
So, given all the publicity surrounding The Cat House on the Kings and its work, perhaps it won’t be long until the 16 abandoned cats find forever homes. And although their former owner was wrong to dump them, thankfully they were left somewhere that they’d be welcomed. Let’s just hope that they’ll never be left out in the cold ever again.