Animal Crackers?

24 Jul

Letterbalm CatsDear LetterBalm: My elderly neighbor Millie is in her 80s, lives alone and has no family. All of us on our floor look out for her. She’s always been fond of cats, but lately we noticed she’s been bringing strays back from her walks. We also noticed a bad smell in the hallway. Yesterday, when one of us looked in on her, we found a mess: at least a dozen cats, two overflowing litter boxes – and, pigeons roosting on her bedroom windowsill and flying around her apartment! Millie seems to be O.K. mentally, but we’re very concerned. When we ask about the animals, she gets agitated and fearful and says we’re going to take them. How can we help her?

–Concerned About Millie

Your neighbor is lucky to have all of you looking after her best interests, but Ms. L.B. thinks this is a problem difficult to solve. Does she have a doctor who knows her well? Even though Millie is the patient, you can offer to take her to her doctor and alert him or her about your concerns. The doctor might recommend the process to start a home care visit once or twice a week so that someone is monitoring her health and living situation. (At the very least, get the pigeons out of the apartment and lock the window if it isn’t on a fire escape.) Is Millie amenable to a cleaning service to bring her home to cleanliness? Treat the cats and birds as separate issues – one is a household companion, the other a potential health hazard. Over time, see if you can talk quietly with your neighbor, and make sure she is accompanied on her walks so she doesn’t bring back more felines. Keep saying something like this:

Millie, we need to discuss the cats – not to get rid of them, but to see how we can give them good homes. You are such a concerned person to rescue the cats. But what’s happening is that their numbers are overwhelming your apartment. Already, their litter boxes are overflowing, and the smell is seeping into the hallways. I know you have always prided yourself on keeping a clean home with your cats Bessie and Ernestine, but this isn’t the case now. It’s not fair to your original two kitties, to the cats you brought in and to your neighbors. And, you don’t want anybody to complain to the landlord. Can you see that the time has come for an organization that specializes in re-homing cats to put them into good homes? You might pick out two you really want to keep. Also, we need to discuss the pigeons – Millie, you’re a smart person, and you know they must go. With your permission, we neighbors would like to hire a cleaning service as our gift to make your home look great after the pigeons and extra cats are gone.

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