|Houdini and Eleanor|
Since the cat hoarding story surfaced Nov. 19, the total number of cats reported varied. Washington’s NBC News affiliate stated Dec. 8 that 161 cats were removed from the house. Eleanor and Paula, who has moved in with her son in Maryland, have been charged with animal neglect.
Eleanor said the authorities told her the house is “unfit to live in.” She was required to have a professional cleaning service carry out an extensive cleaning that took several days. Just about all the furniture and carpeting has been removed. The living room is empty, and there is just a small table and a few chairs in the dining area.
“They told me it smells of cat urine,” Eleanor said, but after years of living with a house full of cats, the smell no longer bothers her. Despite all the cleaning, it does still smell.
The cleaners found a dead cat under her bed. “That was the worst thing,” Eleanor said. “I didn’t know it was there.” With so many cats in the house, she didn’t miss one. “I didn’t take roll call every day,” she said.
She said she still owes $3,000 for the cleaning and she and Paula each had to pay a “small fortune in fines” and said she hasn’t added up the total cost. She has no plans to refurnish or paint the badly stained walls. “I am an old lady. I’m not going to get new furniture,” she said.
Her one companion now is Houdini, a lovely gray and white cat she was allowed to keep. Houdini “came to us as kind of a shy cat and always slept in my bed under the covers with me. Now he’s doing it again. He was never a social cat. He’s a people cat. I love him to pieces.”
“They told us each of us would be allowed to keep two cats,” Eleanor said. She has been searching for her other favorite cat, Mischief, among the cats collected by the Animal Shelter, but so far has had no luck finding him. She is feeding three cats that stay outside and sleep in her shed when it’s cold, but said, “I don’t dare let them inside.” Animal Control will make surprise visits to make sure there are no more than two cats in the house.
Eleanor doesn’t know who tipped off Animal Control about her large cat population. She suspects the authorities found out after a friend of hers in Alexandria who had gotten into trouble for having too many cats brought some of them to her house.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter will try to find homes for the cats taken from Village Drive as soon as they are well enough to be adopted and is trying to find barn homes for the feral cats. If you’d like to make a donation to help the Village Drive cats or would like to adopt one of the cats, contact Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.