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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'It just sort of crept up on us,' says Annandale cat hoarder

“It just sort of crept up on us. It’s what we lived for,” says Annandale cat hoarder Eleanor Kaufer about the rescue operation she ran with roommate Paula Burns that eventually led to a house filled with about 180 cats.

Fairfax County Animal Control removed the cats (including the one pictured here) from the house at 7100 Village Drive last weekend and took them to shelters. The women have been evicted until the house is cleaned and ready for human habitation. Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter is overwhelmed with the huge influx of cats and is seeking donations help pay for medical supplies for them.

The Fairfax County Police Department is still investigating the case and does not expect to press charges until next week, a police spokesperson says. Some of the neighbors had no idea what was going on at the house; others knew there were a lot of cats—and some had filed complaints—but were shocked that there were so many. The kittens had been kept in cages, as they had upper respiratory ailments, she said, but the rest were free to roam around the house. They were all kept indoors.

Eleanor is distraught about losing her cats and being forced out of her home, at least temporarily, but says, “everyone has been so kind.” She hopes she will be allowed to keep at least a few of her cats, especially favorites Houdini, a dark gray cat with white around his face, and Mischief, a beautiful, long-haired, pale gold female. “Both tried to sneak outside,” she says, and “Houdini slept with me under the covers.”

Eleanor was planning to stay in a nearby motel for a few days until she can move home. “I will be glad to be back in my own house,” Eleanor says, but Paula, who is staying with her son in Maryland, won’t be coming back. “Paula took it very hard and is not going to move back in with me and is not going to ever rescue more cats,” she says.

Eleanor was able to get the house cleaned for about $4,000. She said all the couches and beds had to be removed because “supposedly they had cat urine.” A small refrigerator that was used to store cat medicine was unplugged and leaked all over the floor, adding to the mess.

The women worked together rescuing cats and trying to get them adopted. Paula started trapping feral cats near her office at the Naval Research Lab, says Eleanor, who always had cats growing up. The two met at the office of a veterinarian in Washington, D.C., who does low-cost spaying and neutering of feral cats. Paula “started crying because her second husband had recently died,” Eleanor recalled.

Paula moved into Eleanor’s house at 7100 Village Drive about 10 years ago. “We kept on rescuing and adopting cats as best we could,” Eleanor says. When asked if she thought the cat population in her house was out of control, she concedes, “Yes, that is too many. But it didn’t seem too many for us.”


  1. I have known Eleanor for years and this is not something she will every stop doing. Animal Control was called to their house on numerous occasions in the past several years but did nothing to help those animals in Eleanor's care. I am happy that the cats are now out of that horrible situation but I want to know why Animal Control took action now and never before on the many occasions that they were sent there to investigation. Many cats lost their lives because of the irresponsibility of Animal Control. Thank goodness someone finally forced them to take action. Animal contro should be investigated for their procedures to ensure other animals are not in situations like this. This woman will do this same thing again.......

  2. Most people love animals and, when pressed, will help one out although not by necessarily adopting it or them. There must be volunteer positions available at pet shelters where people like these can volunteer and get some sort of satisfaction and closeness with animals in a more constructive way. This is a very sad commentary on the state of these women's minds as well as the Animal Control. Those poor animals had to have been suffering held prisoner in that filthy house. This is just an awful situation and I'll bet there are more out there just like it!