Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crazy Cat Ladies Deny They Are Crazy Cat Ladies

Put out a press release: "Crazy Cat Ladies Deny They Are Crazy Cat Ladies."

Where is the edge of crazy? Ten cats? Twenty? Thirty? One hundred?

Does it start with having the smell of cat urine all over the house, or are you only crazy when the feces are piled deeper than two inches in the kitchen?

And what do you do about hoarders?

It's not enough to say "it's a mental illness."

So what if it's mental illness? That's descriptive, not curative. Does that mean we cannot prosecute? Are we supposed to whistle pass the misery of these animals and say it's OK because the person is crazy? If so, then we really owe an apology to Jeffrey Dahmer and heck of a lot of other crazy people too.

You say we should institutionalize these people? Really? How do we do that? Under what legal theory? At what cost?

You say we should require these folks to take medication for obessive-compulsive disorder? Really? You think that will work? You do realize these people are CRAZY right? Mental illness is the disease that says you haven't got it, the same as alcoholism. Yes, that's right: If you deny you are a crazy drunk that's proof you are one!

So what do we do? Nothing? Something?

The comments section is open.



Viatecio said...

Kind of reminds me of this lady.

Or, if you like metal and moshing, you might find this good and fun. I draw the line at the claws, though. Chains hurt bad enough.

I think it was retrieerman who suggested that we start regulating cats like we do's somewhere in the comments section. One part of that is to limit how many cats one can own, especially if in the city limits (although I admit these laws are rarely enforced unless the offender is really a problem child in their respective neighborhood).

Retrieverman said...

That's why we need more social workers and mental health professionals.

This is the consequence of having an atomized population with no sense of community.

boots guy said...

i love to own and love a pet someday whatever it is.. its only the future can tell..

Heather Houlahan said...

Kind of comes down to that central question one of the crazy cat ladies posed -- are they hurting anyone?

As long as there are no genuine public health hazards or undue disturbance of the neighbors, and the animals themselves are maintained humanely, then it's none of anyone's damned business.

This is situational.

Not too far from me lives a junk hoarder. The place is a fright. But we are out in the country. It doesn't bother me, and it's none of my business. The junk stays on his property, and I know of no rodent problems or toxic leaks. In the city, the same obsession would have a serious impact on the neighbors, and would certainly call for intervention by the authorities.

Noise, smell, flies and vermin, zoonoses, and animal welfare violations are all just cause to intervene with an animal hoarder. If someone just has a bug up his butt because the "crazy cat lady" has more animals than he thinks she should, but she doesn't violate the law on any of the above counts, then there are no grounds to bother her.

We are free to be harmlessly crazy in our own homes. There are women who spend five hours a day, every day, scrapbooking. There are men who purchase expensive satellite service so that they can watch corporate sports every day, all day. Sixteen cats doesn't seem so aberrant when you really consider how people spend their time and money.

That said, I have zero patience for a hoarder who fails to provide adequate care for the animals. Can't imagine what experiences of mine have made me so intolerant ...

Normal humane laws provide redress in such circumstances, provided they are properly enforced.

an American in Copenhagen said...

I totally agree with Heather. But what to do with the ones who couldn't cope with their obsession and the cats were a hazard or kept in unsanitary or inhumane conditions? Jail? Mental hospital? Forced medication? Required therapy? Take away their cats then it around and wait until they do it again?

I think everyone with pets uses them as a coping mechanism to some extent. We like having the unconditional love they provide, we live through them in many ways, and we like having someone/thing that depends on us and looks up to us. These people are just doing it in another scale. I think pet ownership should be treated as a privilege and once you show you can’t handle that privilege it becomes the rest of society’s responsibility to protect you, the cats, and everyone else from you.

From a purely practical standpoint I think the ones who cross the line and prove they can’t keep control over their obsession/love/whatever you want to call it should be closely monitored. Limits on how many cats they can keep and a total loss of the privilege to own an unaltered animal. Lots of home visits to monitor numbers and living conditions and perhaps required therapy for some. If and only if people are still out of control even with home monitoring then maybe jail or an institution is the best place for them, at least for a while.

Rocambole said...

The Wall Street Journal had an article about hoarders in the "Personal Journal" section in the last two weeks.

The problem is that the mental health field just doesn't know enough about the problem to fix it -- it's "like" OCD, but not enough that the OCD meds will probably help. Plus, these people usually withdraw so no one knows it's a problem.

I'm dealing with the "junk hoarding" with my mother who also has cancer and my husband just had to deal with this with his uncle, who also has health issues. The health care profession knows that "something needs to be done" but can't really suggest anything. If you just take the stuff away, the person can go into a serious mental trauma, but if you don't, the problems remain.

In the family cases mentioned, I was the "bad guy" on my mom and my uncle-in-law's daughter did the same for her dad. It really did produce trauma which was not fun either.

There needs to be a better way.

Marie said...

Most animal hoarders end up with way too many animals to take even adequate care for.

Mental? Perhaps. But society coddles these people way too much. Start jailing and fining them.

Living in unsanitary conditions is not my idea of keeping an animal in optimum condition. If someone has no problems living in excrement and filth, that's their business but they are also imposing their "lifestyle" on the animals. Animals don't like living in filth, hoarders impose this on them.

How many times does the humane society have to come out to a hoarder's place and then finally do something about it? I think way too many times.

Sorry but I don't believe in live and let live when there are lives whether human or animals at stake.

Hoarding junk is one thing, hoarding living things is entirely something else.

an American in Copenhagen said...

Rocambole: very very interesting stuff. I know very little about the inner workings of this type of situation so it's good to hear from someone who does.

I suppose there is a wide gray area when it comes to separating a hoarder from his trash if it's going to traumatize them and the mental health profession doesn't have much to offer in it's place. But I think that when animals are involved the gray area shrinks considerably.

It's difficult for me to think of these people as criminals but if they, even unintentionally, cause unnecessary suffering to animals that's what they are. Pedofiles can't help themselves either but that doesn't stop society from finding ways to keep them away from children. It's a harsh comparison but perhaps not completely off the mark?

Christine said...

I had the ghastly experience not too long ago of finding out someone I knew was an animal hoarder. My impression of her had always been of a kind, open person who loved her dogs and other animals and volunteered with local humane organizations and the 4-H. When neighbors finally complained of the smell, police found a horrific scene. She was well known and liked; if she needed help, she could have just picked up the phone and people would have been there. But she didn't. She's awaiting trial, and my stomach still gives a lurch when I think of the whole thing. How could no one have known?

Mental illness does not produce rational behavior. Brushing off mental illness as a failure of will does not make it go away.

Acquaintances, friends, and family at a distance may not be able to tell that anything is wrong. The only solution I can think of involves neighbors being involved with each other; but, especially in the country, everyone likes to 'mind their own business'. Until it is too late.

Amanda S said...

Hi Patrick,

It's interesting to consider that the line between people who rescue and people who hoard might not always be as clear as you'd think.

There is this interesting video on You Tube about a cat shelter in California called The Cat House On Kings. It's interesting to contrast with the video's you've posted.

About the videos you posted, my feeling as a cat owner is that all those cats cramped into the inside of a house must find it stressful (my bonded pair of siblings definitely need regular time apart from one another for their sanity). So even if someone is feeding them adequately, providing vet care and keeping the environment reasonably clean, it would still not be providing good quality of life for the cats.

In contrast the cat shelter really does seem to provide a decent life for the cats that live there.

Maybe some of the motivations behind these enterprises are similar; some maternal yearning, a need to care, whatever... but it seems to me the key to whether it's OK or not is the degree to which the person (OK we're talking about women here) is able to adequately take into account the true needs of those they wish to care for.

It's similar to the issues surrounding the Octomom story or Angelina Jolie's urge to adopt the children of the world.