You don’t expect to walk into a scene from some crossover version between Hoarders and Alien, that is until you do. Like what happened to Paul Russel when he went to check in on his relative’s house. His heart was beating audibly as he shone the flashlight towards the bed, momentarily illuminating an unidentifiable creature with a deep growl, moving so fast that Paul could barely keep the light on it as it zipped away and down into the cellar.
Time To Decide
Paul’s relative was a distant relation, but when the old man suddenly fell ill, he needed to be moved away from his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to be closer to his children who were going to care for him in his dotage. The old man had been living in the house all alone for many years and no one can blame his family for not knowing of the eminent chain of events they had started when they took the old guy away.
Lost And Alone
The nursing home did not allow animals in the rooms and that left the beloved 17-year-old, Siam the cat, without a caretaker and stranded in the old man’s house with no one to feed him.
Described as true animal lovers, Paul and his wife already had a few cats living with them and thought, what’s one more? However, Paul would soon find out that Siam was not the only being living in that house.
Opening the front door and trying a couple of light switches, left Paul with the realization that he would have to go down into the basement to check the circuit breakers and restore the power. Sensibly, he went back to his car to fetch a flashlight and upon his return to the front door, shone it down the hallway. If it wasn’t on a string around his wrist, he would have dropped the flashlight right there.
The sight in the hallway did not prepare Paul for the smell that suddenly overwhelmed him as he entered the house. Every available bit of space in the house was stacked with trash nearly to the ceiling. Boxes, some full and others empty, years worth of newspapers, broken furniture, and near-endless dishes stacked up all over the place. All the windows had been blacked out and the strange scratch marks all over the walls filled Paul with no small amount of worry.
Moving slowly through the house, observing the state of things, and seeing those animalistic claw marks, got Paul thinking of all sorts of creepy crawlies like giant rats, or snakes, or worse.
With every step he took, he was trying not to think the worts but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching him intently. “Where is Siam?” thought Paul aloud, trying not to let his imagination get the better of him.
Upon closer inspection, Paul could see that the scratches on the walls had left the wallpaper in tatters. The scene was becoming quite grizzly at this point.
His heart was in his throat by now as he softly called, “Here kitty, kitty.” That feeling of being watched was turning into an almost desperate need to run. He had to get out of there, but Siam was a priority, so he gritted his teeth.
Scared And Alone
Walking into the kitchen, he found Siam’s food bowl and added some of the food he had brought with him. He did not come running, as he was hoping he would. If he was hiding somewhere in this clutter, there would be no way of finding him in the dark. Paul knew he had no choice but to brave going deeper into the seriously creepy house and flip that circuit breaker, but the sound that came from behind him chilled his spine.
Suddenly, there was a loud screech, a sound that echoed inside Paul’s head, when he heard a frightful thump coming from the end of the hallway, in the bathroom.
His legs, now only moving him forward by sheer force of will, were trembling by the time he reached the bathroom door. He used his foot to gently kick the door open, and then reached his shaking hand over to pull back the shower curtain.
A Hiding Place
As he pulled back the shower curtain gingerly with one flick on his hand, the fear lifted off of Paul like a heavy blanket as he stared in utter relief at the obviously hungry Siam, huddled against the side of the tub. As he weighed up the options, being a little unsure of how to proceed with the unhappy cat, a different noise sounded from the darkness, froze Paul’s blood.
A low-pitched, scratchy growl came from the room across the hall. Paul thought, “if the cat is in here, what the heck is out there making that noise?” Reasoning to himself that it might be a raccoon who’s decided to move into the abandoned house, it may be why the cat was hiding in the bathtub, he decided. After slowly making his way over to the door, Paul will not easily forget what the light fell on next.
Those of us less brave than Paul would have grabbed Siam no matter the protests and gotten out of there like a bolt of lightning. “I started searching around, and suddenly this huge creature darted out from under the bed and ran down to the cellar, and I thought, ‘What was that?’ Feeling more than a little shaken, he dashed out of the house, recognizing the need to muster up some serious courage before going down into that basement.
A Second Attempt
Paul decided to brave the house again, this time with his wife Jill to accompany him. They came prepared and with a trap and flashlights, cautiously creeping down the stairs. That’s when they saw it. “The next day, I went into the creepy old cellar. I’m down there with a flashlight looking about— it was almost like a horror movie. And I found her hunkering in the corner…” Paul remembers out loud.
With no small amount of effort, they managed to corner the poor creature and then with a bit more of a struggle, got it into the cage. Now Jill stood stumped at the site in the cage, she hadn’t believed Paul’s account of a “dusty creature with huge glowing eyes” and yet here she was looking right at it.
The only answers they would get was from a vet, so off they went with the creature.
Once they arrived at the vet, Paul and Jill had time to recover from the shock. What on earth was it? Paul wondered if it was some kind of wild animal he’d never seen, or at the very least maybe a strange variation of a well-known animal he had just never heard of. The vets were equally baffled. This was unlike anything they’d seen before! They did identify it though.
Soon enough, after the vets took a good look it became clear that this was, in fact, a cat! The amount of fur this cat had on it, along with its fear that made it curl up, meant that no one immediately recognized it for what it was. After a great deal of discussion back and forth, they eventually reached a consensus. They would have to anesthetize the creature. That was the most sensible move to make.
The appropriately named, Hidey, named for its excellent hiding skills, had been completely forgotten about and trapped inside pounds of its own matted fur. Its aging owner thought it had run away a very long time ago. “Hidey was really overweight, so that makes it harder for [cats] to groom themselves, and that’s when you see matting happen,” Western PA Humane Society Senior Marketing Communications Manager Caitlin Lasky said. How to deal with Hidey’s dreadlocks was the next question.
Hidey’s appearance had the whole vet team shocked. “They hadn’t seen anything like that,” said Caitlin Lasky, who is the senior marketing communications manager for Western PA Humane Society. “Even looking online, I had a hard time finding anything similar, so it’s definitely a unique case.”
When an animal is in such a severe condition there is only one way to handle it. The team administered the general anesthetic to Hidey and began the long, slow process of cutting away the masses of hair.
According to the shelter’s Facebook update: “Our Medical team shaved off the pounds of intertwined fur from her body and, needless to say, this cat is feeling so much better now!” In fact, she had lost two pounds of fur!
“Lots of furs. It had to be years of matting for it to get that long.” The indomitable Hidey held two records, the furriest and the fattest cat in the history of the shelter. But sadly, despite making it to this point Hidey had no home.
The Russel’s are now the new, and very proud, parents of two cats -following Hidey’s release from the vet- and she and Siam now have a permanent home with three other cats and two dogs.
Time will tell who Hidey really is and for now, seems happy to live life without all that extra fur. Whether she will trust humans again remains to be seen, but she gets to enjoy a happy and healthy life while she decides.
Not A Monster
The years of neglect took a toll on Hidey however. “She’s been hiding under the bed for the last couple of days,” explained Russell.
“I’ve been dragging her out, and holding her, and she purrs a lot. The last couple of days, she’s climbed out from under the bed on her own and into a cat bed, I have. So she’s starting to work her way to see people more.”
Welcome To The Family
“The companionship of a pet can bring many positive benefits to the elderly, however, it is crucial to remember that owning a pet is a large responsibility,” according to Dan Rossi who is the CEO of the Animal Rescue League Shelter and the Western PA Humane Society. He has also shared some sound advice as well as issued a warning with dealing with these kinds of situations, that pets are great for the elderly as companions but they also need a lot of care and attention themselves.
A Loving Home
“If a family member, friend, or neighbor owns a pet, please help them to make sure there is a support system in place if/when mental faculties begin diminishing,” asks Dan pleadingly.
Dan added that if there are no alternatives then to remember that “open door shelters such as Animal Rescue League Shelter and the Western PA Humane Society do not turn any animal away if there are no other options for the pet.”
Of course, recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and Hidey has a lot of readjusting to do for her new life. Especially now that she’s shed so much extra fur. Although it took her a while to trust humans and know that they do not want to hurt her, she is now a real part of the family, “Other than being standoffish, you hold her and she starts purring,” comments Russell.
Jill has high hopes for Hidey’s future. There’s more in store for her…
All’s Well That Ends Well
Jill reckons, “In six months she’ll be running the house, and hopefully she’ll be a little trimmer.” Fortunately for Hidey she was found and relieved of all that heavy, dirty, tangled fur. With a little bit of professional care and all the love and cuddles she received at home from Jill and Russell and their family, she has bounced right back.
Hopefully, this is an unusual story! Luckily it has a happy ending for once-neglected pets Siam and Hidey.