ELYRIA — Annie Hallman sunk into an old chair on her front porch — one devoid of cats — and pondered how she felt about her now near-empty home.
After months of living with nearly two dozen cats, most of them strays that would climb into her home through a broken window, two agencies came Tuesday afternoon to rescue the animals. In all, 20 cats and kittens were removed from the older two-story blue home on Floral Court.
It has been Hallman’s home for more than 16 years, but the combination of the cats and a home in disrepair has left the house in need of a lot of work. Several agencies wanted to help Hallman stave off a possible condemnation order but stopped short of stepping in until she got rid of the cats. The woman hasn’t had hot water or heat since November.
“I’m not answering that,” Hallman said to a question of how she felt about watching the cats go.
They are now in the care of the 4 Pets Clinic in Avon and will soon go to the Friendship Animal Protective League.
“Let’s just say I have mixed feelings. It’s aggravating,” she said. “I knew I had to do something, but I thought they would at least let me keep Snowball. Paul’s probably not happy to see him go.”
Paul, Hallman’s deceased son, had three adult cats and is the reason why Hallman ended up with a colony. He would feed his cats, as well a number of strays, on the front porch. When he died, the duty of caring for the horde fell to Hallman, even though she knew she wouldn’t be able to manage. The 70-year-old woman lives on a very small Social Security income and has emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
“I just hope they find a good home,” Hallman finally said. A smile crept across her face. “Especially Snowball. She was in the carrier just meowing at me — you think that didn’t bother me?”
As if on cue, a gray and white cat leapt onto Hallman’s porch and sprang into her living room through the broken screen door’s window. Three or four cats escaped capture during the roundup. Hallman hopes she will be able to corral them, put them in cages and call for them to be picked up as well.
“But bottom line, I had to do something to get the house together, so the cats had to go,” she said.
David McClelland, president of the 4 Pets Clinic in Avon, said he saw Hallman’s story in Sunday’s Chronicle-Telegram and called the Friendship Animal Protective League, willing to help. It was the first time he had heard of Hallman’s plight but knew he could do something.
He knows all too well what happens when cats are left to multiply and form a colony. He once worked with a mobile spay-and-neuter organization that focused on gathering stray and feral cats, fixing them and returning them to the neighborhood in hopes of curbing the population.
“When you bring lots of unvaccinated animals together, you typically get health problems,” he said.
Of the cats and kittens removed from Hallman’s home — the youngest a few days old — the kittens had worms, fleas and were underweight. Nearly all had upper respiratory or eye infections.
“Just give them time,” McClelland said. “They will get better.”
He believes the animals are very adoptable.
“They should make a full recovery,” he said. “We expect they will get fixed and put up for adoption in July or August.”
In the meantime, Holly Huff, head of the Cascade/Furnace Block Watch, said her attention will turn to Hallman, a woman who Huff said just needs a little help to be happy in her home. Huff had raised an alarm about Hallman’s predicament after the woman came to her.
“That’s something I would never do before,” Hallman said. “I could be so stubborn and bullheaded at times.”
Now, Huff is Hallman’s go-to person, forming a plan to help the woman who lives just a few blocks from Huff’s Phillip Court home. Hallman’s home needs new carpet, a front door, a furnace and a water heater as well as a good cleaning.
“This is all I wanted, “Huff said. “The cats are going to be somewhere else, and she will be able to get her house back.”
Huff said she also was able to get a couple of other unwanted cats out of the community. After Hallman’s story ran, a woman called wanting to adopt some of the cats. Hallman’s cats did not fit her needs, but two other cats are being sent to a local farm in search of a couple of barn cats.
“When the story came out, it showed people that there really is a cat problem in this city,” Huff said.
McClelland said there is no way to tell how many cats are out there. This is the first mass cat rescue he has been called on this year, but he doesn’t know if pet owners are becoming more conscientious or if people just don’t call him.
“There are still lots and lots of cats out there,” he said.
But Hallman said that will have to be someone else’s problem — her door is now closed.
“I don’t want any more animals,” she said. “I want to get things fixed so they can’t get back in.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.