It took Kelly Moyer a week to get 20 Persian cats out of the Highland Park garage they had been trapped in for years.
The Tails of Hope founder had heard that a family in the community was trying to get an organization to get their cats out of their garage so they could renovate it. is a no-kill animal rescue and adoption nonprofit based in Highland Park, so Moyer naturally felt compelled to offer her help. What she saw in the garage shocked her -- and, as she told Patch, she's seen a lot.
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There were no litter boxes so the floor was covered in feces, and no ventilation.
"The smell -- oh my God, the smell was overwhelming," Moyer said.
It seemed like the work of a hoarder, according to Moyer, who had seen similar situations in the past. The family originally told Moyer there were 25 cats, the result of two kittens purchased from a breeder and placed in the garage five years ago. Moyer only found 20, all of which she said were in terrible shape. Two cats died in the winter -- the garage also had no heat or air conditioning -- and the owners think the remaining three are still somewhere inside, hiding.
"This does go on, even in Highland Park," Moyer said.
After crawling under furniture to rescue the cats, Moyer brought them to a vet, where they had to be shaved because their fur was so matted. The owners had never groomed them.
"We shaved matts off that were the size of another cat," Moyer said. "I don't even know how these cats moved."
Some of the cats had to have their tails amputated because the fur was matted so severely. Once the fur was removed, the cats were all skin and bone. Despite the fact that they hadn't been eating properly, they were too scared once they were out of the garage to accept food at the vet. They stayed hidden and hungry for days until they finally became a bit friendlier.
"It will take some work to socialize them," Moyer said. "They were in shock because they'd never been out of that room."
Though she says it won't be easy, Moyer is convinced all 20 of the cats will eventually be adoptable. The $8,000 to $10,000 Moyer believes will be necessary to help the process of healing them will come from a fundraiser at on Wednesday. Starting at 5 p.m., Tails of Hope friends, family and volunteers will mix and mingle, and Enoteca owner Bobby Dubin will donate 15 percent of every dinner to the nonprofit.
"Some of them will always be shy, but certainly able to live in a home normally," she said. "They're not feral. They're afraid."