It’s never easy coming to grips with the reality of aging, especially for those that become rapidly frail. Not only does it become more difficult for people to care for themselves, but also it’s harder to care for their beloved furry companions. Such was the case with an 82-year-old man from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who was sent to a nursing home. Following the move, a distant family member was put in charge of sorting out the details of the man’s former home. He went to check on the empty house to retrieve his relative’s cat, but ended up getting a shocking surprise as well as an important lesson about family.
1. Facing A New Reality
When an 82-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease could no longer take care of himself, his relative, a man named Paul Russel, helped him make the move to an assisted living facility near the man’s home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The decision to move him was not an easy one. The elderly man needed medical assistance around the clock, so his relatives thought it’d be better for everyone not to leave him alone in his house. As Russel recalled, his relative “doesn’t know anybody anymore.”
2. Packing Away a Lifetime
After the move to the nursing home, Paul Russel suddenly remembered that his relative had owned a Siamese cat named Siam. Russel decided to go leave food for the poor fur baby until they figured out what to do with him.
Before Russel made got to the house, somebody mentioned that his elderly relative might have owned a second cat as well. Russel decided to have a look around the house to see if in fact there was another cat milling about. He was far from prepared for what he was about to see.
Russel started looking around the house to check if everything was still in order. He found Siam and made sure that the cat had a safe environment for the time being. During this visit, a large object suddenly darted across the house. “Out from under a bed it darted,” he recalled.
He figured that this was probably the second cat. The frightened animal looked like it had some kind of object draped over it, like a large blanket. He decided to return to the house the next day to bring more food and investigate what exactly scurried down into the cellar.
4. Closer Investigation
The next day Russel returned to the house with a flashlight. He felt like it was something out a horror scene when he went down to the creepy cellar. He wasn’t really sure what he was looking for, but he had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.
“I went into the creepy old cellar and it was hunkered in a corner, he told People Magazine. “I thought, ‘My god this is a cat.’ ”He couldn’t believe his eyes when he realized exactly what it was that he was staring at. The poor thing looked very scared and in a lot of pain.
5. “My God, Is This a Cat?!”
The creature that Russel had discovered turned out to be his elderly relative’s second cat who could barely move properly. He could make out that this cat was in fact a female Calico cat, but what he thought was a blanket draped over her was actually years worth of the cat’s own hair.
The cat looked overweight, and what made matters worse was that her hair was matted with what looked like dreadlocks measuring about 8 inches long (20 centimeters). The severely matted and tangled fur also had feces in it.
6. What Now?
Russel decided to name the cat Hidey because of her propensity to hide away under beds and in corners all the time. She seemed traumatized and looked like she was in a lot of pain. He and his wife Jill are animal lovers, so they tried to coax both Siam and Hidey to come closer in order to take them to a vet.
Once they managed to earn Hidey’s trust, they took the cats to the Animal Rescue League & Wildlife Shelter in Pittsburgh. Both cats were quite old, with Siam being 17 and Hidey being 14. They needed a checkup. However, Hidey’s case proved quite worrying.
7. An Unusual Condition
The vet team was totally shocked at Hidey’s dreadlocks and her decrepit appearance. The staff members had to search online because they had never really seen an animal in this condition. Even after extensive research, nothing similar was showing up.
The vet team knew that had to get rid of all the hair in order to relieve Hidey of her pain, but it wasn’t going to be so simple to do without hurting the poor feline. However, the team came up with a creative solution.
8. Shave It Off
Hidey was placed under general anesthesia in order for the team of veterinarians to shave off the matted hair and dreadlocks. It took quite a few hours to get rid of all the hair, and to everyone’s disbelief, Hidey had been lugging around about an extra two pounds (1 kilogram) of weight because of the hair.
Not only was the poor cat overweight, she also had to carry the weight of all those dreadlocks. It explained why she could barely move and looked very unwell. But how did her hair manage to grow this long and why was she so unkempt while Siam was in better health?
9. Shedding Into a Carpet of Matted Fur
No one could really pinpoint what exactly led to Hidey’s matted fur, but the vets believed the cat’s weight had a lot to do with it. Cats are known to groom themselves every day, but if they are overweight, it becomes harder to do so.
The hair Hidey would shed got stuck in the matted fur because it had nowhere to go, which explains how it got to that length and formed dreadlocks, but there was another reason why Hidey was in such a bad way before Russel came to the rescue.
10. Years of Neglect
Not only do long-haired cats such as Calicos clean themselves, their owners are also supposed to brush and groom them regularly. After some time, Hidey’s owner couldn’t tend to her, so even the simple habit of brushing a cat likely became impossible for him.
For an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease who couldn’t even remember his own name, it’s very possible that he may have forgotten Hidey existed. This led to years of neglect for the poor fur ball, and it even affected her personality.
11. A Second Chance at Happiness
Russel and his wife Jill gave Siam and Hidey a second chance at life. After both the felines were treated and vaccinated, the Russels adopted them into their loving home in Churchill, Pennsylvania, which was already occupied by three cats and two dogs.
It took a while for Hidey to get used to life without all that overgrown fur. She needed to gain her trust in people again instead of living up to her reputation of hiding away all the time.
12. A Total Transformation
Hidey was initially quite standoffish and shivered when someone so much as touched her. That slowly changed the more she became comfortable in her new surroundings. Once an animal gains trust, it’s a piece of cake from there on out.
Jill was thrilled with Hidey’s progress in such a short time, and she firmly believed that it was only a matter of time until Hidey would be darting around the house playing with the other animals. That would also earn Hidey a trimmer figure.
13. Hidey’s Antics
At first Hidey hid under the bed, forcing Russel to drag her out to hold her in his lap. After a while, however, she started coming out from under the bed for attention. She even started purring, indicating her level of satisfaction and comfort in her new home.
Hidey got her own special cat bed, and ever since she came out of her shell, she has enjoyed interacting with the other pets and people while sitting in her bed. Once Hidey’s story was made public, it quickly drew outrage from people all over the world.
14. Blaming the Owner for the Cat with Dreadlocks
As soon as the animal shelter posted the story and the shocking images, newspapers and TV stations around the world quickly caught wind of it and to put it simply, people were outraged for a variety of different reasons.
At first people were sickened that the pet was allowed to get into such a state. Several commenters criticized the owner before even reading the story, not realizing that the elderly man had been suffering from Alzheimer’s. Others were outraged for a completely different reason.
15. Elderly Neglect
Other people who read the story soon realized that this sad case was the result of elderly neglect, not just of animal neglect. Many people pointed out that the man should have been checked on more often and had regular visitors.
One person named Seanda Burns Bartlett commented on a post shared by the Manchester Animal Shelter in Manchester, NH. Bartlett wrote that “the root of the problem is that the elderly person was also neglected.” Many others were so shocked by the photos that they accused the shelter of something else…
16. Fake Photos
Some people could not wrap their head around the idea that an innocent cat could be so severely neglected and started accusing the photos of being fake. Others expressed disbelief that a cat would just stop grooming itself.
One commenter named Heather MacDonald Hopper responded to a story shared by WREG News Channel 3 in Memphis, Tenn. She wrote “That is a FAKE photo!…If it’s not fake, then somehow this was done deliberately!” However, animal rescue organizations were quick to confirm that what happened to Hidey is possible in real life.
17. Sick Cat
Sadly, it turns out that a cat’s fur really can become so matted that they grow tentacle-like dreadlocks, as happened with Hidey. Yes, cats are known for grooming themselves, but health issues can disturb that habit.
In the Facebook post by the aforementioned Manchester Animal Shelter, some people, such as Wanda Bailey-Bezio expressed confusion over how a cat simply stop grooming itself. The shelter responded that “Some cats may not do well at grooming themselves due to age, weight or medical conditions like arthritis.” Keep reading to meet other neglected pets that made remarkable recoveries!
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