Never in Lorraine Ritter’s life did she think she would find herself in the situation she got herself into when she decided to take care of another woman’s cats.
Ritter, who loves cats, now finds herself in charge of a townhouse in Co-op City that belongs to Rose Kaufman, but has not been inhabited by her or anyone else since December.
Instead, it is occupied by 27 cats. Six of which are feral, none are neutered and have been multiplying since Kaufman, 79, vacated the property.
“The stench is overwhelming,” Ritter said.“And even though I’ve cleaned and cleaned, the odor is still in the floors and in the walls.”
Ritter, of Pelham Parkway, first got involved with the Kaufman house in January when she was contacted by Howard Schwartz, a retired paralegal who had been named Kaufman’s legal guardian in late 2010.
Schwartz is Kaufman’s friend, whose husband passed away in 2003 and is estranged from her grown son. However, in December 2010, she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and her son got back in touch and moved her to a nursing home near his home in Madison, Wisconsin.
That left Schwartz to clean up the mess. That’s when he enlisted Ritter, who he found through the New York City Cat Coalition.
“I found about Ms. Ritter, because she’s excellent with cats, to help me take care of them, pending a resolution,” Schwartz said.
He also said the easiest thing to do would be have all of the cats euthanized, but he knows that would not be Kaufman’s wish, so he is holding out as long as he can with hopes that some of the cats will be adopted.
To compound problems, Ritter and Schwartz said that Kaufman had been displaying the tendencies of a hoarder, so her house is full of garbage and debris, besides all the cats.
Schwartz and Ritter did receive cash from Kaufman’s son to help deal with the house, but they say it has not been sufficient and they do not feel Kaufman’s wishes for the house and cats are being expressed. Schwartz plans to enlist adult protective services in Wisconsin to speak with Kaufman. He and Ritter will go before a mediator on Wednesday, May 4 in hopes of getting some more time to deal with the situation.
Until the cat situation is resolved, Ritter will keep doing what she has been every day since January: visiting the Kaufman house, doing her best to clean it, tending to the cats and hoping for the best.
“I cleaned it out and I Cloroxed it as best I could, but I can’t reverse the damage from the past years,” Ritter said. “It’s just bizarre.”
The takeaway from the episode, according Ritter, is that owners absolutely must spay and neuter their pets.
“If you don’t spay and neuter your animals, no matter how much you love them, is it fair for them to produce all these offspring if they have nowhere to live?”