Dear Annie: I am writing about a friend I've had for 35 years. My friend is 60 years old. She has two sons, neither of whom are married or have children. About 10 years ago, she started "rescuing" cats.
Her husband built a cat home in the backyard to hold the 17 feral cats she has collected. Another six cats sleep with her in bed at night, and her husband now sleeps in another room with a different cat.
Her life is consumed with caring for the cats, searching the internet for other rescue animals and looking for stray animals. She lost one job because this was interfering with her work.
She has a part-time job, and her husband is employed, but a lot of their income is used for veterinary bills, cat food and other things related to the cats. She even has set up crowdfunding campaigns a couple of times for vet bills and food for her cats. Her husband seems to be going along to keep the peace.
I told her that I am concerned about her and asked whether she would consider seeking psychiatric advice. She did not think this was necessary.
This has put a great strain on our relationship, to the point that there is no contact any longer. I cannot relate to what she is doing. Her house is a mess — with cat toys, cat trees and cat beds everywhere — and it sometimes reeks of cat urine. She thinks all the cats are her babies.
Am I wrong to think this is not normal? Should I just accept her and ignore everything else? Have I lost a friend? — Concerning Cat Lady
Dear Concerning Cat Lady: You have not lost a friend. Your friend has lost herself — but she's incapable of seeing it right now, as she is in the throes of the compulsive and unhealthy behavior that is animal hoarding. The following are signs that someone is an animal hoarder, from the ASPCA:
"They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
"Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).
"There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc."
If that describes your friend, as I believe it does, it's time for you to initiate an intervention, for the sake of her health, her husband's health and the cats' health. Contact your local humane law enforcement agency, veterinarian or police department to start the process of getting your friend the help she needs. For more information on animal hoarding and how to help, visit https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/animal-hoarding/closer-look-animal-hoarding.
Dear Annie: You had good suggestions for people who are no longer as active after a loved one's passing. After using those tools, they should check out their local senior center; in our city, it is called Active Generations. Membership dues are less than $40 per year for us. Our center has 16 to 18 card and game clubs, plus 20 other clubs that meet during the month. It also has a first-rate exercise room, a billiards room, a library and noon meals. There are many volunteer positions available. It is a place to meet new friends. — Single Senior
Dear Single Senior: Just $40 for a year's worth of fun, friends and food? Sounds like a bargain to me. Thanks for the tip.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]