She lived on the outskirts of Paris in the bustling commune of Courbevoie, but in private, Mrs E suffered with mental illness.
Soon after she died, local animal charity Pattounes sans toi(t), which specialises in rehoming stray cats and dogs from the city, decided to visit Mrs E’s property in order to rescue two cats.
The scene the volunteers beheld when they stepped inside the house was one of utter devastation. Writes Pattounes sans toi(t) on Facebook (translated): “We could not put one foot in front of the other, or even breathe, all the rooms of the apartment were cluttered with various objects, food, cans, human and animal defections ... up to more than a meter high.”
Refusing to admit defeat, volunteers spent a week trying to find the cats. Pairs of volunteers conducted their searches in shifts; the state of the place meant that their work was hard-going, relentless and unpleasant.
Although the two cats belonging to the woman were caught, the charity was told by neighbours that she had at least ten cats in the house at any one time. However, the search for the remaining animals was fruitless.
Hoarding: the illness
The charity insists that foster carers and animal lovers who are intent on providing an animal with a home should be vetted, and their homes subjected to pre-visits. Mrs E was clearly unwell, and although she made every effort to help with the rounding up of local stray cats, her own state of health and her living conditions left much to be desired.
“She did not want anyone at home,” said a spokesperson for Pattounes sans toi(t) sometime later. “Even her best friends had never been to her apartment.”
The case of Mrs E and her cats should, if nothing more, highlight the plight of people who are forced to suffer with mental illness in silence. On World Mental Health Day especially, we remind you to always reach out to those for whom you think this might be the case.