Cat cruelty case highlights overpopulation problems - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Cat cruelty case highlights overpopulation problems

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Alicia Maluafiti, Poi Dogs and Popoki Alicia Maluafiti, Poi Dogs and Popoki
Dr. Celina Hatt, Animal House Veterinary Center Veterinarian Dr. Celina Hatt, Animal House Veterinary Center Veterinarian

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Animal experts say there are more than one million cats on Oahu.  And an estimated 45,000 households on the island are feeding those wandering felines.

The 13 cats that were rescued yesterday in Waimanalo are now recovering.  One cat had its eye pop out of socket. Others had skin and respiratory problems.  The Hawaiian Humane Society worked with the owners for months, but when the corrective measures still weren't taken the owners were cited for animal cruelty.

"They're not alone. For that one family in Waimanalo with 60 cats I can tell you 10 more families in similar situations," said Alicia Maluafiti, Poi Dogs and Popoki, a non-profit organization she started to help animals and control populations.  "As much as it's sad to hear that that is happening I think it reinforces our mission that these people need help."

Maluafiti cares for dozens of cats at her house. Some were rescues and others have health problems of their own.

"I think very well intentioned people, like myself, can obviously get very carried away with caring for these animals thinking they are doing good but really not being able to give them the care that they need," said Maluafiti.

She says she spends $2,500 a month on veterinarian bills, food and supplies.  She resents the crazy cat lady label.

"Sometimes it's accurate but the bottom line is you can't begrudge a person for caring about animals," said Maluafiti.

Doctors say there is a difference between helping and hoarding, but sometimes instances like the Waimanalo case blur the line.

"Once you are unable to care fully for the proper preventative care and maintenance that each animal deserves then at that point it can be problematic," said Dr. Celina Hatt, Animal House Veterinary Center Veterinarian.  "They're more at risk. Any animal or human would be. You get a whole bunch of animals or even people in one place the potential for cross contamination and just a poor health environment will be the end result no matter what."

It also gets to the overpopulation problem. Veterinarian Celina Hatt performed more than 3000 sterilizations last year alone.  Many as part of mass sterilization events yet there are still more cats than people on the island right now. 

There is no limit on how many cats a household can have but that doesn't mean people should try to bring them all home.

"Don't take it on, try to find help because help is out there. There are a lot of us out there that are willing to help so it can be done," said Dr. Hatt.

For more information about the Feral Cats Trap, Neuter, Return and Manage program click here.