Paul Russel was kind enough to go see how things were at his relative’s house. But he didn’t know he’d be walking into something from a film. Paul’s description of the thing he stumbled upon was that it looked like something from Alien.
His heart began beating out of his chest as he looked into the bedroom, his flashlight lit up the “thing” as it dashed out from underneath the bed. He almost caught a glimpse of what it was but it scurried down the steps into the cellar, emitting a rumble as it did so.
Paul’s relative was an 82-year-old man who had just decided to sell his house in Pittsburgh. The old man could no longer look after himself after getting a strange illness.
His family, concerned for his health, put him in a home that was close to them. The family felt this was the best course of action for the man. But they were unaware this would start something out of their control.
The problem was the home wouldn’t let anyone bring their animals with them. This meant that the cat that served the old man for 17 years had nowhere to go. Paul was eager to lend a hand.
Paul already owned cats and his wife was an animal lover, so what could the harm be in adding one more? The thing is Siam, the cat, wasn’t the only resident in the home.
Paul came up the driveway and slowly pushed the door open. He turned on the light switch, but to no avail. Only darkness greeted him. The basement was where the breaker was, so Paul started his journey downward.
Thankfully, Paul was prepared. His car contained a flashlight. Once he had that, he felt good walking down the hallway. But then his heart jumped.
The first thing that Paul noticed was the odor in the air. There was trash stacked all over the house and junk strewn about too. Piles of newspapers and dishes were everywhere.
Every window was darkened so no light came through. Even stranger was all the strange things that Paul found on the walls.
Paul slowly pushed through the rooms, he felt like some presence was watching his every move. His mind wandered to things like snakes, rats, or worse.
The hair on his neck stood up as he took a closer look at the marks on the walls. Paul wondered what made them, and where Siam could have been.
The marks turned out to be gouges on the walls. His heart dropped when he realized that they had been made by something. The wallpaper was peeling apart where it had been cleaved. where did these come from?
He slowly turned from the wall and walked further into the dark hall. “Kitty,” he called meekly. Then, some kind of instinct within him told him to get out as fast as he could. But he didn’t want to leave poor Siam behind, so he pressed on.
The kitchen held a clue — Siam’s cat bowl. Paul picked it up, found some cat food, and poured it into the bowl. He continued onward with the bowl in his hand. Even with the food and calling the cat’s name, nothing. Not even a sound. Paul didn’t like this.
The cat wouldn’t come out. Paul knew that if he had any hope in finding him, he would have to find the breaker. As Paul found his way to the basement steps, he heard something that sounded completely unnatural.
A shriek came from behind him, from down the hall somewhere. Paul felt paralyzed by fear. He pinpointed the noise to have come from the bathroom…
Encouraging himself to get closer to the bathroom Paul slowly opened the door using his leg and saw the curtain for the shower. Urging himself to move once more, he quickly pulled the curtain open.
Paul gave a sigh of relief as he saw a little kitty hidden in the bathtub. Siam looked very hungry and timid. It was anyone’s guess when the cat had last eaten.
As Paul thought about how to get the cat out, there was another sound originating from somewhere in the house. Paul’s mouth felt dry and his hands became clammy.
Paul heard a low scratchy growl, echoing from the room across the hall. But if the cat was in here with him, then what was out there making that sound?
At first, he reassured himself that it was probably just a scared raccoon that made its way into the abandoned house — that would explain why Siam was hunkered down in the tub, right? He crept over to the doorway and was met with a sight he’ll never forget.
While most of us would probably just take Siam and run, Paul’s curiously got the best of him. “I started searching around, and suddenly this huge creature darts out from under the bed and runs down to the cellar, and I thought, ‘What was that?’”
Terrified, Paul dashed straight out of the house. He’d need to muster every ounce of courage he had before going back down into that cellar.
Now with his wife, Jill, by his side, they entered the house again. This time, Paul was prepared. Armed with a trap and flashlights, they crept down the stairs. Then, they spotted it.
“The next day, I went into the creepy old cellar… I’m down there with a flashlight looking — it was almost like a horror movie. And I found her hunkering in the corner…” Paul recalls.
They managed to corner the creature and push it into the trap. Jill stood back, incredulous. She hadn’t believed her husband when he had said that the creature looked dusty and appeared to have huge glowing eyes, but now she had seen it for herself. Just what had they found?
They rushed the alien-looking creature to the vet, hoping for some answers.
At the vet, Paul and Jill were shaken. What could this animal be? Paul speculated that perhaps it was a wild animal he’d never heard of — or a common animal that looked like nothing he had ever seen.
The vets had never seen anything like this before, either. But they did know what it was.
What they were looking at was a cat! But what had caused it to transform beyond recognition?
After a series of discussions about what the next move should be, the vets eventually came to a decision that the only sensible thing they could do was give the creature anesthesia.
The cat, aptly named Hidey due to its affinity for hiding, was also trapped under pounds and pounds of its own matted fur. Sadly, its 82-year-old owner had completely forgotten about Hidey for a very, very long time.
“Hidey was really overweight, so that makes it harder for [cats] to groom themselves, and that’s when you see matting happen,” Western PA Humane Society Senior Marketing Communications Manager Caitlin Lasky said. But how could they safely remove the cat’s “dreadlocks?”
The vet team was stunned at Hidey’s appearance. “They hadn’t seen anything like that,” Caitlin Lasky, senior marketing communications manager for Western PA Humane Society, said. “Even looking online, I had a hard time finding anything similar, so it’s definitely a unique case.”
There really is the only way to rescue a cat in this condition: you have to shave it all off. But the team couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. After putting Hidey under general anesthesia, they carefully began cutting away at the mass.
“Our Medical team shaved off the pounds of intertwined fur from her body and, needless to say, this cat is feeling so much better now!” read the shelter’s Facebook post. The fur had accumulated up to two pounds in weight!
“Lots of fur. It had to be years of matting for it to get that long.” In fact, Hidey turned out to be not just the hairiest cat in history but also one of the fattest. And now Hidey had an even bigger problem: she had no place to call home.
Thankfully, after Hidey was discharged from the vet hospital, Paul and his wife decided to take both Hidey and Siam in. Both felines now have a forever home with the Russells, and instant siblings in the couple’s three other cats and two dogs.
It will take more time to see who Hidey really is, but she’s slowly adjusting to life without pounds of overgrown fur. She may not realize it yet, but she finally has a chance at a happy and healthy life! But could Hidey ever trust humans again?
After years of neglect, it’s clearly going to take some time for her to settle in. “She’s been hiding under the bed for the last couple of days,” Russell said.
“I’ve been dragging her out, and holding her, and she purrs a lot. The last couple of days, she’s climbed out from under the bed on her own and into a cat bed I have. So she’s starting to work her way to see people more.”
“The companionship of a pet can bring many positive benefits to the elderly, however, owning a pet is a large responsibility,” said Dan Rossi, CEO of the Animal Rescue League Shelter and the Western PA Humane Society.
And he also has a warning, as well as some simple advice on what to do in this situation.
“If a family member, friend or neighbor owns a pet, please help them to make sure there is a support system in place if/when mental faculties begin diminishing,” Dan pleads.
“Also, open door shelters such as Animal Rescue League Shelter and the Western PA Humane Society do not turn any animal away if there are no other options for the pet.”
It will take more time to see who Hidey really is, but she’s slowly adjusting to life without pounds of overgrown fur and starting to come out of her shell. “Other than being standoffish, you hold her and she starts purring,” Russell adds.
However, Jill thinks there’s much more in store for Hidey in 2018…
“In six months she’ll be running the house,” Jill says. “And hopefully she’ll be a little trimmer.” Thank goodness someone had finally realized that Hidey was suffering under all those pounds of fur and had taken her in for professional care.
Hopefully, this story will help prevent other incidents of accidental pet neglect among the elderly.