Hiding In The Corner
Paul never expected to walk right into a scene straight out of the movies when he went to check on an elderly relative's home. Paul recalled that the encounter felt like something from the movie Alien.
He felt his heart pound in his chest as he shone the flashlight onto the massive creature huddled in the corner of the darkened room. Before he could determine exactly what it was, it crawled down the stairs with a deep growl.
Paul Russell's distant relative had recently moved out of his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 82. Before a mysterious illness left the man incapable of looking after himself, he had been living alone.
To keep a closer eye on him, his family had found a place for him in a nursing home closer to their place. Although it was obviously in the man's best interests, his family was unaware of the strange chain of events that this decision would trigger.
A Sad Situation
The nursing home controversially did not allow animals on the premises. Sadly this meant that the man's cherished 17-year-old Siamese had to remain behind. Paul realized that this was his opportunity to come to the rescue.
Paul and his wife were self-proclaimed animal lovers and already owned several cats. Would one more really matter? That said, Paul would soon learn that Siam wasn't the only "animal" residing there.
The man lived alone on the edge of Pittsburg, and because of this, his condition gradually deteriorated over some time. His poor cat's condition had taken a turn for the worst due to the lack of proper care.
As most people would, Paul had predicted that some chaos littered the home. But he could have never known just how much of an understatement that would be.
After Paul had made his way up the driveway and through the door, he flicked the light switch on and off with no success. First things first, though. He would have to go down to the basement and find the breaker.
He walked back to his car and grabbed his emergency flashlight. But then, as he shone the light down the corridor, he almost let it fall from his grasp.
The smell was the first thing to reach him, and then he felt a cold wave of shock roll over him at the scene in the hallway. Garbage was packed from the floor to the ceiling throughout the whole house. Piles of broken furniture, boxes, old newspapers, and dishes were stacked on every surface.
The strangeness of it all increased when he noticed the windows were completely blacked out and weird markings filled the walls.
A Creeping Feeling
Paul felt as if there were eyes all over that were watching him as he slowly made his way through the house. He tried to block out the thoughts of rats, snakes, and worse.
The hair at the back of his neck prickled as he swept the flashlight's beam over the etchings on the walls. Who or what could have done such things? And where on earth was Siam?
As Paul leaned in to get a better look, he realized the marks on the walls were gouges in the wallpaper. What had taken place here?
As he walked down the hallway, he felt his heart jump to his throat. "Kitty, kitty," he quietly called out. A strange feeling crept over him. Suddenly, it was as if all the nerves in his body were yelling at him to run. He had to find Siam and get out of there as fast as possible.
Paul found Siam's food bowl when he entered the kitchen. Once he filled it with the cat food he had brought from home, Siam strangely didn't come running. His heart sank after calling his name for a few minutes.
In the dark, there were too many places for Siam to hide if that was what he was doing. Now he would have to go down to the cellar and flip the switch on the breaker. Before he could make his way down the dark stairway, a sound reached his ears that sent a chill down his bones.
What Is That Noise?
A screech reverberated through the house, making Paul stop dead. Another noise followed it- a loud thump sounded from another room this time. It was the bathroom at the end of the corridor.
Forcing his legs to take one slow step after another, he walked towards the door shakingly. Then, with his foot, he pushed it open and pulled aside the shower curtain.
To his relief, there was Siam - camped out in the bathroom tub. The little guy was scared and ravenously hungry. Who knows when he last had a decent meal?
Paul began thinking about what he was going to do with Siam, and then he heard another sound coming from the darkness that made his blood run cold.
Paul heard a low scratchy, growl echoing from the room across the hall. But if the cat was in here with him, 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.
A Huge Creature
While most of us would probably just take Siam and run, Paul's curiosity 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.
Going Back In
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 multiple legs, 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
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 it had a blanket over it.
The vets had never seen anything like this before, either. Then, they turned the bizarre creature around. What they uncovered had everyone at a loss for words.
As they turned the animal over, they saw the head of a cat -- protruding from the many strange “tentacles” that covered its body. Then, it hit them. 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 decided 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 trapped under pounds and pounds of its own matted fur. Sadly, its 82-year-old owner had completely forgotten about Hidey for a 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 only one 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?
Monster Under The Bed
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. In 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.
Looking Out For One Another
“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.
Hideys’ New Home
Although Hidey seemed to enjoy the freedom of his new haircut, he still wasn't being too friendly towards his other animal brothers and sisters. Paul caught him hissing at the other cats a few times. He was worried that he wouldn't adjust.
Jill, on the other hand, was hopeful that he would soon feel at home. They were family, after all. Hidey seemed to know that Paula and Jill wanted to help him. He would sometimes let them stroke him or scratch his head. Was this real affection or just attention-seeking?
A Troublesome Cat
The animal lovers were doing all they could to try and get Hidey to feel comfortable.
They bought him special cat toys to get his attention. He was amused for a while but eventually got bored and walked away.
The worried couple had a new idea. Jill had seen a newspaper advertisement for an animal behavioral specialist. Perhaps this was the answer.
Seeking Professional Help
Jill called the animal behavioral specialist to query her moody cat. The specialist told her that she was happy to help and gave her a breakdown of the fees for cat therapy. Jill was eager to begin the classes for Hidey, but she was worried about how they would pay for them.
Paul agreed that it was a great idea but heard Jill’s concerns about payment as well. They already had an extra expense with the nursing home. How could they afford to treat this poor cat too?
A Modern Solution
That night when they were watching TV, they saw a commercial about Pet Insurance. Jill shouted in delight and said that this was the answer. Paul was excited and sent a query through. Could this be the help they needed?
Paul said that the premiums were quite affordable and that they would be able to get coverage immediately. Jill happily looked for Hidey to tell him the good news.
A Happy Family
The next morning, an insurance consultant called Paul to confirm the transaction. Paul agreed and was excited to start his cat’s therapy. They confirmed that the behavioral specialist would come the next day to start Hideys emotional therapy.
Hidey showed great improvement in his character and became more friendly with the other cats. His new adoptive parents were overjoyed that all their fur babies were getting along. They realized that Hidey made their home complete.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.