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Shattered Illusions in the World of Cats
Photo of Big Red, a Cat at Caboodle Ranch

Photo of Big Red, a Cat at Caboodle Ranch

Photo Credit: © Caboodle Ranch, Used With Permission

Cat hoarding is a horrendous situation, first for the cats, kept in deplorable, unsanitary conditions, and for the hoarder, whose love of cats has passed the limits of sanity, to the end result that rescuing cats has turned into collecting them in numbers way beyond the rescuer's ability to properly maintain.

Mental illness often plays a role, as folks suffering with depression, bi-polar disease, and other forms of mental illness are naturally drawn to cats. Cats are wonderful therapy animals, and are nonjudgemental. They love without condition, a trait that makes them attractive to those of us with either mental or physical disabilities.

Financial reversal can also play a role in the stigma of "cat collecting." A colony of 15 to 20 rescued cats might be readily manageable by a married couple. But when death or divorce enters the picture, the resultant financial reversal becomes overwhelming, and the spectre of hoarding enters the picture.

Caboodle Ranch

Caboodle Ranch was the dreamchild of Craig Grant, who quite by accident, started the sanctuary in Northern Florida in 2003, with 11 cats. I featured Caboodle Ranch's blog as my Cat Blog of the Week, in April of 2008. In May of that year, at the request of either Craig or his assistant, Nanette, I featured the Caboodle Ranch Fence Fund in a blog. Caboodle Ranch then, and today, in my memory appeared to be a Utopian place for cats, one where they received food, veterinary care, shelter of many kinds, and exercise on 30 acres of forested land, to say nothing of the love, affection, and daily coddling by Craig Grant, the man who cared for them.

That love and daily coddling was evidenced by a number of videos on the Caboodle Ranch website.

And a satirical portent of events to come was created in The Colbert Report video of The Enemy Within - Caboodle Ranch, described as "In Lee, Florida, Craig Grant trains his 650 cats to take over America's government, law enforcement and failing schools." It is ironic that this broadcast was made in January of 2011, when certain events were already starting to unfold that would shock and horrify admirers and supporters of Caboodle Ranch.

Caboodle Ranch Shut Down, Owner Arrested

I was horrified and dismayed one morning by an ASPCA email alert that Craig Grant had been arrested on felony charges of animal cruelty. and that ASPCA was on the scene. My blog covering the breaking news was published that same day, on February 27, 2012. I was torn between shock, disbelief, and worry about the fate of the more than 700 cats who were being removed from Caboodle Ranch. And my illusions about this Utopian paradise for cats were starting to crumble as I viewed only the small fragment I could bear to watch of the video taken by a "volunteer," an undercover PeTa worker. If the validity of this video could be believed, Craig Grant was a monster, unfit to ever enjoy the company of a cat again.

As a writer, I have to keep an open mind, and as blog comments started to unfold, it was evident that Craig Grant still had tons of supporters, along with those who denigrated him because of less than pleasant experiences when dropping off cats at the sanctuary. On March 2nd and 3rd, 2012, I blogged an update on the Caboodle Ranch cats. They had been taken by the ASPCA to an undisclosed warehouse, where they were being triaged for veterinary care. It had not been reported yet that any of the cats had been destroyed, as had been the main fear of many readers.

Although the blog comments are mixed, many opinions lean toward a middle-of-the-road consensus that, although Craig Grant might be a man with good intentions who got in over his head, the law and more importantly, the cats of Caboodle Ranch, might have been served better had the ASPCA devoted its funds and its energies toward allowing the ranch to stay open, and helping Grant with cleanup and veterinary care of the cats. According to one blog comment by John Doppler Schiff, PetSmart Charities, Florida State Animal Response Coalition, the Atlanta Humane Society, the Humane Society of Broward County, Cat Depot, Bay Area Disaster Animal Response Team, RedRover, Good Mews Animal Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, and local law enforcement and animal control responded along with the ASPCA. Imagine how much good could have been done at Caboodle Ranch, which the cats consider home, rather than caged in a warehouse where they are undoubtedly frightened, with an unknown and tenuous future, at best. I've noticed instead, that both the ASPCA and PeTa are capitalizing on this tragedy by actively soliciting donations on their websites, using horrific photos of alleged Caboodle cats as "bait."

In the meantime, while I am still of mixed feelings, I can only wait for more news. In any case, Craig Grant does not deserve to be tried in the Court of Public Opinion. I agree with Dorian Wagner. In her blog article for Catster, she wrote, "But either way, it's important to realize that there are always two sides of every story. According to Caboodle Ranch's side, all of the sick and injured cats were being treated by a vet; the photos of the disgusting conditions released to the media were of a building that was closed off to cats and slated for demolition; and Craig is not the animal hoarder he's being made out to be, but a kind, caring person who lived his life for these cats and is now devastated without them."

For the time-being, I'm going to hold on to my illusions a bit longer, while praying for the cats of Caboodle Ranch.

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