TRAVIS — Animal rescuers are searching for homes for more than 70 cats that were abandoned in a Staten Island apartment when their owner moved out of the country, a rescue group said.
Rescuers with Staten Island Abandoned Cats found the animals living in squalor in the one-bedroom apartment and basement at the beginning of February, the group said. The woman who owned the cats contacted the rescue group after she moved out of the Travis flat.
Staten Island Abandoned Cats is now struggling to find homes for the dozens of cats before the lease on the apartment expires at the end of the month. The group set up a Facebook page in an attempt to get the cats adopted.
"We're just doing anything possible to get these animals a loving, safe home," said organizer Dawn La Peruta. "We're doing everything possible and we're doing it 24/7."
So far, the group has found homes for about 25 cats and secured a space this week to house the animals after the lease on the Travis home expires.
The cats' original owner, whom La Peruta refused to name, tried to be an animal rescuer but eventually just began to hoard a large number of cats.
She used the basement of her home to keep a large feral cat population, along with other caged cats.
When rescuers first got into the apartment, La Peruta said it was dirty, smelly and had cats everywhere.
"It was a wreck," she said. "There was no light [in the basement]. It was dirty. They were depressed."
The group cleaned the entire apartment, took all the cats to vets and then started to work on getting them new homes, La Peruta said.
La Peruta said the original owner of the cats left the country to attend a family member's funeral, and told a fellow rescuer, April Soto, in February that she wouldn't be coming back to America.
La Peruta said one of the group's volunteers is at the apartment 24 hours a day taking care of the cats.
"It's a blessing in disguise," she said. "It was good for the animals — so many of them are coming out of their shells. They're being pet, they're being played with."
The group has also been trying to raise money to put the feral cats in an animal sanctuary. It plans to apply to become a nonprofit organization to continue to help the animals.
The group has also organized comedy fundraisers to pay for the cats' medical expenses, with the next one planned for April at Docks Bar & Grill in Stapleton.
For information on adopting a cat, visit the donation page or call Dawn La Peruta at 718-909-9403.