Brooklyn Woman With 45 Cats Faced With Furry Dilemma

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Brooklyn woman who really loves cats says she is faced with a major predicament.

Barbara Berger, of Brighton Beach, said the landlord at her rent-stabilized apartment told her she had to decide between staying in the home and keeping her cats — all 45 of them.

“All my life, I felt animals were vulnerable and they do need help. And now I’m made to look like I’m an animal hoarder. I do try my best, you know, I spend an awful lot of money and time on caring for them and now I’m being criticized and possibly evicted and possibly homeless because these poor cats that I helped,” Berger told 1010 WINS on Friday.

Berger said she’s not willing to give up the apartment for the kitties, but needs help to place them in homes.

“I’m willing to give up a lot of the cats, but I want to stand by them. I don’t want to become homeless, I don’t want to give up what I have because it’s hard to live in this world. I don’t want to be homeless,” she said.

The woman said she has previously offered to keep just 10 of the cats, but the landlord of the apartment refused and said she could only keep 2.

Now, Berger is faced with a dilemma of wanting to keep and care for the felines or getting the boot from her apartment.

“These animals I helped — I did the best I could and whatever I could afford. A lot of the ASPCA turned their backs on me. I had some falling out with them because they wouldn’t take anything from me, they make me out to be a bad person.”

Share your thoughts in the comments section…

  • Stephanie Stewart

    I understand the landlord’s point of view but this person should be more willing to help the situation that hurt the lady who is trying to help the cats. Why is there no understanding or caring in this world anymore? And why is it that commenters only seem to make some stupid comments that have nothing to do with the article? It is not obvious at all this lady is mental in any way just because she is willing to do what so many of the commenters on this page refuse to do. What’s wrong with you people??

  • Woodsman

    Be cautious about suggesting that any cats rounded-up from outdoors be used for adoption or you could be held criminally responsible for destroying the lives and finances of families and their pets. There’s no way to know a wild-harvested cats’ vaccination history, if any, nor their exposure to all the deadly diseases cats carry. If a cat has contracted rabies then a vaccination against it later will do no good. It’s already too late. There’s also no reliable known test for rabies while keeping the animal alive. They really need to be destroyed after they are trapped. It’s the only sane and sensible solution. This is precisely why all wild-harvested animals in the world, of any type intended for the pet-industry, must undergo an extended quarantine period of up to 6 months before transfer or sale of those animals to prevent just these things. Cats are no different than any other animal when harvested from the wild. You’re just risking this following story happening in every shelter across the land.

    Adopting any cat that’s been taken from outdoors is just playing Russian Roulette.

    Stray-cats, the very source of all feral-cats, need to be euthanized too or you’ll never be rid of the feral-cat problem.

    I found some surprising things about all the diseases these invasive-species vermin are now spreading throughout the USA.

    These are just the diseases they’ve been spreading to humans, not counting the ones they spread to all wildlife. THERE ARE NO VACCINES against many of these, and are in-fact listed as bio-terrorism agents. They include: Campylobacter Infection, Cat Scratch Disease, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Plague, Rabies, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection, Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasma. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010] Sarcosporidiosis, Flea-borne Typhus, and Tularemia can now also be added to that list.

    • bxgrrl

      – and the stray cats who beget the feral cats, exist because of human indifference. A would-be kindhearted rescuer could take the cat to a vet immediately to determine its health status and act accordingly. Then that removes the need for anyone to enumerate possible cat-borne diseases like Chicken Little::”Plague”, for Gods’s sake!) Every illlness I’ve ever caught has come from a human and so far no one has suggested I cut off contacts with them. Relax. If cats were so infectioius with microbes we’d all be dead already.

      • Nature Fan

        Hey MORON! You cannot determine the “health status” of a cat taken from outdoors unless you quarantine it for up to 6 months to determine if they have rabies or not. Since no community anywhere has the funding nor room to house that many trapped feral or stray cats for that long to determine their health-status, they MUST BE DESTROYED or risk spreading rabies to humans. AS HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE.

        Is your brain so infected with cats’ T. gondii parasites that you can no longer think clearly? That would be my guess.

        To further educate your astoundingly ignorant self — CATS spreading The Plague Today:
        www DOT ncbi DOT nlm DOT nih DOT gov SLASH pubmed SLASH 8059908
        www DOT pagosasun DOT com SLASH archives SLASH 2011 SLASH 07July SLASH 072811 SLASH webplague DOT html

  • Don Ric

    ANN GILLIN, how the f_ _ _ do you know what condition this woman’s house is in. just because you have lowlife tenants who live in squalor in your apartments, that doesn’t mean all people are pigs like you. you sound like a heartless animal hating SOB. i would like to thank all the folks who supported barbara with they’re posts.
    i do realize that 45 cats is unimanigable however, maybe we can start some kind of a fund to help barbara financially, and to also get many of the cats placed in loving homes. i would be willing to help her for ANN GILLIN, you sound like a blood thirsty lawyer. karma.

  • ann gillin

    As a landlord, he will have to rip up the carpets, the plywood underneath, all the sheet rock and ceiling, as the ammonia odor will still reek the place up for probably a good year,,,he has lost a lot of money to this woman who probably lied about the amount of cats in the apartment for a long time,,hiding cats in her coat to get them into the building to her apartment, so the landlord is at fault for allowing this woman to do what she did over a period of time. Problem is she has more rights than the landlord, he should immediately hand her a thirty day eviction letter. There is no way he will recoup any funding for repairs from this woman or this agency that handles the subsidized housing. The condition of that apartment will leave the landlord in a bad way for months until he can re-rent it. It will take a long time to get that odor out. I would be furious. what gives the right to this woman to financially cripple another person for a dog or cat. If this was there own property, they would never allow it. Period. But since it isn’t their own property, they don’t care. And they have the protection of the HUD housing cause she is subsidized by the government on her rent and probably food stamps, heat, electrical as well as medical. So how could she afford 45 cats when she can’t even buy her own food. Really should be turned in to the fraud division. Mentally ill or not,,it is a clean case of defrauding the government for benefits. I know that most HUD families are dirt poor and even with the benefits, they have a hard time existing on the benefits they get to feed a family of four, much less 45 cats,,. Turn them in right away. That is our tax dollars feeding this woman’s cats. Fraud plain and simple.

    • Tara

      You don’t know anything about Barbara Ann Gillin, I know her very well she is a sweet lady, and as for Tax dollars Barbara collects cans and bottles to feed her cats, so don’t talk what you don’t know, get your facts straight

    • Lisanne!

      There’s no fraud here. Barbara makes the most of what she has, Her needs are not your needs,;she wants little, and `sacrifices greatly for her cats. The world would be a much better place if there were more Barbara Bergers. If there were, she wouldn’t feel the need to take on as much responsibility as she does currently.

    • Andrew Kent

      Barbara cleans her cat boxes daily, and many people who have been to her apartment were surprised that it was as clean and relatively free of odors as it was. The apartment does not appear to be physically damaged, and, because the landlord and super seldom make repairs, she has had to maintain the apartment at her own expense. She does struggle to feed her cats, buying cat food in bulk, or accepting donated food and litter, and she often collects bottles and cans so that she can purchase food and supplies without depleting her meager disability benefits.

      She lives very frugally, giving priority to her cats as if they were her children. I once suggested to her that, if she had fewer cats to care for, she’d have more of a life, to which she replied that her cats were her life and that caring for cats is what she does.and enjoys doing.

      The landlord knew that she had at least some cats shortly after she moved in and even allowed her to have a large dog, which she had for many years until it passed away.. Other tenants in the building have pets, so the lease’s “no pet” clause is seldom, if ever, enforced. And I have spoken with numerous people in the rescue community who also have large numbers of pets in residential spaces with no objection from their landlords.

      What you are describing is a worst case scenario, perhaps from your own experience with an alleged animal hoarder, and such a situation could just as easily result from far fewer cats if the owner didn’t clean up after them.

      Barbara pays her rent and tries to be a good citizen, and could hardly be accused of defrauding the government by doing in her limited way what she feels government, itself, should be doing for homeless animals. This is a landlord-tenant dispute for which there are legal remedies that are currently being negotiated. In fact, under the proposed stipulation to be signed in March, she will be allowed additional time to place all but two of her cats, waive her right under the NY Pet Law to litigate the question of the ten she wants to keep, and either remain in the apartment if she complies, be evicted if she doesn’t, or, move to a pet-friendly building with her ten personal cats before the deadline, effectively rendering the proceedings moot. If she does, as you say, “have more rights than the landlord,” then why is the landlord calling the shots?

      • mak

        You are enabling her. I understand that you feel for her situation but you are not doing her any favors by excusing her behavior or trying to push this as ‘normal’ behavior.

        I have no doubts that she meant well but at what point does she stop? And where do her rights end and other people’s eights begin? She has to learn limitations, for herself and for those around her. I find it very unfair of you to villify the landlord. It’s FORTY-FIVE cats. And because all are not spayed/neutured there is great potential for more kittens being born in that apartment. I mean, really … what exactly do you want the landlord to do? Barbara may have been promising him this whole time that she was going to get rid of some of the cats but when she didn’t keep her promises he had no choice but to act legally. Again, the question stands: Where do her rights end and other people’s right begin?

    • Lore

      Actually, the floors in her place are absolutely beautiful. They’re in great condition. I know when I went in I was expecting what I’ve seen in the past- however, that really isn’t the case with Barbara.

      She’s also in the process of working with the cat rescue I’m affiliated with in order to find good homes for the majority of her cats. She didn’t grab them for reasons hoarders do- usually because of obsessive gathering. True hoarders, it isn’t about the well being of the animals, it’s just about gathering them up. I’ve seen nightmares, starving cats running around in their own filth, dead one mixed in with the live… wounds with larvae in them- horrors and nightmares.

      When I went in I was expecting the worst, and that isn’t the case with Barbara.

      The floors are in wonderful shape, the cats are cared for and fed. They’re friendly, outgoing- if you sit down they all come running, and not in the “I never get attention” kind of way. The cats are calm and relaxed, not frantic at all.

      When we brought a group to the vet this morning, they brought us into the office expecting horrors, and were shocked at how good the cat’s conditions were.

      Worst thing any of the cats had was a bit of gingivitis and polyps in the ears, which had already been seen by another vet- and they’re not cancer. That cat’s an older cat, but a very very healthy weight, so it’s clear he really wasn’t showing signs of distress and able to eat just fine.

      The woman collects cans to feed the cats. She isn’t frauding the system, it’s not like she gets food stamps and gets places to ring them up as food, then she laughs while eating steak… she lives her life in a way where she’ll go without any and all frills, to make sure the cats are cared for.

      There is no fraud going on, you’re not talking about feeding a family of 4, you’re talking about feeding a bunch of cats, which ends up a lot cheaper than trying to feed a family- our tax dollars are feeding her, and her collecting bottles and cans are feeding the cats.

      These are big accusations to be throwing around without actual proof.

  • Andrew Kent

    I am among several people who have been working with Barbara to find placements for her cats, and we do have a few commitments to take at least some of the younger and more adoptable ones, several of which are still kittens. The problem is that some of the cats still must be spayed or neutered, medically evaluated, and vaccinated before they can be placed in private homes, and many of the rescue groups and shelters that may have this capability are already filled to the max, many with cats they have been rescuing on just a few hours’ notice from the City’s Animal Care & Control Agency’s infamous death row. Add to this the increase in abandonment and decrease in adoptions due to the troubled economy, and the crisis for homeless animals, like the crisis in human homelessness, continues to spiral out of control.

    Barbara is concerned that, if her cats aren’t adopted or placed for adoption in no-kill shelters, they will end up at AC&C, where many may be euthanized, either because they are too old or feral, or simply for administrative convenience to free up cage space for younger and more adoptable cats. This constant threat of extermination is why so many who begin as well-intentioned animal rescuers evolve into so-called “animal hoarders,” caring for more cats than they can handle if only to save them from a far worse fate.

    Ironically, one cat Barbara rescued from AC&C’s kill list some fifteen years ago may again face euthanasia if taken by AC&C, this time due to its age. With luck, she will be able to find sanctuaries for the several older cats where they will be able to live out their final years in comfort and freedom.

    I have sent emails to more than 150 local rescue groups, shelters, sanctuaries, animal activists, and advocates, have posted on dozens of Facebook pages, and am now following up with phone calls. If just a fraction of those reading our plea w0uld take just one or two cats, Barbara’s and her cats’ dilemma can be solved. In the meantime, we are hoping for offers of free or low-cost vetting, transportation, legal advice or advocacy, and leads on pet-friendly buildings in the Brighton Beach/Sheepshead Bay area so that Barbara can move with the ten personal cats she hopes to keep before she is evicted for having more than the two to which the landlord has agreed.,

    There’s a lot more to this story, so, if you want to know more or can help in some way, please email me at or call me at (718) 791-3628. Thank you for letting me share :)

    • Lore

      I’ve been working with the Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella who’s helping Barbara with her situation.

      We spent all morning at the vet gettting cats tested; vaccinated; de-wormed (Just to be on the safe side! This stuff is just routine) and checked out for our adoption/foster event at petco on stillwell avenue on March 2-11, the cats are surprisingly healthy and so super friendly!

      Donations, if anyone would like to contribute, need to go out to Dr. Robinson so that we can continue to bring more cats in on friday. North shore is taking 5 cats and I’m going to be driving them there in the coming week.

      Dr. Robinson
      1951 Bath Avenue
      Brooklyn 11223
      718 256 1900

      I was sitting in the vet’s office this morning with 6 of her cats, in the office with 2 other people. There was no smell coming from the cats at all. It’s easy to clean an apartment- but if cats come from certain conditions, the smell sticks with them for quite a while, even with baths- and there was no sign of that at all.

  • jimmytheK

    That’s right Catwoman, you tell ’em! lol. Actually 45 cats in an apartment is trouble that’s cruel to the cats. There are so many children who could be adopted, but i know of no one who has adopted 45 kids. One person cannot deal with 45 cats – let alone human beings at the same time. Even 10 is too many for an apartment! This woman sounds like the tenant from hell. THe cat lady may have good intentions, but this would be yet another example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Again, this is terrible for the cats who now face a higher risk of being put to sleep since no-kill shelters are few and far between. Having watched what goes on at a nearby shelter, sometimes it can take a while for cats to be placed. Shame on this kooky lady.

  • Lyndee

    Honestly 45 is too much – I have 8 – live in a large home with an outside cat run and it’s too much – cats really need one-on-one time with their humans – you cannot provide that to 45 – let the shelters help you find loving homes for the kitties so THEY can have a better life – it’s what’s best for THEM. You may miss them and your heart will break – but they will have a much richer life with a human who has more time for them. I foster and place many cats every year – my heart breaks every time one leave – but it’s what’s best for them – I keep in touch with many and they get so much more from someone who doesn’t have 44 other cats.

    • UUUnicorn

      “Cats really need one-on-one time with their humans”

      Actually, this is why I’m for people having fewer children, too. As one in four kids in my own family, I had little to no one-on-one time with either of my parents. The quality of life of the family as a unit suffers more and more the more children are born in a family (not enough attention, love, food, money to go around, so the “family pie” has to be sliced ever thinner for each member).

      • Andrew Kent

        Most of the cats that Barbara rescued were strays that had very little human contact, although some were abandoned house pets who would not have survived for long on the street. She would love to see them placed in loving adoptive or foster homes, but, if loving homes are not forthcoming, they could spend months in shelter cages awaiting adoption or simply be euthanized by the City’s Animal Care & Control agency. Many of these cats are Barbara’s personal pets and were known to the landlord for some time, and, were Barbara to go to trial over the ten she wants to keep, she might actually win. But, with 45 cats, she, and all but two of them, are at risk.

  • mak

    45 cats!!! Jimminy Chtistmas!!! Unless you’re changing the litter box at least once a day, that place has got to smell to high heaven. I would HATE to live next door to her.

    45 cats … that’s ridiculous.

  • Nonya

    Come on 45 cats! This is such a health hazard. This woman obviously has mental issues. To hell with the cats.

    • Catwoman

      Nonya, I bet she smells better than you! There are people in this world who can take care of a lot of pets without it being a health hazard.Just for your information, cats are very clean creatures and it doesn’t take much to clean up after them. I would prefer to be her neighbor than a heartless waste of life like you.

      • sivyaleah

        Cat living under those conditions become stressed, due to competition for food, water, litter box needs , let alone the aggression that will build for mating purposes. Nothing is worse for a cat’s behavior than being stressed out. It leads to all types of issues, such as not using the litter box, vomiting, tearing up furniture, constant loud vocalizations, excessive grooming, and other problems which make them incredibly unhappy.

        They do not, like living with that many other cats. They are basically solitary creatures. Being forced to live in a small apartment with that many other “companions” is mentally and physically abusive to them.

        And yes, I’m a cat owner. One. One loving kitty. And he’s more than enough.

        • Lore

          I was there, she makes the effort to pay attention to her cats, and they’re actually quite happy, and relaxed cats. The floors aren’t discolored which is what happens over time if the cats consistently go outside of the box, and from what I’ve seen, it seems they’re kept up with.

          If an apartment gets smelly because of cats, even if you clean the apartment and that doesn’t smell- the cats pick up the scent. That scent stays even if the cat is washed, it comes back. It takes at least a week, if not over a month at times.

          Her cats don’t have that stale odor that most cats kept in those numbers picked up. I commented somewhere else that I was at the vet’s office with the rescue group and six of the cats, in a very small waiting room, with 2 other people, and there was no smell at all.

          And the vet was shocked at how friendly the cats were. They were expecting severely neglected cats, and were also surprised what good condition they were in.

          I’ve seen hoarder horror stories before first hand, and this is not that kind of situation.

    • bxgrrl

      Somehow I suspect that you’d say “to hell with the cats” even if she had NONE, so STFU.

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