Cats scamper from under a porch Tuesday morning into a hole under a house at 113 7th St. in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Police over the past two days have removed more than two dozen cats from a house in Auburn after neighbors had complained for nearly a week about “filthy” conditions at the 7th Street home.

At about 7 p.m. Monday, neighbors began reporting that several of the cats had been removed from the home, a two-story, multi-family house near the corner of 7th and Fulton streets. More cats were removed on Tuesday although some remained. 

Early estimates were that 80 stray cats had been gathered at the home, although investigators said the total number was closer to 35. By midday Tuesday, 25 cats had been removed from the house at 113 7th St.

Police had been working on the situation, with the help of their animal control officer and the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, for at least a week after the issue was reported by a number of neighbors. 

Since last week, hundreds of area people had been discussing the matter on social media, many of them condemning police and animal control agents for lack of action. 

According to Katie Lisnik, executive director of the shelter, a plan had been in place for some of the cats on 7th Street to be surrendered, but online gossip and other actions taken by neighbors at times aggravated the situation. 


A cat peeks out the window Tuesday morning at 113 7th St. in Auburn. With nearly three dozen cats living in the house, city officials have fielded complaints from neighbors and have been working with police and others to relocate the cats. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“This is a home that we have already been working with in conjunction with Auburn animal control,” Lisnik said, “but many caring people feel they have to rush in and save the animals, not recognizing that they are actually becoming more of a hindrance than a help. I don’t say this to discourage people from helping, but to try to channel people to better ways of assisting. If we weren’t so full of stray cats, we would have the space to assist the cats who truly need us.” 

On 7th Street, neighbors described dirty and dangerous conditions with nearly three dozen cats occupying the home. 

“The place is beyond filthy,” one neighbor wrote, “a public disaster waiting to happen.” 

At least one kitten was found dead by people who went to the home to investigate. Photos emerged of that cat, along with several others, some which showed open sores and other health concerns. In another image, a mother cat is scene nursing kittens on a bare floor in a room strewn with various debris. Holes can be seen in unfinished walls and makeshift cat litter boxes are scattered throughout the house. 

In still other photos, massive clusters of cats can be seen gathered in dirty, cluttered rooms surrounded by various garbage and debris, including discarded food. 

Several neighbors reported that a couple had been occupying the house for more than a year and that the Department of Health and Human Services had been called in at one point. 


The house was said to be in foreclosure. 

On the city side, Director of Planning and Permitting Eric J. Cousins said there is a plan for city inspectors to follow up at the home later in the week. Earlier attempts to gain compliance from the homeowner, he said, failed.

“The city code staff has been working to get the property cleaned up for a number of months,” Cousins said. “We secured a court date when we were unable to achieve voluntary compliance with the owner. We were successful in obtaining a court order for the property cleanup in July with a compliance date of Aug. 18, and civil penalties and legal fees awarded to the city.

“We will be following up after the 19th on the trash and debris violations to verify compliance and determine if a contempt of court motion is needed,” Cousins said. “The animal issues are being handled by Auburn police and they are making progress moving cats to shelters, but there is not enough shelter capacity for all of the cats at one time. We are trying to achieve compliance and will continue to work with the owner and the court as needed to get the cleanup completed.”

At about 3 p.m. Tuesday, one neighbor reported driving by 113 7th St. and seeing several cats on the porch roof at the front of the home. It was not clear how many of the animals remained inside the house.

While several cats jump in and out of this window, some using a nearby tree to get up and down from 113 7th St. in Auburn, this one opts to just sit and watch Tuesday, moving aside when another wants to get in or out. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Number of strays up, adoptions down

The issue of stray cats has been a problem just about everywhere, Lisnik said, and that problem dates back to the pandemic. 


Presently, the Humane Society and animal control officials are dealing with another cat colony in Lewiston, this one aggravated by the presence of Panleukopenia, a viral disease sometimes known as feline distemper. 

That colony is located around Fireslate Place in Lewiston, an area dominated mostly by warehouses and empty buildings in a rural stretch off Old Farm Road, which itself runs off outer College Street. 

In that case, animal officials said the cats appeared to have been dumped in the area. Early estimates were that nearly 200 stray cats were around Fireslate Place, although most believe that estimate to be high. 

Animal officials are working to capture the cats in that area, although so far it’s slow going. That issue, too, has been exacerbated by well-meaning neighbors said to have been feeding the strays.

“The panleuk colony is ongoing,” Lisnik said. “The challenge with cat situations like these is that they take time. Cats are not easy to catch if they don’t want to be caught. Trapping is a skill and requires a lot of patience. Trap/neuter/return works but only if we’re all coordinated and working towards the same goal — a caring citizen putting food out in the midst of a colony being trapped will actually hinder the attempts to help. A kitty with a full tummy will not set foot in a trap.” 

Lisnik said the shelter has been vexed by an increase of animals brought to the shelter along with a decline in the number of people adopting. This trouble, too, dates back to the days of COVID-19. 


“During the pandemic, we saw lower numbers of animals in need, and adoptions were very high,” she said. “We started to see those trends shift in 2022, but 2023 has brought a total change — a large increase in animals coming in as strays and owner-surrenders, and a significant slow-down in adoptions. We are not unique. This is happening nationwide and is severely taxing shelters and rescues including ours. 

“We also saw a significant slowdown in the veterinary world during the pandemic,” Lisnik said, “and pet owners are still struggling to get appointments, to find a vet to take on a newly acquired animal, or to pay for costs associated with care. Spay/neuter has become tougher and tougher to access and we are now seeing that impact — dozens of pregnant cats and kittens flooding into the shelter every week. We’re bailing the ocean with a thimble because we have resource and veterinary restraints of our own. We have over a hundred animals on a waitlist to assist with spay/neuter with dozens more pet owners calling us every week and seeking services.” 

Again, Lisnik said, people with good intentions often aggravate the overabundance of cats at the shelter by rushing in to help when help may not be needed. To help a distressed animal is the right impulse, Lisnik was quick to add. It’s just that situations are not always as they appear. 

“For many years, shelters pushed the message that if you see a cat outside, it must be a stray and that cat should be brought to the shelter ASAP,” she said. “That is an outdated and often harmful message now. So many stray cats are actually lost or just out for a walk because they are let outside by their owners. When they are brought to the shelter, the likelihood that they will be reunited with their family diminishes sharply, and we’re left with yet another cat we have to find a new home for.” 

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