Monday, June 2, 2008

The Disturbing Tale of "Foreclosure Cat"

Photo by Pam P.

A very nice and (I might add) humane real estate agent told me this story by email. She didn't indicate she wanted her name attached to this disturbing tale...

I was on one of my routine walks around the neighborhood, looking at houses and trying to keep track of which ones were going from occupied to vacant, vacant to boarded, boarded to for sale, etc. It's an ever-changing environment, as you no doubt know from your own neighborhood.

In the course of this, I heard the sound of a cat mewing loudly. I looked all around but so no cat. It drove me a bit crazy for a minute or two until I looked UPWARD and saw it.

This skinny little gray cat was in the third-story window of a boarded up house on 3rd. My first thought was: "Oh, crap, there's no way for it to get out!"

It's difficult to accurately describe the shape of the front of the house, but suffice it to say there was no way for the cat to get onto the roof from that [open] front attic window. Also, since the only tree in the front is not close enough to the house, getting onto the roof would be just what the cat needed to do in order to reach a different tree in the rear and, hopefully, skitter down.

At that time there was no sign in the yard, and I believe the house was just listed or about to be listed. Fortunately, there was a sign in the window indicating the brokerage name. I called to inform them about this apparent prisoner. I had no idea how long this house had been boarded and I was freaking out because the cat most likely had no access to water save that little bit of snow which might collect on the window ledge. (It was still very cold and snowy then)

By the way...this was one of Shirley Guevara's houses.

[Boo. Hiss.]

So I left a message about the cat, and then called the intermediary company which schedules showings for many brokers and got the code to enter the house the next day. When I arrived, the cat was no longer in the window. There was, however, a creepy guy across the street (coming from yet ANOTHER Guevara house) who tried to follow me into the house when I entered the first floor apartment.

Yikes! I locked myself against his banging on the door.

Looking around, I found no sign of the cat and no way to get to the upper units from this first floor apartment. So I waited around until the weird guy took off in his car and went back out to try the keys on the other doors. No luck. They were barricaded from within!

After several calls to the broker's office, I was ready to give up. They just kept telling me, "No, the doors should work fine, someone from our office was just there, not barricaded, blah blah blah."

I suggested that perhaps somebody was in the house and had nailed up the VISIBLE boards across the doors themselves. Didn't get too much reaction to that. So after a frustrating day of not knowing what to do, I went back with my husband and two neighbors in hopes that the added brainpower would help in determining how the heck to gain access.

Oh, and in the meantime I also called Animal Control. They said that they could try to rescue the cat, but only if they could gain approved access. Without that, they would need a court order and police assistance to break down the doors.

[Public policy wonks who read this blog: Take note]

So we went back, and messed around with all the doors again, trying to figure out what was going on. Still couldn't get them open. FINALLY my neighbors asked if they could at least see the first floor unit anyway. We went in and, this time, MIRACULOUSLY somehow amid all the trash and crap everywhere, my Maglight lit upon what appeared to be a padlock key on the floor inside the first floor apartment. Since there was ONE additional door in the back that was double-padlocked and not boarded from within, we went out to give the key a try...and it worked!

So we went upstairs and it was a shocking sight. EVERY floor, mattress and other surface in EVERY room was positively covered in food garbage and cat feces. It seemed as though this cat had been in the house for an EXTREMELY long time by itself. I mean, we're talking about several months worth of cat [expletive], at least judging by the volume my own two felines produce in their tidy little box at home.

It was the first time I found myself feeling grateful that the previous occupants had left all kinds of food in open cupboards and the refridgerators, the doors of which were--of course--open.

[How do you know cat didn't grow clever by sheer desperation and pull the doors open with its little cat paws?]

And there was absolutely no water anywhere, of course. The toilets had long ago been drained, though people had continued to use them, if you know what I mean.

[Unfortunately, I know all too well and I'll just say this: 2125 Lyndale Avenue North. 415 30th Avenue North]

We looked everywhere for the cat, as well as for possible means of escape for it and found nothing. The only opening that we could located was the single open window in the attic and since there was no stairway to the attic (where did THAT go?) we had to climb an old ladder to even get to the attic...what a mess.

Ultimately, we left without finding the cat and we had to wonder if it was hiding or dead. I subsequently called the broker's office AGAIN to update them on the discovery of the key, the horrid state of the upper levels of the house, and the fact the cat appeared to still be somewhere around. The person with whom I spoke actually told me they WEREN'T SURE if they were going to "trash out" that building. I think I may have had a mild freak out in response.

The next morning I did the only other thing I could think of. I took a gallon of water, two big Rubbermaid containers, and some cat food and trudged back through the sleet to that godforsaken house.

Incredibly, when I arrived I found a trash out crew, almost done with their cleaning. I asked if anybody had encountered the cat and they said yes, they had left all the (non-barricaded) doors open (the stench in the house was phenomenal, of course) and at some point they had seen a gray cat skulking into the yard.

And that was the end of that. In spite of walking that block nearly every day since, I have never seen the cat again. Nor have I been in the house since, though I will have to go again soon, since we're putting it on our neighborhood vacant home tour.

The house really has a lot of potential.

(A note about the photo on this post. This cat belongs to a woman who lives on my "northern perimeter." It replaces an image I had before of a bizarre, disturbing cat per her request. Johnny Northside aims to please--!

Well, not all the time, but in this instance)


Ranty said...

Why ya gotta go and make the cat look all crazy like that?!? Jeeeeeez.

It was actually a very sweet-looking little thing.

I hope it's okay.

Johnny Northside said...

I hope it's OK, too.

I'll make a deal with you. Send me an image I can use of what cute foreclosure kitty *really* looked like, (or close enough) and I'll print it under the heading "the true face of foreclosure kitty according to one eye witness."

Or something like that.

But, hey, this picture gets attention and readers. And hopefully they take away a desire to perform similar kindnesses. got the address of that place?

Ranty said...

Of course I do, but I shan't be disclosing that on the internet at this time.

I WILL give you a hint though: this particular forlorn residence will be featured on the Central Neighborhood Vacant Home Tour this-coming Saturday. If you would like to see it, there's your (and your readers') chance.

The trolley departs from the Midtown Global Market at 10:30AM.