Sarah Hartwell, 2014

Animal hoarding has probably existed for as long as that animal has been domesticated, though documentary evidence only covers the last a few hundred years. Possibly some of the "witches" of the middle ages were "cat ladies" whose accusers were fed up with the dozens of feline "familiars." Women seem more likely than men to become animal hoarders, whereas men tend to collect objects or pursue "spotter" type hobbies. Perhaps an underlying compulsion to collect manifests differently in men and women. Unlike multi-animal households, hoarders don't recognise their limits; their living conditions become overcrowded, unsanitary and unhealthy and their hoarding affects their neighbours' wellbeing.

In London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. III by Henry Mayhew (1851), the author gave an account of similar eccentrics and hoarders that were mentioned to him in interviews with cats' meat men:- The carriers frequently serve as much as ten pennyworths to one person in a day. . . there was one woman - a black - who used to have as much as 16 pennyworths each day. This person used to go out on the roof of the house and throw it to the cats on the tiles. By this she brought so many stray cats round about the neighbourhood, that the parties in the vicinity complained; it was quite a nuisance. She would have the meat always brought to her before ten in the morning, or else she would send to a shop for it, and between ten and eleven in the morning the noise and cries of the hundreds of stray cats attracted to the spot was “terrible to hear.” When ‘the meat was thrown to the cats on the roof, the riot, and confusion, and fighting, was beyond description. “A beer-shop man,” I was told, “was obliged to keep five or six dogs to drive the cats from his walls.” There was also a mad woman in Islington, who used to have 14 lbs of meat a day. The party who supplied her had his money often at 2 pounds and 3 pounds (sterling) at a time. She had as many as thirty cats at times in her house. Every stray one that came she would take in and support. The stench was so great that she was obliged to be ejected.


The Morning Chronicle and the Morning Post reported the case of “AN OLD MAID AND HER CATS.” The London Standard reported it the following day (A MENAGERIE OF CATS). The Westmorland Gazette reported the case on Saturday 29 March 1856 as “A MENAGERIE OF CATS” and the Reading Mercury reported it as “EXTRAORDINARY CAT NUISANCE.”

Manchester Times, 29 March 1856: Eliza Rushton, a maiden lady, mentally imbecile, was brought before Mr. Elliott, at the Lambeth Police Court, on the charge of rendering her house a nuisance to the neighbourhood by keeping a large number of half-starved cats about a l her. The rooms were encrusted with nuisances sending forth e the foulest stenches. The magistrate made an order for the ad cleansing of the place.

LAMBETH - London Evening Standard, 3 April 1856

Yesterday, Mr. Willman, the inspector of nuisances of the parish of St, George-the-Martyr, Southwark, attended before the Hon. G. C. Norton to complain of the continuance of the nuisance of Miss Elizabeth Rushton, a maiden lady, residing in Cross-street, in the parish. Mr. Willman said that on Monday week, he summoned Miss Rushton to this court to show cause why she should not be called on to remove a most intolerable nuisance, and the charge having been clearly established against her, the presiding magistrate, Mr. Elliott, directed that the nuisance should be removed within seven days. On that (yesterday) morning he (Mr. Wilman) visited the house to ascertain whether or not the magistrate's direction had been complied with, and found that though the filth on the floors of the parlours and bed-room had been removed, the cats still remained, and no doubt that while ten such animals were kept, the place would very soon be as bad as ever. The order to the removal of the nuisance was then made out, and placed in the hands of the proper officer for carrying out.

MISERABLE OLD MAID - Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser , 4 April 1856

At the Lambeth Police Court, London, on Monday week, Eliza Rushton, a maiden lady, who was said to possess some property, and who has for some years exhibited considerable eccentricity of manner," was charged with keeping her house in such a state to be a nuisance and injurious to the public health. Mr George Willman, inspector of nuisances, deposed that on the 13th inst. he visited the premises of the defendant. The house was in a very dilapidated state, the whole of the glass in the windows having been for some years demolished, and the shutters were in consequence continually closed. By the aid of a next-door neighbour he was enabled to obtain an entrance into the defendant's house by the back way, and on going along the passage into the back-room he perceived the most intolerable stench it was possible to imagine, and on reaching the back-room itself, at once saw the cause. A number of half-starved cats, like so many hungry wolves, came purring towards him, but the same time kept at respectable distance from him. Having previously learnt the name of the defendant, called out "Eliza," once or twice, and the defendant made her appearance; then asked her how many cats she had got ? She replied that she had then only ten, but she used to keep as many as twenty. The floors of the back and front parlours and the bed-room of the defendant were deeply encrusted with the dung of the cats, and the stench was dreadful. The whole premises were in such a state to be an intolerable nuisance, and dangerous to public health. Mr William Rindle, medical officer, deposed that visited the house of the defendant, and found it in the disgusting state described by Mr Willman. It was wholly unfitted for the residence of a human being. On calling out for defendant, she approached him with a cat under each arm, but he could not learn anything from her. She seemed disinclined to communicate anything to him, and it appeared to him that, in addition to eccentricity, her mind seemed to be affected. The cats, from apparent want of care or proper feeding, seemed to him to have a mangy appearance, and, if affected with that disease, it was most improper that their owner should continue to fondle and nurse them so. Mr Elliott remarked that humanity towards the unfortunate defendant herself should lead to an immediate abatement of the nuisance complained of, and he should therefore make an order that it removed within a week.

According to other versions: It appeared to [Rindle] that she was more than eccentric. An attorney, who attended on behalf of the defendant, said his first impression was that the present proceedings had originated with the landlord of the premises, who had been in the habit of treating his client harshly, although she paid him her rent regularly; but, after hearing the evidence adduced, he was quite ready to admit that case of nuisance had been made out, and it should be remedied as soon as possible. Mr. Elliott remarked, that humanity towards the unfortunate defendant herself should lead to an immediate abatement of the nuisance; he should, therefore, make an order that it be removed within a week.

THE OLD MAID AND HER CATS. - News of the World, 6th April, 1856 in “The Police Courts” section. The reporters spelled the names differently in the two reports.

Mr Wilman, the inspector of nuisances, attended to complain of the continuance of the nuisance at the residence of Miss Elizabeth Rushton, a maiden lady residing in Cross-street in the parish. _ Mr Wilman said that last week he summoned Miss Rushton, to show cause why she should not be called on to remove a most intolerable nuisance, and, the charge having been clearly established against her, the presiding magistrate directed that the nuisance should be removed within seven days. On that morning he visited the house, and found that, though the filth on the floors of the parlours and bed-room had been removed, the cats still remained, and no doubt, while 10 such animals were kept, the place would very soon be as bad as ever. The real cause of the nuisance was the cats, and, as long as they were kept, it was hopeless to get rid of it. – Mr Norton observed that he should much prefer the applicant seeing his colleague, Mr Elliott, who had heard the case, on the subject, but as the nuisance was not removed he had better take the order. – The order for the removal of the nuisance was then made out, and placed in the hands of the officer.

The case was belatedly reported in the Devizes & Wiltshire Gazette on the 17th April as “A CAT PLAGUE,” but after this the public had stronger stories to follow: a series of poisonings in Leeds and an execution.

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CLERKENWELL - Birmingham Daily Post, 30th May 1872

Are cats a nuisance ? Mr. COOKE, the stipendiary magistrate at Clerkenwell, was asked to decide this question yesterday, and as the feline race has so recently received honorary recognition by a special cat show at the Crystal Palace, he must, and evidently did, find it hard to decide as to the merits of poor pussy. The application was not made with reference to a single tabby, nor as to a brace of midnight "mol-rowers," but with respect to a small colony of cats which an enthusiastic admirer named ADAMS kept in the front room of a lodging-house. The Inspector of Nuisances said there were fifteen or sixteen, cats in this room, which was used as a living and sleeping room by ADAMS and his family. The effluvium arising from them was so offensive that the lodgers in the upper part of the house had complained to the Vestry, who had instituted the present application for a summons. The Stipendiary did not see that he could interfere with anyone for keeping cats, but he adjourned the case for the attendance of some of the biped lodgers.


This item from the Indianapolis Evening Journal,February 6, 1872 mentions two hoarders in its "ABOUT CATS" columns on Page 2: Died, in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, Mrs. Gregg, a lady between fifty and sixty years of age, remarkable for her benevolence to cats, no fewer than eighty being entertained under her hospitable roof at the same. Her maids being frequently tired of their attendance on such numerous household, she was reduced at last to take a black woman to attend upon and feed them. She left this sable attendant an annuity, condition on the due care and sustenance of the cats. So said Sylvanus Urban, eight years ago. And there have been other cases nearly similar; such as that of a gentleman at Hackney, who earned for himself the soubriquet of Cat Norris, on account of the numerous cats which he cherished.

The New York Times, April 7, 1872 (reprinted from Chambers's Journal) appears to be about the same case although the lady's name is rendered Griggs: ABOUT CATS. - MRS GRIGGS of Southampton Row, who died Jan 16 1792, left in her house eighty-six living, and twenty-eight dead cats. She left £150 a year to maintain her black servant and the cats. No-one could paint cats like GOTTFRIET MIND, who died at Berne in 1814. He actually had eight hundred live ones, but these were ordered to be killed, as some were believed to be mad.


CATS AND CRAZINESS. - The New York Times, August 11, 1872 alludes to cat hoarding, but is generally scornful of all cat lovers.

It is a curious fact that lunatics, especially those whose lunacy is of a mild and comparatively innocuous type, frequently evince a remarkable fondness for cats. The insane man or woman who lives in a garret, in the intimate society of three or four score cats, is perpetually coming to the knowledge of the public. The crazy lover of cats usually regards his attachment as a guilty one, or at all events, one which is to be kept, if possible from the knowledge of his human neighbors. With the proverbial cunning of the lunatic, he generally succeeds in attaining the object, and it is only when his corpse is discovered surrounded by riotous cats, evidently bent upon "waking" him after the most approved feline fashion, that his curious infatuation becomes known.

This sort of lunatic is often a person of considerable property. In such cases, he usually bequeaths his money in trust for the benefit of his pets. One of the most careful and thorough of such testamentary follies was that recently committed by a deceased resident of Ohio. This person not only provided for the luxurious lodging and feeding of his beloved associates, but he went still further, and insured, so far as a crazy testator could, a constant supply of healthy and attractive amusement for them. He instructed his executors to prepare a large quantity of eligible rat-holes in his Feline Retreat, and to stock them with a lavish supply of vigorous rats of the breed best adapted for the pleasures of the chase. He was also careful to secure for his cats abundant opportunity for the cultivation of their musical abilities, and with that view directed that they should at all times have free access to the roofs of an extensive series of outhouses, where they could warble midnight melodies, and, with their tuneful voices, bless the beneficent founder of the Feline Retreat. It is a little remarkable that he omitted to provide them with an unlimited supply of free catnip amnd gratuitous valerian; it is possible, however, that he looked upon the use of these weeds as a form of feline dissipation which he could not encourage with any proper regard for the morals or health of young and thoughtless cats.

As has been said, this lunatic was by no means exceptional in his excessive fondness for cats. What is the true reason for this infatuation on the part of unfortunate persons like himself no one has yet thought it worth while to inquire. It is certainly very remarkable that the lunatic never evinces any extravagant attachment to dogs, or to any other respectable and upright animal. The treacherous, selfish, and cunning cat alone is able to fascinate him. He places no value upon the honest, faithful attention of the large-hearted dog, and he never pines for the sympathetic wagging of a friendly tail. On the other hand, he delights to watch the luxurious selfishness with which the cat coldly accepts and thanklessly enjoys the fawns which he lavishes upon her, and he never seems to disapprove of the intense egotism with which she devotes her mind wholly to the pleasures of eating, and sleeping, and the vain adornment of her person. There is evidently a bond of union between the lunatic and the cat which does not exist between sane persons and that undesirable animal. Possibly this bond consists in the fact that in most cases the lunatic develops a stealthy, tortuous cunning which assimilates him in some degree to the cat. At all events, the student of lunacy might well occupy his time in investigating the cause of this curious and frequent feature of insanity.


AN OLD WOMAN AND HER CATS, Pall Mall Gazette, 15 December 1877

An interesting story was told at a recent meeting of the Clerkenwell vestry, by the chairman, respecting an old woman and her cats. When the question of re-electing recipients to the vacancies for the Leverington Charity for aged people came under consideration the chairman paid a visit to an old woman named Thomas, who was on the list of those receiving relief from the funds. On approaching the room where Mrs. Thomas was living a strange spectacle met his eyes. Before he could gain admittance he saw Mrs. Thomas engaged in putting a number of cats out of sight. Some were being unceremoniously chucked out upon the tiles, while others were stuffed into a drawer. The room itself when he entered it was in a most filthy condition, and by the side of the fire was sitting a very old woman, almost a skeleton, shaking as with palsy. He was informed that Mrs. Thomas bought two quarts of milk every morning to feed her cats. There appeared to be a doubt as to how many of these animals she possessed. A parish officer who accompanied the chairman on the occasion of his visit accused her of having no fewer than twenty cats in the room. This statement was, however, indignantly denied by the old woman, who called the officer a liar, and said that she had only fifteen cats in all. The chairman, without splitting hairs as to the exact number of Mrs. Thomas's cats, thought she was not a proper person to be in the receipt of charity, and her name was accordingly struck out of the list. This may be a proper course to adopt, but it does not necessarily follow that because an old woman keeps an unreasonable number of cats she is an unfit object of charity. Many old women have a mania for cats, and will often starve themselves to find food for their pets. It ia very wrong and foolish ; but as " boys will be boys," so " old women will be old women " to the end of the world.


A COLLECTION OF CATS. - The Graphic, 10 January 1880
A curious dispute cropped up in the Hammersmith Police Court last week. On Friday a lady, who has a collection of cats which she values at £100, attended to complain of her landlady having refused to allow her to go in and feed them, and next day the landlady appealed for help in ejecting her lodger, whose pets, she alleges, were kept in such a filthy condition as to be a nuisance. The magistrate was unable to assist either of them, the amount of rent, £1 a week, placing it beyond his summary jurisdiction. The owner of the cats is thus left mistress of the situation unless the sanitary inspector can be prevailed upon to interfere.


FORTY CATS AND FORTY DOGS. - The New York Times, July 13, 1884

Mme. Claude Bernard, widow of the great physiologist, is on bad terms with her neighbors at Colombes, who object to the nuisance caused by her keeping an asylum for cats and dogs, a whim which formerly brought her into conflict with the sanitary police in Paris. The motive for her tenderness for those animals is to redeem the wrong done to them by her husband as a vivisectionist. In May last, a number of inhabitants of Colombes presented a petition to the Mayor, showing that she had 40 cats and as many dogs in a villa in the Rue to Aubepines, and that the stench from them as a cause of danger of infection to the neighborhood. An officer of police was charged with an inquiry, the result of which was that in May she was condemned by the local tribunal to pay a fine of 5f and close her infirmary in a week. She now appealed against the sentence, pretending that the Mayor had exceeded his powers, but the court simply confirmed the sentence.

CATS AND DOGS IN THE ASCENDANT. - Dundee Evening Telegraph , 15 September 1884
If cats and dogs were but to know the importance they are assuming at the present day, their tails would no doubt stand on end with great pride and satisfaction. The interest shown in their homes and condition is little short of that taken in the homes and condition of the poor, and dogs without a master and cats without a cook have many and powerful friends. The female mind is rather inclined to extend its sympathies to the descendants of Egyptian deities, the Countess de la Torre is by no means the only lady martyred for her devotion to the friendly cat. A parallel to the Countess’s case occurred last month in France, where Claude Bernard, the widow of the well-known savant, was fined five francs for having disregarded the decree of the maire of Colombes, by which her “cat and dog infirmary” was ordered to be closed. Nothing daunted, however, Mdme. Bernard appealed to a higher Court, and succeeded in convincing the jury that the sentence of the maire was unjust. The result has been that not only is her “cat and dog infirmary” is as flourishing ever, but by legal decree such institutions, unless proof can be given that they constitute danger to the health of the neighbourhood, are future not to be interfered with either by maires or by the police.


CATS GO TO HER FOR COMFORT. - The New York Times, June 9, 1885

An invalid Irish lady, who said she was Mary Miller, of No. 4 Birmingham-street, called at Sanitary Headquarters yesterday and said she believed her neighbors were about to complain of cats which she sheltered. Her object was evidently to forestall a complaint, and she denounced the complainants in posse as "bad keracters." She went on to say that at present she harbored 18 cats and three kittens, and that cats "took" naturally to her, and come to her for comfort and protection. She pays $4 a month for two rooms on the top floor of the house, and her pets are not in any way a nuisance. She was told that when one was made it would be time enough to put in a defense and establish the character of the complainants.

EIGHTEEN CATS AND A WOMAN IN TWO ROOMS - The Atlanta Constitution, June 12, 1885 (reprinted from the New York Tribune)

Mary Minor, who lives at No. 4 Birmingham st., went to the office of the board of health yesterday and said that she had heard that her neighbors wanted the board to take away her cats. “You must not take them away,” she said to Deputy Secretary Goldeerman, “for they are my only associates in the house, and I should die if they were taken away.”

“How many cats do you keep?” Mr. Golderman asked.

“Eighteen, counting the kittens.”

“How many rooms do you occupy?”

“Only two, but my cats don’t harm anybody, and the floors are as clean as your desk.”

“How did you get so many cats?”

“They came to my door, homeless and hungry, and I took them in.”

“It must be expensive keeping so many cats?”

“Well, I feed them crackers and milk, and my brother in the country sends me money now and then. You must not take them away. If you do I shall die.”

Mr. Golderman said that he thought that she could keep the cats, and she went away happy.

BEGGAR MARY’S CAT FARM - The New York Sun, December 21, 1886

Her Family of Forty Evicted After They had Made a Fight for their Rooftree.

Mary Minor, a mendicant, has lived for six months in the back room on the first floor of the squalid two-storey tenement at 43 Hamilton street. On Friday she disappeared, and when on Sunday nothing had been seen of her, her room was broken open. There was a scrambling. Scurrying, and squalling of cats. The place was full of them. Policeman Cullen says that he counted twenty-five, and that there were perhaps half as many more of all sizes and kinds. They were well-enough fed as city cats go, but all bore evident traces of dissipation and a life of late hours and irregularities. They were, in short, a most disreputable collection of tramp cats, and they showed no disposition to leave their apartment, standing at bay and spitting spitefully at the intruders.

Five dead cats were found. In a closet was a dead cat done up in a newspaper, and on a shelf was a life-like cat, a late member of the gang, stuffed with tow and arsenic, and mounted on a board. A big dish of chopped meat stood on the floor. The four legs of an old table were paintless and rough, where the Toms and Tabbies had sharpened their claws after the manner of quarrelsome cats.

The neighbourhood had been amused by the news that Mary Miner’s well-known collection of cats was to be dispersed, and the street about the entrance to the house was crowded when Policemen Cullen set to work with a long stick to drive the animals out. They refused to go at first, and were got rid of by the most summary methods. When it became plain to the cats that they were to be evicted, they went out sullenly, and some of them climbed back in again through the windows. Cullen then made a determined charge, and the fur flew. As the mad and frightened cats made a rush for the street, the women who had collected there screamed and fled. Some of the neighbors recognized long lost pets which the queer old woman had kidnapped.

When the cats were all out, the windows of the room were barricaded, and disinfectants were scattered about. No tidings of Mrs. Miner have been received. She may be in some hospital.

MARY MINER'S CATS - The New York Times, December 21, 1886

Mary Miner, the professional mendicant, 50 years old, who disappeared from No. 43 Hamilton-street on Friday, is thought to be the woman who committed suicide, or was accidentally drowned, in the East River at a down-town pier that night, as a sailor heard a splash and tried to save a woman who fell in the water.

She was known as "Mary the Cat," because she was constantly bringing cats to, or taking them away from her squalid room. When, Sunday night, the yowling and odor from the cats she had left in her room became unbearable and the door was forced open, a number of cats, some say "more than 20" and others "at least 40," escaped from the room and scattered about the neighborhood. One or two were so emaciated and sickly that they were killed. Five cats that had recently died were found in a closet, and a large stuffed cat was in a trunk. The police theory is that someone wantonly poisoned the cats that were found dead and that grief over her bereavement drove the old woman to suicide.

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HOW MANY CATS MAKE A NUISANCE? - The New York Times, July 30, 1886

A complaint was made to the Board of Health yesterday that 30 cats, kept by Mrs. Nancy Valentine, at No. 319 East Twenty-fifth street, were a nuisance, and a sanitary inspector will perhaps investigate the matter by and by. Mrs Valentine admitted last night that her sister, who was tender-hearted, never passed a sick or homeless cat without succoring it, and that at present she had about 20 felines dependent on her bounty, but she did not consider them a nuisance.


The following, rather romanticized, description of 70ish year old Miss Rose Damask portrays her as an eccentric rather than a cat hoarder. She doesn't sound impoverished, and her cats seem well-cared for, but I could find no descriptions of her living conditions. However, she was reticent to talk about her colony of cats.

Titusville Herald: October 16, 1883 - Page 2
The News and Herald: 15 September 1883 - Page 1
The Times (Pennsylvania): 13 August 1883 - Page 4
And several others; reprinted from the New Haven (Conn.), Letter.

Down in a deep green valley that is fringed with elms and gnarled apple trees and fragrant with its wealth of wild flowers peeping forth from under a grove of old poplars at the foot of a steep rocky hill over which the highway above North Branford writhes like an uneasy serpent is the home of Damask Rose. It was the home of her father and of her father's father and it has weathered the scorching blasts and icy wiuds of 140 tough Now England years Damask does not live in it but in a little trim white cottage which looks askance at the passer from behind a wing of the old Rose residence. Her father's family was once the largest and most social in the roundabout country and the Rose mansion was then much resorted to by tho young belles and beaux. And now all are gone. All are dead save Damask. Damask and her cats alone remain. A New Haven gentleman told the reporter that this lonely old woman with the blush-rose name had 127 cats.

A romantic looking old lady is Damask. Fully as romantic as her name. Short and wrinkled and not far from 70 years, a pair of bright eyes gleamed through her golden bows from under the dirty brown foil rim of the man's hat upon her head. In one hand she canlull a bright case-knife while with the other she raised her calico skirt as she moved through the nodding clover with which tho old front yard was filled. A pair of diamonds glittered in her ears and a thick grayish growth of silken hair partially obscured her upper lip and chin. There was a black cat with bronze sides at her heels, a Maltese cat with a while breast lay dreaming on a flat stone in front of her, a gray and spotted leopard-like cat looked out from its nest of straw, in the entry of the old house there was a handsome young prince of feline in a luxurious robe of tawny gold suspiciously regarding the visitor from behind the leopard, and around the corner of the house was approaching a large and ugly looking tiger cat whose appearance left no doubt as to his capabilities as a fighter. These were all the cats seen at the first look.

When the reporter began to talk about the cats, Miss Rose eyed him suspiciously, but upon other subjects her conversation was cheery and entertaining. Very soon the advance guard of cats vanished into the green vines about the little valley and the places had been taken by other cats - ugly cats and wild-looking cats - some fat, some lean, and some of nondescript appearance, but none of them very pretty. It was a queer sight.



TAUNTON, Mass., Aug. 30.--An old woman and a plague of cats were unearthed here this week. The case is a parallel one with that of Damask Rose, the aged spinster of North Branford, Conn., who was discovered a year or two ago living in an isolated house, there surrounded by a troop of cats which was so large that they had begun to kill each other off. The Taunton cat fancier is Mrs Ezra A Lincoln, an elderly and wealthy widow, who for some unexplained reason has kept her little old house on Cohannet-street crowded full of cats for years. The family is an old one, and every year or two some of her relatives would die and leave her an addition to her fortune.

It now appears that all the money the old woman spent was lavished on her flock of half a hundred cats, her chosen and intimate friends. This was her only recreation. Taunton people are surprised now to find that there were so many cats. They were of all sizes, colors, and dispositions, and would follow the old woman about like a flock of chickens. She kept them supplied with the choicest meats and delicacies of the market. Her latchstring was always out for all kids of cats.

"The cat's paradise" grew to be a popular sobriquet for her house. She frequently bought $10 worth of meat at a time, and when it arrived threw it on the floor and let her pets gorge themselves upon it. The squabbles which resulted during the feast she watched with apparent pleasure. But the old woman became so absorbed in her cats that she neglected to observe the proper sanitary laws, and consequently her life's dream - of cats - has been rudely shattered by the Health Department. Whether her strange infatuation will continue to follow her is a matter that is involved in doubt. Her house became the abode of filth beyond description, and finally grew to be such a stench in the nostrils of the community that both it and the woman herself were complained of.

The Board of Health acted speedily, and Mrs Lincoln was sent to relatives in Middleborough to be cared for, while her cats were killed and her premises cleaned and disinfected. The work was done at the expense of Mrs Lincoln's estate.



Mrs. Jane Duncan, a widow of fifty-four years, was committed to the care of the Commissioners of Charities and Correction for examination as to her sanity by Justice White, in Jefferson Market Police Court, yesterday. Mrs. Duncan's mania is a strange one. It is alleged to have taken form in an antipathy for human beings, but a great fondness for cats. It was declared by Dr Thomas C Knox, who has a drug store on the corner of Carmine and Bedord streets that Mrs Duncan and her late husband had occupied rooms over his sotre for two years. Duncan died on March 17, and since that time his widow has remained alone with her cats, as no one had ever been able to induce her to go outdoors. Her insanity was of a harmless form, but since her husband's death there had been no one to provide for her. On being taken to court she seemed utterly dazed.

An officer was sent to Mrs Duncan's rooms to take charge of her effects, and the state of things that met his eyes when he entered was both pathetic and amusing. A troop of cats, great and small, young and old, of all colors and conditions came eagerly toward the door expecting to see, no doubt, their demented byt gentle mistress. A chorus of feline cries of every pitch was sent forth, and it was evident that the cats were very hungry. On a careful examination of the rooms the officer enumerated twenty-three adult cats and half a dozen kittens. Of this miscellaneous collection a large yellow tomcat, with a most winning expression of countenance and large, innocent, golden eyes seemed to be the "boss." The room was almost filled with boxes, in which the cats had had their habitations, and in a bandbox on the top of a wardrobe were half a dozen new kittens.

As might have been expected, the need of more thorough ventilation was apparent at once. The bewildered cats were ousted, their tender offspring consigned to a watery grave, and the rooms thoroughly aired and disinfected. The personal effects of Mrs Duncan will be held to await the discovery of any of her relatives.


THE OLD MAID AND HER CATS. - Royal Cornwall Gazette, 25 July 1889
At the Westminster Police-court Miss Louisa Bragg, an elderly maiden lady, of small independent means, dressed in a very old-fashioned way, was charged with continuing to keep a number of cats so as to be nuisance and injurious to health, at 65, Marsham-street. Mr. Warrington Rogers, for the vestry, said every latitude and consideration bad been shown to the defendant, but she would not get rid of her cats. Since the proceedings had been taken in June four kittens had arrived, and there was an expectation of more—(laughter). Defendant kept a register of the births and deaths of the cats.—Mr. D’Enycourt: Is that so, Miss Bragg ?—Defendant: I do, sir, and I have lost several of the poor dear creatures since the summons ; and I beg to state that there has been no increase in the family (laughter). James Dee, sanitary inspector, said when he visited the defendant’s room he found a chain across the door, but he was able to see that there were five cats on the table. The smell throughout the house was very offensive. —Sergeant Edwards said the apartment occupied by the defendant was a small second-floor back room. Miss Bragg told him she never permitted the dear creatures to roam on the tiles—(laughter)—and he was satisfied they rarely had exercise out of the room. He saw the cats, old and young, tortoise-shell and tabby, rolling about on the floor and on the table. Defendant seemed very weak and ill, and he was not surprised at it, for she slept in the same room with all the cats.—Mr D’Enycourt said as previous cautions had had no good effect be must impose penalties amounting to £6 10s. The defendant must be kept in custody if she failed to get bail unless she consented to the immediate removal of the cats.—Defendant : You told me before that I must break up my little home—a happy family like we are. Oh dear! Oh dear ! After rearing the dear creatures I could never poison them- Give me more time and I will endeavour to place them with friends. I feel sure the Countess de la Torre, who has called on me, will help me. She is a friend to cats— (laughter) [Countess was a notorious hoard, often imprisoned].—Mr. D’Enycourt: Every assistance will be given you. I very sorry for you.—Mr. Rogers : And if she will only take the cats away the penalty will not be enforced. —Defendant was removed to the cells, but before the the rising of the Court the magistrate directed that her own recognisances should be taken to appear again Monday.

THE OLD LADY AND HER CATS - Illustrated Police News, 27 July 1889
Miss Louisa Bragg, an elderly maiden lady of small independent means, attired in a very old fashioned a t way, and wearing black mittens, was charged on a warrant for disobedience of summons with continuing to keep a number of cats, so as to be a nuisance and w injurious to health, at 65, Marsham-street, Westminster. [. . .] She seemed very weak and ill, doubtless because she slept in the same room with all the cats. Defendant said it was true her health had suffered, but that it was due to some evil-minded person filling her room with gas about three o'clock every morning. She could scarcely breathe owing to the noxious vapour, and it was all the worse because the chimney was stopped up. Mr. D'Eyncourt said he was afraid she was not quite right in her head over the cats. He very much regretted to do it, but as previous cautions and a small fine had had no good effect he mast impose penalties amounting to 6 10as. Defendant (clasping her hands): You told me before that I must break up my little home-a happy family like we are [. . .]


COURT REPORTS SECTION - London Standard, Friday 5th August, 1892

WESTMINSTER. Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Cottell, the occupier of No. 24, Cheyne-row, Chelsea, formerly the residence for so many years of Thomas Carlyle, and renumbered since his occupation, was summoned by the Chelsea Vestry, under the Public Health Act of last year, for keeping between 20 and 30 dogs and cats on the premises, thereby occasioning a nuisance injurious to health. —Mr. Francis J. Smith, who prosecuted for the Vestry, said the Magistrate probably knew what the Chelsea sage thought of cats and dogs, but it would be difficult indeed to imagine his feelings if he could have contemplated his quiet old-world retreat converted into a sort of menagerie. The house was now in a most disgusting state, and a scandal to the neighbourhood.—Dr. Hy. Kenwood, who was acting as medical officer of health last July, and Grant, one of the sanitary inspectors, stated that they had made several visits to the house and been refused admission. Once they got in and found cats and dogs everywhere. The Inspector said be counted 19 dogs and six cats in the dining-rooms wandering about, and there were more animals upstairs, and a paroquet in addition. The place was indescribably filthy, and the effluvia was abominable. A long way off the offensive odour was noticeable.—A neighbour gave evidence of the horrible nuisance, and other witnesses testified that all the Vestry notices had been disregarded.—Moore, one of the warrant officers, said the Defendant was not in attendance, and he could not get the door opened to serve the summons. He had to put it through the window.—Mr. De Rutzen make an order of abatement and prohibition.—Mr. Smith said he asked for a penalty of 10 [shillings] as well, this being such a bad case.—Mr. De Rutzen: I will allow the Vestry five guineas costs to recoup them the expense they have been put to. And if the animals are not cleared out within forty-eight hours—the period of my order—come here again for penalties.

This “London News” was reported in numerous newspapers around Britain during the following week: - CARLYLE'S HOUSE TURNED INTO A MENAGERIE. Mrs Elizabeth Ann Cottell, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, the residence for many years of Thomas Carlyle, was summoned on Thursday for keeping between 20 and 30 dogs and cats the premises, thereby occasioning a public nuisance … (Edinburgh Evening News Midlothian, Scotland, 6 Aug 1892); THE MENAGERIE IN CARLYLE'S HOUSE. On Thursday last week Mary Elizabeth Cottell, elderly lady, who resides in the house at Cheyne Row, formerly occupied by Carlyle, was summoned for causing a nuisance by harbouriug a large number of dogs and cats the premises … (Edinburgh Evening News Midlothian, Scotland, 12 Aug 1892). Note: Mrs Cottell was a spiritualist who had bought the house from Carlyle.

CARLYLE'S SUCCESSOR AND HER ANIMALS - Gloucester Citizen 5 August 1892
Elizabeth Ann Cottell, who occupies Thomas Carlyle's old house in Cheyne-row, Chelsea, was summoned the Westminster Police-court, on Thursday, for causing a public nuisance. It was stated that the defendant, who did not appear, kept a number of cats and dogs in the house, a sanitary inspector discovering 25 animals in a dining-room. Mr. Rutzen ordered an abatement of the nuisance, and said if the animals were not cleared out in the 48 hours, the Vestry, which had instituted the prosecution, should come again, for penalties.

THE CONDITION OF CARLYLE'S HOUSE - Morning Post, 11 August 1892
On Thursday last Mary Elizabeth Cottell, an elderly woman, who resides in the house at Cheyne-row formerly occupied by Thomas Carlyle, was summoned at Westminster Police Court by the Vestry of Chelsea, for causing a nuisance which was injurious to public health, by harbouring a large number of dogs and cats on the premises. The evidence of the Sanitary Inspectors showed that the house was in a shockingly filthy condition, and, in the absence of the defendant, Mr. De Rutzen made an order for the abatement of the nuisance, with 5 guineas costs.— Mrs. Cottell attended at the Court yesterday morning, with a sheaf of newspaper reports of the proceedings, and asked the advice of the Magistrate as to the best way of contradicting the allegations contained therein. She said the evidence was all utterly untrue.— Mr. De Rutzen told the lady she should have appeared and stated that when the case was heard.— Mrs. Cottell : How could I, sir ? I was in Derbyshire. The summons was not served on me. It was put through a window.— Mr. De Rutzen said the case was properly substantiated, and was done with so far as the Court was concerned. He could not advise the applicant, who had better consult a solicitor if she imagined that she had a grievance.

Illustrated Police News, 13 August 1892
Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Cottell, the occupier of No. 24, Cheyne-row, Chelsea, formerly the residence for many years of Thomas Carlyle, and renumbered since his occupation, was summoned, at the Westminster Police- court, by the Chelsea Vestry, under the Public Health Act of last year, for keeping between twenty and thirty dogs and cats on the premises, thereby occasioning a dreadful public nuisance and one injurious to health. Mr. Francis J. Smith, who prosecuted for the vestry, said his worship probably knew what the Chelsea sage thought of cats and dogs, but it would be difficult indeed to imagine his feelings if he could have contemplated his quiet old-world retreat converted into a sort of menagerie of The house was now in a most disgusting state and a scandal to the neighbourhood, Dr. H. Kenwood, who was acting as Medical Officer of Health last July, and and was Grant, one of the sanitary inspectors, deposed that they had made several visits to the house, and been refused admission. Once they got in, and found cats and dogs everywhere. The inspector said he counted nineteen dogs and six cats in the dining-room, wandering about, and there were more animals upstairs, and a parroquet in addition. The place was indescribably filthy and the effluvia was abominable. A long way off the offensive odour was noticeable. A near neighbour gave evidence of the horrible nuisance, and other witnesses testified that all the vestry notices had been disregarded. Moore, one of the warrant officers, said that the defendant not in attendance, and he could not get the door opened to serve the summons. He had to put it through a window. Mr. De Rutzen made an order of abatement and prohibition, Mr Smith said he asked fora penalty of £10 as well, this being such a bad case. Mr, De Rutzen: I will allow the vestry five guineas costs to recoup them the expense they have been put to, and if the animals are not cleared out within forty-eight hours, the period of my order, come here again for penalties.

ANOTHER SCENE AT CARLYLE'S OLD HOUSE - Cardiff Times, 20 August 1892
At the Westminster police-court on Tuesday, Mrs Elizabeth Cottell, an elderly lady who is the present occupier of the house in Cheyne-row, Chelsea, in which Thomas Carlyle lived so many years, appeared to a summons before Mr de Rutzen, charging her with the illegal detention of her servant's clothing.—Mr E. D. Rymer, who prosecuted, said the defendant was decidedly eccentric in her ways, and, as his worship was no doubt aware by the Vestry proceedings, she kept a large number of dogs and cats. Complainant, through one of the animals, recently fell down a flight of stairs and broke two fingers on her left hand. Mrs Cottell on Monday morning last sent the young woman out on an errand and then refused to readmit her to give up her clothes, telling her through the letter-box that she had engaged someone else, who was able to work, which she (complainant) was not.—Emma Stanton, the young woman complaining, gave evidence in support of Mr Rymer's statement, and incidentally mentioned that defendant had about a dozen dogs still on the premises besides three cats —seven or eight had been taken over to Battersea. —Mrs Cottell said she had befriended Stanton for years, and bad overlooked many irregularities. The young woman was gone hours over an errand, which should have taken only a short time, and that was one of the reasons why she was dis- charged. The clothes she was quite ready to give up.—Mr de Rutzen ordered that they should be given up forthwith, and that the defendant should pay 23s costs.

THOMAS CARLYLE'S OLD RESIDENCE Montreal Daily Witness, August 25, 1892
THOMAS CARLYLE'S OLD RESIDENCE in Chelsea, over which Mrs Carlyle worried her life out in a vain effort to make it a place of utter quiet and silence for the irritable sage has been given over almost entirely to cats and dogs, over a score of which squall and snarl and fight and chase one another about within the rooms once devoted to the use of the searches after the eternal verities. The present occupant of the premises, now numbered 24 Cheyne-row, is Mrs Elizabeth Ann Cottrell [sic], who was summoned by the Chelsea vestry under the public health act "for keeping between twenty and thirty dogs and cats on the premises, thereby occasioning a public nuisance injurious to health." The prosecuting attorney invoked the shade of Thomas Carlyle to aid him in impressing upon the magistrate the enormity of the offence committed by the defendant. If a few cocks and hens in the neighboring yards constituted such a nuisance that the world was very nearly deprived thereby of some of the most enduring work of one of the greatest minds in it, what injury might not be expected from the presence of a score and a half of dogs in the ancient home of the Sage. This appeal, and the picture drawn by the attorney of Carlyle's "quiet old world retreat converted into a sort of menagerie," so affected the magistrate that he compelled the defendant to pay twenty-five dollars costs and clear out the nuisance within forty-eight hours, under pain of further penalties. Poor Carlyle himself did about as much grumbling and growling, and got his back up quite as often, probably, as all the dogs and cats together, and we do not doubt that many honest conservative people believe the Sage of Chelsea was a greater disturbing influence in his day and since than all the cats and dogs in the world. On the other hand, the numbers of those who regard him as one of the greatest teachers and one of the greatest merely human wielders of moral and intellectual force this world has ever seen are multiplying.

CARLYLE'S OLD HOUSE OVERUN WITH CATS AND DOGS - Reynolds's Newspaper, 4 December 1892
On Friday, at Westminster Police Court, Elizabeth Cottell, an elderly lady, of independent means, who occupies the house in Cheyne-row, Chelsea, where Thomas Carlyle lived, was summoned by the Chelsea Vestry, under the Public Health Act, for penalties incurred by keeping a large number of cats and dogs so as to be a nuisance, in defiance of an order of prohibition made by a Magistrate. Grant, one of the sanitary inspectors, stated that on the 18th inst. he succeeded in getting into Mrs. Cottell's house. In the dining-room, which was in a filthy state, he counted eleven dogs and six cats. The door opened, and so many animals trooped in from above and below, while others ran out, that he gave up counting for fear of making a mistake. (Laughter.) Since that occasion he had been refused admimission to the house. Mrs Cottell said she could not lot him in as it might disturb the dogs. Mr. Smith said the Vestry asked for the imposition of such a penalty as to effectually stop the nuisance. The liability of the defendant was £2 a day for 112 days - £224. Mr. De Rutzen said be hoped this Vestry would promptly stop this nuisance. He made an order on the defendant for £11 penalties and 23s, costs.

CATS AND DOGS IN CARLYLE'S HOUSE - The New York Times, December 18, 1892 (From the London Daily News.)
Mr. Grant, one of the Sanitary Inspectors of Chelsea, who was sent to Thomas Carlyle’s old house in Cheyne Row’ to take a census of the cats and dogs which Mrs. Cottell, the present occupant of the premises, keeps there in super-abundance, felt himself in the position of the shepherd ordered to count a flock of sheep, but who failed half way because one of them refused to stand still long enough to be numbered. When by stratagem he gained admission into the dining room he found eleven dogs and six cats. To count these was comparatively plain sailing. But the door of the apartment suddenly opened and in rushed mongrels and tabbies from upstairs and down stairs with a velocity that almost made the Sanitary Inspector’s head turn. He manfully tried to continue the census, but the animals refused to stand still. They ran in and out - barking, howling, yelping, mewing, and miaulling - in such inextricable confusion that the enumeration broke down and neither the police magistrate at Westminster nor the admirers or Mr. Thomas Carlyle will ever know the exact number of dogs and cats lodged under the roof of Teufelsdrockh. It was a task in which Napier, with all the aid or his logarithms, might have felt no shame to acknowledge defeat. But menageries in private houses, especially when neighbors object, and when the rooms are in a filthy condition, form a. luxury which must be paid for. Mrs. Cottell, who has been before the magistrate already for a similar offense, was ordered to pay a penalty or £11, 23s costs. As she is now liable to a fine of £2 per day while the nuisance continues, there is hope that the wraith of Carlyle will not be long outraged in this cat-and-dog fashion.

CAT ASYLUM IN CARLYLE'S OLD HOME - The Kansas City Star, Monday 26th December 1892
London Correspondence, New York Sun. The famous cat and dog asylum, to which Carlyle’s old home is devoted, will probably soon be abolished. For a second time Mrs. Cottell, the eccentric old woman who keeps the menagerie, has been fined for maintaining a nuisance. A sanitary inspector was sent to make a census of the animals Saturday. When by strategem he gamed admission to the dining room he found eleven dogs and six cats. To count these was comparatively plain sailing, but the door of the apartment suddenly opened and in rushed mongrels and tabbies from upstairs and down stairs with a velocity that almost made the inspector’s head turn. He manfully tried to continue the census, but the animals refused to stand still. They ran in and out, barking, howling, yelping, mewing and miaulling in such an inextricable confusion that the enumeration broke down, and neither the police magistrate at Westminster nor the admirers of Thomas Carlyle will ever know the exact number of dogs and cats lodged under the roof of Teufelsdrockh.

STARVING CATS AND DOGS CHELSEA. - Portsmouth Evening News, 19 June 1893
At Westminster Police-court yesterday, Mrs. Elizabeth Cottell, said to be the widow of an Army surgeon and the occupier of Cariyle's house, in Cheyne-row, Chelsea, appeared before Mr. De Rutzen to summonses, issued at the instance of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for illtreating dogs and cats by failing to supply them with sufficient food. Mr. T.D. Dutton prosecuted, and Mr. Dunn appeared for the defendant. The case has had to be adjourned more than once through the eccentricities of the defendant. Last week she was outside the Court in a cab till just before her case was reached, when she was driven away, to return hour or so later, after her solicitor had apologised for her conduct, and the Magistrate had threatened to gran ta warrant. Yesterday Mrs. Cottell, half an hour late, found a place in a corner of the crowded Court and lying on the floor went to sleep, the seat of chair forming an extemporised pillow. Her position was not visible from the Bench, but it created no little sensation till a stalwart policeman, lilting her in his arms, carried her outside to one of the waiting-rooms.

Mr. Dutton said he did not think it much good going on, as Mrs. Cottell was drunk.
Mr. Duun : Nothing the sort. She is 'very prostrate from overfatigue after a journey.
Eventually the defendant was allowed to be seated, and the case proceeded.

The principal witness was a laundress named Conolly, who intermittently acted as servant to the accused. She deposed that she last went to the house early in April, when the defendant was sold up. Mrs. Cottell had at that time four dogs and three cats in the house. For the first fortnight the animals lived on the best of tripe - — at 8d. a pound - but subsequently their inclusive allowance was reduced half-a-pound o cat's meat [slaughterhouse scraps]. Once when witness spoke to the defendant about the emaciated and dirty state of the animal- she said, “I can't help it. I have got nothing for myself." On cross-examination the witness said she complained to the magistrate in the first place because she could not get her wages. She was left in the place with the dogs.

By the Magistrate: She remembered when Mrs. Cottell kept as many 28 dogs and four cats at one time in the house. She always took the greatest care of them. Mr. Grant, one of the sanitary inspectors of Chelsea, said he called several times in May at Cheyne-row, and saw that the defendant's dogs were emaciated and filthy. The magistrate elicited from this witness that the vestry distrained on the defendant's chattels for large arrears of fines and costs incurred through keeping animals so as to be a nuisance. Defendant went to gaol before the money was paid.

An officer of the prosecuting Society and veterinary surgeon deposed that on the24th of May, when they saw the animals they were in a most exhausted state. The ribs and bones showed through the long coats of the Blenheim spaniels. The cats' meat man and other witnesses were called to prove that they left quantities of food by defendant's orders at her house.

Mr. De Rutzen said the defendant and her dogs had been before him on and off for nearly twelve months. He knew too much about it. He had a certain amount of sympathy for the defendant, because he had doubts whether on this particular subject she was right in her head. She was responsible for the cruelty to the dogs, but taking all things into account, he should order her to find a surety in £5 to receive judgment called upon, and pay three guineas costs.

* * *


A MANIA FOR CATS- Evening Express, January 18, 1897

Descent from a distinguished barrister, coupled with firm belief in the doctrine of metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls, has not prevented an elderly dame who had seen better days from assisting a gang of thieves in the conversion of their booty into money, for which offence she has just figured in the dock of the Seine Assizes Court. Acting under the conviction (says the "Daily Telegraph's" Paris Correspondent) that unhappy spirits eventually found their way into the bodies of cats, she had transformed the house which she inhabited in the neighbourhood of the Bois de Boulogne, with, its garden, into an asylum for members of the feline species, and had carried her zeal so far as to present everyone who brought her a fresh boarder with the sum of one franc. The small boys of the district, cognisant of this amiable weakness, took full advantage of it, and scoured the streets in search of some wandering tabby and of the promised reward. Quite an army of cats was at last assembled under the charitable banner of the old lady, for at the moment of her arrest the list had attained the formidable figure of 400.

While in custody awaiting the trial which has now come off, the eccentric dame exhibited much more concern for her favourites than for her own fate. "If I am not to see them again, I will kill myself," she cried, in her distress. "Every night I hear them. They talk to me, and came and purr round my couch. In the morning I take notes of all that they have told me." But she is not destined to hold a gala review of her feline army in honour of her liberation, for she has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment.


This hoarding account is rather different, because the individual hoarded the remains of cats she had killed, even moving their bodies with her when she was e victed from one address.


There is an old woman who lives in Clerkenwell who has so many cats she doesn't know what to do with them. Rather she did live in Clerkenwell and didn't know what to do with them, for the police, doubting her sanity, have now handed her over to the City-road Work- house people for inquiry. The old lady is named Scott, and her habitation was in a little two-storey building at the back of No. 11, Wilmington-square, the entrance being down a narrow passage in St. John's-mews, Rosebery- avenue. Here she had fourteen boxes, containing 200 flayed cats packed like Ostend rabbits, and when the police made an entry they rescued fourteen cats from a like fate. What led the police to interfere were complaints of the sickening effluvia which came from the old woman's rooms. She seemed to have made no attempt to preserve the bodies of her victims, and the smell caused by the decaying animal matter was accentuated by rotten vegetables, and so on, which were strewn over the floors.

The real object of the old lady is somewhat of a mystery. The neighbours say that postal orders came to her by post frequently, but other circumstances show that she was not in want of money. She hails from "Aberdeen awa',” where she has, canny Scotswoman that site is, "baith siller and hooses." When the police took her to the station, and asked her what she was and what she did, she described herself as "a designer of cats." The police laughed, and she said. "Hoota awa, you're daft," and then she confided to them the information that she preserved the dead bodies in order to take the opinion of a specialist as to the cause of their death. She obtained the animals in a somewhat ingenious fashion. Describing herself as a painter of animals, she canvassed the district and obtained orders from various people to paint their cats. Once she obtained these household pets they, of course, were never returned. The only evidence that she could paint at all are some chalk sketches on the wall of her domicile, but these representations more resemble coffee pots than cats, and it is known she did not collect coffee pots. On her canvassing errands she carried a cat on canvas, but that was signed Louis Wain.

THE OLD LADY'S CATS - Evening Express, September 2, 1898

The London Institution for Lost and Starving Cats superintended the removal on Thursday from the yard of John's Mews, Rosebery-avenue, of the remaining cats which Miss Margaret Scott had, according to her own version, collected in the cause of art. Eight cats that had survived the systematic starvation with which they had been treated were at once secured by the employes of the home for conveyance to the lethal chamber of the institution in the Hampstead home. The proceedings were watched by a crowd, who hung about the approaches of the yard for some time after the "catch" had been effected. The incident, which attracted most curiosity on the part of the crowd was the removal of the dead cats and the fumigation of the artist's studio. There was nothing to hinder the crowd from personally watching the work from the very threshold of the room, but the stench was such that even the faces of intrepid dustmen wore an expression of surprise as they struck manfully to the work, and the accumulated remains were in due coure removed in dust carts to Lambeth to be dssroyed, while the "studio" itself was subjected to a thorough fumigation.


The Weights and Measures building of the London County Council in Rosebery-avenue is being enlarged, and some old premises in the immediate rear in Mount Pleasant are in course of demolition so that a structure may be erected suitable for the duties of those employed by the Council in this particular department. One of the house-breakers, pick in hand, was trying to bring down some bricks, when accidentally he broke into the chimney of the adjoining house. Immediately he noticed several wooden boxes in the smoke hole, but before curiosity bad tempted him to open them he perceived a smell. Information of the accident and of the discovery was conveyed to other authorities, and before many hours had passed a Clerkenwell sanitary inspector, Mr Green, was on the spot, or rather in the house, No. 39. The boxes were found to contain dead cats.

The occupant was always a mysterious individual, and before she, for it was a woman, had had notice to leave the house, owing to the workmen pulling down the adjoining premises, nothing was known about her. Sanitary inspectors had constantly been in the house and looked into every room except hers. She was nearly always away when he called, and none of the other residents in the place knew anything of her, for she was very quiet and uncommunicative.

A Den of Cats. The mysterious lady then rented a shed at the back of 11, Wilmington-square. She did not, however, enter it from the house. There is a side door in St. John's Mews, Rosebery-avenue, and it is here that the neighbours have seen this strange sharp-featured middle-aged lady playing with some cats. The manner in which she wore her hair first attracted their attention. She had long black tresses, some of which would be hanging down her back, and others would be rolled into ringlets. The lady spoke to two or three of the neighbours, and to them she is said to have stated that she was “Lady Margaret Scott," that she had a wealthy brother, and had property in Scotland.

None of the neighbours, however, had been invited to take afternoon tea in the shed. During the day she was believed to be away from the shed. At night time she would be seen moving about. On fine evenings she would walk round the mews and search for cats. She would crawl under the vans, and on seeing a tabby would persuasively exclaim, “Come along, my dear." This to the neighbours seemed rather peculiar, more especially as some of them had been losing their fireside pets. One or two ungenerously remarked that she was stealing them others, more charitable, said she was searching for her favourite.

However, the discovery accidentally made by the house-breaker induced the sanitary inspector on Tuesday to visit Lady Margaret Scott's dwelling. The visit was short but not sweet. In a few seconds he saw enough, not to speak of the smells, to convince him something was wrong. The place was a den of cats, dead and alive.

“Secret Cat Designer." Later in the day "Lady Margaret Scott" was walking down Rosebery-avenue when a constable, acting on instructions, politely asked her to accompany him to the Clerkenwell Police Station. Here, in giving an account of herself, she said she was a “secret designer of cats." The inspector gave her a sympathetic look, and thought she had better be sent to the City-road Workhouse. Needless to say, he regarded her as a wandering lunatic.

Officials were despatched to the abode of this “secret designer of cats," but they acknowledge it was one of the worst jobs they have ever had to undertake. The small building is of two floors, lighted by windows facing the backs of the houses in Wilmington-square. On the ground floor they found numerous wooden cases, similar to those discovered in the chimney, and inside were carcases of decomposed cats. On the floor above there were more cases with similar contents, but on the bare boards were cats which had only recently died. The stench was simply awful, and the officials were, in polite language, quite overcome. There were also 15 live cats in the place, but no bed or bedding was visible. There were in all 14 boxes, or about 120 cats, and these were taken to a wharf at Lambeth, to be burned with their contents. The live animals were given I milk and were let loose.

Some of Her Pictures. It is remarkable that no complaint has been officially received concerning the smell which arose from the den. How she lived is another strange feature in the story. She did occasionally get post office orders, but as for her pictures, or her work as an artist, no one seems to have seen them. On the walls there are a few crayon sketches, but they are extremely crude. One is a picture of the Saviour, and another is a childish drawing of a cat.

Lady Margaret Scott was sufficiently sane to be indignant at being sent to the workhouse, and there were threats or writing to her solicitors and to her relatives. Unfortunately, the sanitary officials cannot communicate with them, as she declines to state their names or addresses. She only declares that, like the proverbial old maid, she loves cats, and the more the merrier. But when decomposing animals are lying about, and are, in a sense, dangerous to the lives of the residents in the vicinity, the sanitary authorities will be pardoned if they take immediate measures to stop the nuisance without waiting for the serving of notices and orders.-Daity Chronicle.

SKINNING CATS ALIVE - The Cardiff Times, September 3, 1898

Extraordinary Allegation Against a Lady. On Tuesday night considerable sensation was caused in Clerkenwell by the arrest of an elderly maiden lady, who had posed in the eyes of the public as an animal painter, and who had her "studio" in the neighbourhood. The prisoner, who is about 60 years of age, and of ladylike appearance and manners, canvassed the local residents for commissions to paint their feline pets. Several handed over their animals, but none were returned, and the police on Tuesday night entered the studio, where they found the carcases of over 70 animals. The prisoner will be charged to-day (Wednesday) with cruelty - skinning the animals alive.

THOSE CLERKENWELL CATS - Evening Express, September 13, 1898

The medical officer of health of Clerkenwell (Dr. Glaister), in a report to the vestry on a seizure of a number of live and dead cats in the parish, adds that "the person named Scott, who owned the cats, and who was removed temporarily to the City-road Workhouse, has been seen by her brother, a gentleman in a good position in Birmingham, who has made arrangements for her removal to his home."

AN OLD WOMAN'S STRANGE MANIA FOR CATS.-Wairarapa Daily Times, November 11, 1898

The sanitary authorities of Clerkenwell, assisted by tho police, a few days ago brought fourteen boxes containing two hundred and sixty dead cats, out of a house in St, John's Mews, Rosebery Avenue, occupied by an eccentric old Scotswoman named Margaret Scott. The cats were in every case flayed, and it was supposed the old woman had eked out her income by selling the skins to furriers' providers. No skins were found about the place. The officers bad a shocking experience, several of them being seized with sickness in consequent of the fumes of putrefaction. They smoked strong cigars as disinfectants. About a dozen lean and hungry-looking tabbies walked about the house, and the officers had some milk brought, which they lapped up greedily. It was also strongly suspected that the mortuary included the remains of a skinned monkey. At Clerkenwell Police Station Margaret Scott described herself as a "secret designer of cats." Her singular behaviour disposed the police to doubt her sanity, and she was removed to tho City Road workhouse, where medical supervision will ascertain whether she may be hold accountable for her actions.

The story of this old woman's twelve years' stay in the district has a comic and gruesome side. She appears to have entertained the idea that she possessed artistic ability, making cats her special study. For several years Margaret canvassed the neighbourhood with a wretched little picture purporting to represent a cat, as a sample of ber workmanship. Unsuspecting persons used to let her have their pets to paint, but the cats did not come back, and Margaret long since lost her artistic reputation. In her dirty domicile were a number of mural chalk sketches, but they resembled coffee pots mora than cats, The theory that she sold the skins is supported by the fact that postal orders frequently came to her by post. Sometimes she showed the money orders to her neighbours, stating that they came from Scotland, where she owned property. Margaret claimed relationship with Sir Walter Scott, though her accent bespoke the far north. Her personal appearance was more striking than picturesque, with long black unkempt curly hair. Occasionally she purchased twopennyworth of bits of fish and meat, though whether for her own consumption or the support of her cattery nobody knows. It was no secret that she prowled about the streets and lanes half the night, the police having often seen her on these nocturnal peregrinations. Her quest was doubtless cats, though she appears to have contrived to do her cat-napping unobserved, During her stay in Mount Pleasant, a short distance from Rosebery Avenue, her cat mania became so great a nuisance that the authorities evicted her, pasting a placard on the door to the effect that tho place was not intended for a cat home. Numbers of traders complain of having been mysteriously bereaved of cats recently. On the occasion of her flitting to St. John's Mews it is stated that her goods and chattels consisted solely of the soap boxes containing the remains of her feline victims. What the police want to know is, who were the people who encouraged this weird woman in her shocking practices ?

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KEEPS TWENTY-FIVE CATS. -The New York Times, September 26, 1900

Mrs Krommelin's Landlord Objects and Begins Proceedings. - Albert Wagner of Hoboken yesterday applied to the Justice of Peace Seymour for a warrant for the arrest of Mrs Mary Krommelin of 709 First Street. While he was making his complaint Mrs Krommelin appeared and asked for a warrant for the arrest of Wagner. She alleged that he had stolen her eyeglasses. Wagner is Mrs Krommelin's landlord. He says that she constantly kept in her rooms twenty-five cats. When one died or strayed away Wagner said that Mrs Krommelin at once bought another. When he complained to her about her cats he says she assaulted him. He offered Mrs Krommelin a month's rent if she would move. This offer Mrs Krommelin refused. She said Wagner was possessed of the devil, and if she moved to oblige him the devil would follow her. Justice Seymour declined to grant a warrant to either, and Wagner began ejectment proceedings.



Mrs. MacLaren Morrison - once a noted cat and dog breeder and exhibitor - was also an animal hoarder. Even in her breeding days her cattery was ramshackle in comparison with others, and she collected different breeds of cat. Judging by stud books and registrations, she also bred huge numbers of kittens. Once widowed, this seemed to go out of control.

The Times, 18th June 1920 reports her out-of-control menagerie in London. “A LADY’S PRIVATE ‘ZOO.’ 21 DOGS, 19 CATS, 29 BIRDS, AND A LEMUR. At the Marylebone Police Court yesterday, before Mr. d’Eyncourt, the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, president of the Japanese Chin Club and a member of the Ladies Kennel Club, residing at Westboume-gardens, W., was summoned by the Paddington Borough Council for permitting a nuisance in improperly keeping dogs and birds and failing to comply with a notice to remove the animals and cleanse the premises. Mr. E. .T. Polten. the chief sanitary inspector for Paddington, said that when he visited Mrs. Morrison’s house on May 5 he found animals and birds in every room except the front dining room and two bed rooms. There were 10 dogs, 14 cats and kittens, 17 birds, and a lemur. On June 1 he found six more dogs and four puppies, another cat, three more kittens, and 11 more birds. On a third visit he discovered another dog, cat, and a bird. The animals and birds were kept dean, but the smell was very bad.

Dr. R. O. Dudfield, the Medical Officer of Health, stated that the house reeked and stank and the smell nauseated him. Asked if he objected to dogs being kept in a London house, he replied, ‘No, not in reasonable numbers; but 50 animals kept in an ordinary dwelling house occupied by human beings is far too many.’ The Hon. Mrs, Morrison, giving evidence, said that she herself cleaned every cage every day and kept a kennel woman to groom the dogs and keep them in perfect condition. When she took the house three years ago it was infested with mice, that was why she kept the cats. The dogs, she explained, were pedigree animals; several of the cats had won prizes; the birds, too, were prize birds and very old pets. She had brought some of them from India. Mr d’Eyncourt ordered Mrs. Morrison to abate the nuisance within 14 days and to pay three guineas costs.“

At this time, she was still exhibiting dogs with the Ladies Kennel Association. Her husband was still alive at this time, but evidently not living under the same roof. Perhaps they were estranged from each other.

The Indianapolis Star, Saturday, March 16, 1935 (11 years after her husband’s death) tells us: “HUNDREDS OF PETS KEPT IN HOME BY DAUGHTER OF PEER BROMLEY, Kent, England, March 15. UP) The story of a "surprising menagerie," including dogs "as bald as billiard balls," which was kept in a mansion by the daughter of a peer, was disclosed today In Police Court. Mrs. Alice McLaren Morrison, elderly daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, was convicted on a summons alleging she caused unnecessary suffering to forty-eight dogs, seventeen monkeys, twenty-seven cats and 100 birds and was fined £IO (about $50) and costs. The prosecutor for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which brought the case, said Inspectors found the animals, including goats, guinea pigs and rabbits, living in bedrooms of Mrs. Morrison's house. “ The house in question was Kemnel Warren, Chislehurst, Kent.

The Salt Lake Tribune of the same date reported: ANIMALS DWELL IN LONDON MANSION. .(By Tribune Lease Wire) , LONDON, March 15 - Forty eight dogs, 27 cats, hundreds of birds, 17 monkeys, a goat, numerous- guinea pigs and rabbits and a few other animals have occupied the bedrooms and living-rooms of a fine home in Kent. Their owner, Mrs. Alice McLaren Morrison, daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, was fined $50 in court today at Bromley Kent, on a charge of cruelty to animals.”

STRANGE MENAGERIE OF PEER'S DAUGHTER - Western Daily Press - Saturday 16 March 1935 - "Dogs, Cats and Monkeys in Rooms. The Hon. Mrs Alice Mclaren Morrison, of Chislehurst, Kent, was fined £10 with five guineas costs at Bromley yesterday for causing unnecessary suffering to 48 dogs, 27 cats, 17 monkeys and 100 birds by neglecting to provide them with proper care and attention. Mr Gordon Jones (prosecuting on behalf the R.S.P.C A.) said he was not suggesting that she was a woman who had cruel instincts or was deliberately cruel, but she was a woman of extraordinary views regarding the treatment of animals and had very fixed self opinion. She had deliberately flouted the attempts of the R.S.PC.A. to advise her in the way these animals should kept. On January 4 a visit was paid to the house by inspectors of the Society in consequence of complaints made by a kennel maid employed at the house. in various rooms of the house they found 50 dogs, 27 cats, 100 foreign birds. 17 monkeys, a goat, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and other animals.

"This is a somewhat surprising menagerie find in a private house," continued Mr Jones. " The animals were occupying bedrooms and living rooms and were apparently in a grossly neglected condition. Some the dogs were almost hairless and had inflamed patcheson their body. The cats appeared to be thoroughly miserable and the same applied to the monkey The doors and windows of the rooms were closed and some hermetically sealed. Coal and electric fires were kept lighted night and day, and the atmosphere of the house was almost unbearable. The stench was abominable and almost indescribable. There was no suggestion of underfeeding, in fact many the animals were overfed, and in one case a roast chicken was provided for some of the cats. The condition under which the animals were kept were unnatural and not conducive to good health. "

Chief Inspector Finn, of the R.S.PC.A., said the majority of the dogs were Japanese Spaniels, and there were a few Pekingese. In a statement to him, Mrs Morrison said: "The great trouble is, I cannot get these rooms warm enough. These animals are all from warm climates and if they went out at this time of the year it would kill them.” Mrs Morrison, giving evidence, said she had 40 years' experience with animals, was the original exhibitor in this country of Japanese Spaniels, and was club judge. She founded the Ladies' Kennel Association, and had been working with the Dumb Friends League. She denied that conditions were such described by the prosecution and said the majority of the animals were kept healthy. She agreed that some of the rooms were dirty, but said that was because she had been unable to obtain assistance.2

RELUCTANT DECISION TO DISMISS CASE- Derby Daily Telegraph, 9 November 1938 – “ALLEGED NEGLECT OF DOGS. The discovery of eight dogs and two monkeys in an "indescribable state of filth" was alleged at Hailsham, Sussex, to-day, when the Hon. Alice McLaren Morrison, of Aberdare-gardens, London, N.W., and Stanley Hattersley, alleged to be accused. Mrs. Morrison was summoned as the owner of the dogs for permitting them to be caused unnecessary suffering by omitting to provide necessary carw and attention, and Hattersley was accused of causing unnecessary suffering to the animals. There were also summonses against Mrs. Morrison alleging that she kept dogs without licences.

The summonses with regard to cruelty against both Mrs. Morrison and Hattersley were dismissed. The chairman said that the magistrates had reluctantly come to the conclusion to dismiss them, as a deplorable state of affairs had been revealed. Mrs. Morrison was fined £20 on the summonses for having unlicensed dogs. Inspector Edward Winn, of the R.S.P.C.A., spoke of a visit to the Old Brewhouse, Hurstmonceaux, Sussex, and said that he found four Japanese spaniels in a very nervous condition. One was dirty and unbalanced, and was going round in circles.

In another room a spaniel bitch was almost hairless. When taken out of a tea chest, it reeled and fell about like a drunken person. He found in another room a brown Pekingese poor condition, and a black and white Japanese dog with skin disease and bad eyes. In the garden were 31 dogs "in stables, runs, pens and all sorts of places.” The dogs' condition was fair and good. On a table in a separate room were two cages with a monkey each. They were in good condition, but there was filth in the cages, and there was no room for the monkeys to exercise with their legs and arms outstretched.

Inspector Winn said that Hattersley stated that he took no responsibility apart from finding food. Miss Margaret Doyle said that she was employed to look after the animals. Hattersley had had a serious operation, and she had to manage the dogs herself. She crould not do this adequately, and she wrote to Mrs. Morrison. Inspector Charles Boyle, of the R.S.P.C.A., London, said that Mrs. Morrison stated that Mr. Hattersley had acted as her agent for some time, and she had employed Miss Doyle for about 11 years. “I have not been down to see the dogs lately, because I have been looking after the dogs in London and have not been well lam old lady now," she was alleged to have added.”

When she moved from London to Chislehurst, Kent. Her retinue included more than 100 pets (according to the Brownsville Herald, Feb 20, 1944), including seven dogs, 30 cats, 50 birds, several monkeys, and “a large number of pet mice which had to be trapped on moving day.”

Thirteen years later, aged 83, she was again hoarding animals, as we can read in the Reuters report published in The Singapore Free Press of 5 May, 1948: “MENAGERIE IN 20-ROOMED HOUSE. London, Monday. Because she kept a menagerie" in her 20-roomed house, in which mice ran freely among cats and fed in the birds' cages, the Hon. Mrs. A. McLaren Morrison, 83-year-old daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, was summoned In a London police court today. Stated to be the possessor of 25 birds, 16 cats, eight dogs and 13 guinea pigs, Mrs. McLaren Morrison was charged under a Public Health Act ‘for keeping animals and birds in such state as to cause serious infestation of mice and nuisance from flies.’" An Inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Quoted to the court Mrs. Morrison’s repeated statement: ‘If you take my animals away. I will commit suicide.’ The court ordered Mrs Morrison to remove the causes of complaint within 14 days.”

The Associate Press version (Ottowa Journal and others) read: “Ordered to Dispose Of Domestic Menagerie. LONDON, May 4. - (AP) - A court today gave Hon. Mrs. A. McLaren Morrison, daughter of the late Baron Pirbright, 14 days to dispose of a domestic menagerie including 62 birds and animals. Investigators said that the 83-year-old woman lives alone in three of her dwelling's 20 rooms. The other 17 contain: Eight dogs, 16 cats, 25 birds, 13 hamsters (cousin to the guinea pig) and so many friendly mice that it is ‘difficult to distinguish between the so-called pets and the mice.’ Neighbors complained the menagerie violated the Public Health Act.”


A little outside of my 19th century bracket, we these cases from the early 20th century.


This report about a cat hoarder was printed in the US press under several different titles in July 1922.

New York, July 11 [1922]. Gussie Rubin, the boss wrangler of the Bar None Cat Ranch, 2106 Second avenue is off the range today. Gussie is in jail and a neighbor is providing the daily pan of milk for the hordes of felines which swarm her fifth floor tenement animal ranch.

Not only is Gussle a champion cat wrangler. Her talents are as diversified as a chapter from the Arabian Nights. She can act as society queen, religious devotee, or crippled, ragged beggar when she chooses. With an eye to business, she has visited half a dozen negro churches and three synagogues, receiving charity from all of them. One negro congregation has christened her "Child of God.” Every evening she donned crutch and ragged garments and sold newspapers. A few hours later she changed her disguise with a lace shawl and fresh wardrobe and enjoyed night life along Second avenue.

Now Gussie is considering her varied career in confinement while officers investigate her business and zoological eccentricities.

HELP MUST COME QUICK - The Decatur Herald, January 7, 1926

That story, now familiar, of the business opportunities in a cat ranch [see footnote] is in a fair way to be put to a practical test, providing that is, a certain French woman living in New York city will consent to the commercial use of her pets. Alone in a strange land, widowed, and unable to understand even the language of her neighbors, this woman turned to cats for companionship. She began in a small way, but the fecundity of her pets, so much counted upon by the promoters of the cat ranch, operated rapidly to increase her herd. Two cats, as black as midnight, presented her after a few weeks with two healthy litters of kittens. By the amazing operation of geometrical increase, the process continued until new litters of young were arriving every few days. Tender hearted, and having no other amusement, the woman kept all of her charges and tenderly cared for them.

A newspaper man found her the other day, all but crowded out of her two-room apartment by 43 cats, stalking about the floor, perched on every shelf, prowling over sink and cupboard. Four new litters of kittens had arrived in the two weeks preceding, and the prospects for additional multiplication, on a staggering scale, were plain. Unfortunately for the purposes of science, and for the vindication of those original souls who originated the intriguing financial proposal of a cat ranch, it appears that the New York woman neglected to begin simultaneously the production of rats for the sustenance of her pets. She fed them, instead, upon meat supplied at her own expense. It was a fatal error. Be they never so fecund, the rats could not catch up now. The enterprise has grown beyond the capacity of the lone widow. New blood in the firm; new management, and especially the genius of the promoters is called for if a rare and fascinating experiment is to be saved from disaster.”

Footnote: The Cat-Rat Ranch was a widely circulate scam and hoax (depending on whether money was actually taken) “get rich quick scheme” involving a cat ranch next to a rat ranch where the cats ate the rats and the rats ate skinned cat carcasses, the theory being that their relative rates of reproduction created a perpetual cycle and produced $10,000 worth of cat pelts daily.


Below are links to detailed acocunts of notorious cat hoarders who were repeatedly taken to court.

The Case of Mary Chantrell, an notorious 19th Century Animal Hoarder

The Case of The Countess de la Torre, another 19th Century Animal Hoarder


The stereotype of the female cat hoarder even made it into fiction in the nineteenth century.

QUEER PEOPLE: A VICAR'S LADY - The Graphic, 28 February 1880
"YES, Ma'am, Mrs. Motterling is at home. Will you walk in ? She will be down stairs presently." The visitor entered the large and richly furnished hall of A--n Rectory, and was just in time to see the figure of Mrs, Motterling retreating at the top of the broad oak staircase.

[. . .]"How did Mr. Motterling come to marry her ? "
“Oh, he married her for her money and her interest. Some of her relatives have great interest in the Church. She was a widow living in the parish where Mr. Motterling was curate. I forget now where it was - somewhere in the country."
"How curious ! He is such a meek, timid little man that I wonder how he ever had the courage to propose such a thing as marriage to her."
" Yes, and she has her own way in everything. He must be miserably weak-minded to tolerate those cats."
“'Cats? What cats?"
"Oh! Have you not heard that Mrs. Motterling--" Here the conversation was interrupted by the servant opening the door to announce another visitor, so the subject of Mrs. Motterling’s peculiarities was dropped.

There was grief and lamentation in the old Rectory to which Mr. Motterling had taken his elderly bride. But all the grief was felt and all the lamentation made by Mrs. Motterling herself. Fido, dear, darling Fido, was dead, and Fido's fond mistress was inconsolable. Everyone else in the house rejoiced, for Fido had been a petted, wheezing, overfed, long-haired nuisance. The unhappy dog's declining years had been made quite a burden to it by Mrs. Motterling's foolish pampering, and her utter ignorance of a lap dog's requirements in the way of daily nourishment. Fido might have been the apple of his mistress's eye for a much longer period if she had only been able to understand the language of dogs, and hear the pathetic complaints which Fido made day after day about his asthma and his miserable dyspepsia, but she could not so, of course. Fido had no option but to leave a world in which he was treated "not wisely, but too well." For some time Mrs. Motterling would not have the defunct Fido removed, but it was pointedly suggested to her that she must either have him stuffed or buried. But Mrs. Motterling received the suggestion about stuffing with the strongest indignation.

What have her darling pet cut and skinned and hacked about by an unfeeling taxidermist ! No ! Fido should never suffer such an indignity. However, she saw the necessity of having the dog buried, so fitting arrangements were made for Fido's funeral. Some days later she told the story of poor dear Fido's death and burial to a lady who came to visit her.

"We buried tile poor dear on Monday afternoon. It was a lovely day, and the sun was shining brightly as I silently carried my lost pet to its grave. I had the grave dug just under the churchyard wall in the garden. I will show you the place presently. All the servants came, and I told them to dress in black."

Her listener, who could hardly keep her countenance during the recital, here ventured to say: "And did they come in black ?"
" Yes," replied Mrs. Motterling, " they were all in deep mourning, and so we buried poor Fido in solenm silence, and, do you know, I believe the servants thought that Mr. Motterling would come and read the burial service !"

The story of Fido's burial “in solemn silence " was repeated, of course, but though everyone was amused, no one was at all surprised to hear it, for old Mrs. Motterling's peculiarities were well known.

[. . . Motterlings move to new location] So in due time the Motterlings prepared to remove their household gods to their new abode. There was no great difficulty about the furniture, but Mrs. Motterling was in despair about her pets, and well she might be. For once her husband was firm, and made her understand that they must be left behind. The cocks and hens could be sold, but Mrs. Motterling was loth to part with them. She was certain that they would not he treated by anyone else as they had been by her. She was quite right. Nothing was more unlikely than that her feathered pets would find similar quarters when they left her hospitable roof. People usually house their poultry in a suitable building erected out of doors. Mrs. Motterling had her own views on tile subject, and kept poultry indoors. One of the bedrooms of her house was converted into a hen-roost. [. . .] if Mrs. 'Motterling had stopped at turning a bedroom into a fowl-house it would not have been quite so bad [. . .] no one would hesitate to prefer a room full of poultry to a room full of cats !

Fancy a room full of cats in a dwelling-house ! Fancy the condition of a house in which one of the bedrooms was the dormitory of five-and-thirty cats ! Mrs. Motterling's love of cats was her weak point. She was partial to birds of any kind, she made a fool of herself about dogs, but cats she loved with an affection that amounted to a mania. Servant after servant left her house. They could not put up with the cats. They did not object to two, or even three, in the house, but a menagerie of them was too much even for the humblest "slavey's "toleration. So when Mrs. Motterling came to realise the fact that she and her darling cats had to be parted, her poor old wrinkled face was the picture of dismay. Her first thought was to try and find a good home for each cat ; so she went about and made very praiseworthy efforts to induce kindly people to adopt her pets.

But to find homes, and suitable homes, for such a goodly number of " toms and tabbies " was impossible in a country place. People had their own cats, and did not want other people's as well. The poor old lady got two or three adopted, and then she sat down and cried. Her cats were doomed. Nothing could save them, and Mrs. Motterling knew it perfectly well – hinc illa lacryme. To be poisoned, or to be drowned, that was the question. After a while she decided that death from "the cup of cold poisons was to be their fate. So a suitable person was sent for to carry out her resolution. Alas, poor Grimalkins !

''The state of the house, sir, was awful ; we should all have been laid up with fever in a week if I had taken my family into it as it was. That old woman must have been mad to have allowed the house to get into such a state. I've been obliged to have the papers off, the wainscoting removed, and the boards - all the boards - taken up in some of the rooms and burned. The place was pestilential."

The new Rector told his grievance to everyone he met [. . .]At last lie chanced to ask what had been done with the dead cats.
"' Ohl ! the old lady had a big grave made for ‘em all all out in the garden - she saw to it 'erself."
" I wonder where they were put; it would be just as well to know," thought the Rector. He accordingly made inquiries and found out. " I would have forgiven the state of the house and all the inconvenience it put me to," said the Rector afterwards ; "but I can't forgive her for burying all the carcases of those vile cats as close as she could put them to my drinking well.”


This last case doesn’t really fit in as a hoarder as there are only three cats in evidence, but it does share in terms of eccentricity, self-neglect and squalid living conditions. The woman in question was nicknamed “the catskinner” although there is no evidence of this activity in the newspaper reports. Hence I’ve left it as a footnote to my article.

Chelsea News and General Advertiser, 2nd February 1867
During the past week great excitement has prevailed in the neighbourhood of the New Cut, Lambeth, in consequence of a well-known eccentric female having been discovered lying dead in a state nudity in most wretched apartment in Harriett-street, Lower Marsh, Lambeth. From her singular and penurious habits, notwithstanding the apparent destitution, she was supposed to have been possessed of property; and accordingly Mr. Sheppard, the coroner’s officer, with police sergeant, proceeded to search. The body was on a board laid out, but quite naked, merely having a piece of an old nightgown thrown over her. Three black cats belonging to deceased were at the time lying upon the body. There was no wearing apparel or furniture in the room, which was in a most filthy and wretched condition, but it appears that the body had been stripped (robbed), and the things sold in a rag-shop, from the produce of which, and money believed to have been abstracted from her stays, the whole of the inmates the house, including the landlady, were supposed to have become in the frightful state intoxication in which they were found. With some difficulty possession was obtained of a book, showing that she was a depositor in the Southwark Savings Bank for upwards of £100. The deceased was well known in the southern districts of the metropolis, and from her singular attire, consisting of an immensely large beaver bonnet, ample, antiquated cloak, &c., formed during her rounds with a basket containing small tin articles, tapes, &c., an object of sport for gangs of rough boys, from whom she had gained the sobriquet of "Jenny the Catskinner,” and by these juveniles she was frequently mobbed and assailed, which she has sometimes resented with stones with such severity as to bring her before a police magistrate. She was, however, about eight nine years since sent to gaol for three months for felony, having been detected in stealing clothing from children. On that occasion a considerable sum was found in her stays, a portion which was applied to her support in prison, and the balance handed to her upon her discharge. To such extremes did she carry her penurious habits (although a depositor in the savings’ bank for years), that she has frequently not only begged for and accepted scraps of food from various parties, but has been known to eat cat’s meat and even scraps she picked from the streets.

On Saturday last Mr. W. Carter, the coroner for East Surrey, held an inquest at the Duke of Sussex, Gibson-street, Lambeth, ton he body of the above deceased. who bore the name of Hannah Henson, stated to be aged 75. Susannah Mary Hope, widow, of Havil-street, Southampton-street, Camberwell, said she had been intimate with deceased for twenty-five years. She last saw her alive on Monday three weeks [ago], when she called upon witness. Deceased was not an intemperate woman, but, the contrary, very abstemious. She was accustomed to carry a basket with small tinware, tapes. &c., which she sold about the streets. She was of very saving habits. Witness was not aware that she ever wanted food, or that she ever received parochial relief. Deceased could neither read nor write. She had placed a will in witness's possession, naming her executrix. The will here produced, and which was dated in 1862, bequeathed to “Maria Kate Broun, 234, Regent-street, St. James's, Middlesex, daughter of James Broun and Maria, his wife, late of Hatfield-street, Blackfriars-road, all money deposited and standing in my name in the Southwark Savings’ Bank."

Isaac Sheppard. the coroner’s officer, produced the bank-book, showing that deceased had deposited and that there was then standing in her name £111 2s. 9d., and stated that going to the house he found deceased in a state of nudity, and that her clothing had been taken and sold by the last witness and other persons in the house, and from what he could ascertain the stays had contained some amount of money. The witness (Hope) being re-examined said deceased told her the last time she saw her alive that she had £4 in the right comer of her stays and £7 in the left corner. Mr. Walter Menday, of Kensington-road, surgeon, saw deceased on the Wednesday after her death. Had some previous knowledge of her, having received an order from the parish to attend her on Saturday, 1st December. Her person was in a very dirty condition, and so was her room. Had made a post-mortem examination. Her hair and body were swarming with vermin. He should say the immediate cause of her death was exhaustion arising from want of proper nourishment.

The jury returned a verdict that death has arisen from deceased having by her penurious habits neglected to provide herself with proper nourishment. It is not known whether deceased had any relatives living, and Maria Kate Broun, to whom the money is left in the will, cannot at present be found.