03 May, 2006

This is a joke, right?

The New York Times made me very happy today. I especially loved the photo with this article.

I do not understand people. Why must everyone be utterly loathsome in his or her own unique way?


In a Tiny Queens Apartment, 70 Cats Gone, and 28 to Go


"Any evil intention against my cats and me, will come back to you, three times three."

Thus spoke the witch of Elmhurst last week, casting a protective spell over her coven of cats — 30 strong, but shrinking by the day — living in the rent-controlled studio apartment she shares with her mother on 80th Street in Queens.

The witch happens to be Melanie Neer, 50, a student of the principles of Wicca and Harry Potter.

The evil intention happens to be an eviction order from her landlord, who has long complained about the intense cat odor coming from the apartment.

Although it is against Wiccan principles to put a harmful spell upon others, Ms. Neer said as she took out a special candle used for "super-duper protection spells," one may cast a boomerang spell on a harmful person to so that the harm comes back to him.

But while she has managed to stave off eviction thus far, the witchcraft is not working wonders on the cat front.

Thirty cats in a cramped apartment may seem like a lot, but five years ago, the Neers had 100 in there and CNN showed up to cover the story. The publicity led people and rescue groups to adopt dozens of the cats. But the Neers are obligated by an agreement with their landlord to trim the herd to two.

Workers arrive daily now from Animal Care and Control of New York City to remove another cat or two. If the collected cats are not adopted, they are killed.

The floors were scrubbed down to bare wood and the wooden furniture clawed into scratching posts. A heavy cat smell filled the small space, despite two window fans on full blast.

Melanie sat with her mother, Barbaralee Neer, 73, a retired bank receptionist who has esophageal cancer and needs constant attention. Since no home health attendant is willing to work in the house, Melanie fills that role.

Melanie lit a cigarette and recalled that they had just nine cats in 1992. Some were not spayed or neutered, and things soon got out of control.

"That's her, she started the mess," she said, pointing to Whoopee, a 13-year-old cat who strolled into the room. Her litter spawned most of the cats, Melanie explained.

Barbaralee sat in her overcoat and a pair of thick boots and watched as Melanie pulled out papers showing that the landlord, Antonio Feggoudakis, was seeking her eviction. Michael S. Schnitzer, Mr. Feggoudakis's lawyer, said last night that eviction was a last-resort effort to "cure a health and safety problem, keep the integrity of the building and look out for the other tenants," since the Neers broke a 2001 agreement to keep only two cats.

When the Neers moved in 45 years ago, they paid $86 a month. Now they pay $521, they said. Melanie receives disability and Barbara lives on her pension and Social Security checks. The cat costs sap it all and they live hand to mouth, they said.

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