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Pontiac ‘Cat Guy’ seeks help finding homes for his 26 cats WITH VIDEO
Friday, March 22, 2013 10:01 PM EDT
Neighbors, friends and animal activists know Pontiac resident Arnold Kuerbitz as the resident “Cat Guy.”
With a home filled with 26 cats, all of which he loves dearly, it’s no wonder the name has stuck.
But as financial and health strains have forced him to look for a new home, Kuerbitz said he will have to begin the process of giving his cats up for adoption.
And the priority right now, he said, is finding a home for his cats — even before he secures shelter for himself.
Kuerbitz, who takes in strays and cares for them, has fallen on hard times. He’s got throat cancer that he attends radiation treatment for daily, and he will soon have to move out of the house he rents at 145 LeGrande.
Animal Care Network manager Pam Porteous said Kuerbitz isn’t called the “Cat man” for nothing. Working with her group and others, Kuerbitz has gotten 10 calls so far to adopt his cats.
“It’s difficult because when unforeseen things happen and you have that many cats, it’s hard to find places for them,” Porteous said. “He’s at least trying to plan …. he’s being smart about planning ahead. He did a good thing taking all those cats off the street.”
When he does move, there’s not going to be anybody else like him in his neighborhood, said Porteous. She would usually go into neighborhoods like Kuerbitz’s and pick up packs of strays. She said she hasn’t had to go to his neighborhood in a year because he kept the population under control.
“He usually kept a watchful eye out for cats in need,” she added. “Sort of kept that neighborhood under control, getting a lot of (the cats) spayed and neutered.”
Porteous said the Animal Care Network will be ramping up their efforts after Kuerbitz’ departure.
Kuerbitz, thinking only about his beloved pets, says he has a love for them words can’t describe. He just wants them to find a home, he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, my cats come first,” said Kuerbitz. “I’ll worry about the other stuff after.”
Early cat love
His fondness for felines came at a young age, he said. He grew up with cats, and he always loved their therapeutic nature.
“They can sense when you’re sad or sick,” Kuerbitz said.
His first cat, C.C., was “where it all started. One day (a friend) told me she had a cat she found in a church parking lot,” he said.
It needed a lot of help, so the woman — named Sue, he said — nursed it back to health. After visiting with the woman and seeing the cat in such a fragile state, Kuerbitz said “you know what? This cat’s got a home right now.”
King Charles, another stray that Kuerbitz said chose him, “just came right into the house one day and made it his home,” he said.
Since then, some of his felines have had offspring. Often times in the summer, he left his windows open, and left an offering of cat food on his LeGrande Avenue porch.
“It’s just never ended,” he said. “These cats have been left behind. I felt I had the love to care for them.”
While Kuerbitz has the love, he is struggling to find the means to care for his pets. A wave of bad luck has recently come over him, he said.
According to the 53-year-old, he is going through a divorce, has a back ailment and throat cancer.
While the cancer will go into remission, he said paying for radiation treatment — along with caring for his cats, rent payment and car payments — is hard to do on the $710 Social Security check he gets every month.
He will also have to visit a cancer specialist for five years after the disease clears his body, he said.
Along with his financial stress, Kuerbitz said he recently had to file a complaint on his landlord, Art Westman, for not keeping the property in a livable condition. He’s been without heat since January, he said.
“I’ve been living in these freezing temperatures all winter,” said Kuerbitz, who said the furnace at the residence has gone out and Westman hasn’t had it fixed yet. Other pets — fish that he keeps in two separate tanks at home — have died because of the problem.
“It’s so cold in this house, it went below freezing in both fish tanks and killed my fish,” he said.
Recently, smoke came out of an electrical outlet in the house, as well, he added.
On March 13, Kuerbitz, after visiting with Rochester lawyer Randall L. Shepard, filed a civil complaint in the Oakland County Circuit Court.
“I’m not sure how much I helped,” said Shepard. “I gave him a booklet on landlord and tenant rights, and we only met for 20 minutes.”
Kuerbitz said the meeting was helpful. He’s hoping the complaint will get something done about his house. Westman hasn’t returned Kuerbitz’ calls, he said. Kuerbitz received retaliatory paperwork — filed in the 50th District Court — from his landlord, who accused him of being a health hazard and causing injury to the premises.
“I’ve had these cats since I moved into this house,” said Kuerbitz. “The lease states I’m allowed to have them … it never was a problem, but now — all of a sudden — it’s a problem.” The landlord was also contacted by The Oakland Press, but hasn’t returned several calls.
Adopt a cat
Kuerbitz doesn’t know where he’s going when he moves out of his house. But that doesn’t matter to him, he said.
“Where I go is not something I’m concerned about,” Kuerbitz said. “My only concern is that these cats have a good home.”
He has had 11 feral cats spayed at animal clinic All About Animals, located in Warren.
Catherine Garrett, director of development and marketing for the organization, said he utilized the Oakland County Pet Adoption Center OakCats grants for six of those cats.
The grants allow local residents to take a “trap and release” training program with All About Animals to learn how to trap feral cats, obtain loaner traps and spay and neuter cats at the Warren clinic.
Kuerbitz probably took his cats to the establishment’s Auburn Hills location, said Garrett, which sends transport vans to pick up the cats for surgery.
“The grants are up in April, but the Oakland County Pet Adoption Center is trying to get them extended,” she said. “The fee was originally only $10 to get outdoor cats fixed, but All About Animals decided to take care of that cost to make it free to utilize the grants and send less baby cats to shelters.”
While Kuerbitz continues to provide for his pets, he said he sometimes feels overburdened. He hopes his cats will find a good home, since he said they have given him his biggest purpose in life.
“I want to personally be able to take the cats to their new homes,” he said. “I just want them to be safe. They’re like my kids.”
To adopt one of Kuerbitz’ 26 cats, call the Animal Care Network at 248-545-5055 or visit michigananimaladoptionnetwork.org.
Contact staff writer John Turk at 248-745-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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