“At one point, I think I had nine cats,” Kammie Alford said Sunday, “And that’s too much in a small house.”
These days, Alford lives with a mere five indoor cats and four feral cats in her City Park West home. She admits that she’s exceeded the maximum number allowed in Denver before, but with the recent death of Aticus, Alford seems to be back at the legal limit.
Technically, violations occur when the number of household pets exceeds five cats. In practice, it’s hard to say exactly what constitutes a household pet, and violations are decided on a case-by-case basis, Denver Environmental Health spokeswoman Kerra Jones said.
“I never worry about having more than five because I own my own home, and I don’t let my cats outside,” Alford said.
It’s clear that Alford lives in a cat-friendly home — there’s the “Attack Cat” sign out front, the Hercamer’s Way sign with kitty paw prints, the figurines, the paintings — but there’s no smell.
“Even when I had seven cats, I had people walk into my house and say, ‘Your house doesn’t stink,’” Alford said. “I try to keep my house very clean. I think the cats — and me — deserve that. And their litter boxes are scooped every day, sometimes twice a day.”
The cats themselves are shy. Bug, Cleo, Samantha, Klondike and Sunny Bunny hide under the bed while there are visitors. Alford though, is not shy about her love for them:
“Oh my god, that will make me cry. They’re my life, my indoor cats, my outdoor cats, the squirrels. I feed the squirrels, I feed the birds, I feed the pigeons, I have magpies. They’re worth everything. I wouldn’t sell them for any kind of money. I don’t feel like I’ve given up anything really. And if I did, it was willingly, and I’d do it over and over again,” she said.
“I adore them,” Alford continued. “They enrich my life, they do funny things. I love them. I wish I had enough money to have a big old huge compound and have more rescues.”
It’s not all fun and cat photos though — Alford says that her lifestyle means that she hasn’t been entertaining much.
“Boo Radley and Aticus, they weren’t scared of anything or anybody,” she said. “So if I entertained, I used to have to have somebody guard the dining room table because they would jump up and be like, ‘Ooh, that looks tasty.’”
And as much as she loves animals, Alford knows that people don’t want to eat food that a cat has licked. But the five remaining indoor cats don’t come out much, so she hopes to start entertaining again soon.
Alford isn’t sure how much feeding the cats themselves costs, but she’s worked out a system:
“My dad was in the military. He retired, he’s gone now. So my mom buys wet cat food and litter for me at the commissary. It’s not as expensive as buying it at King Soopers or whatever, but she buys eight cases at a time. I buy dry food at Costco … and then Purina gives away cat food,” she said.
The feral cats get the giveaway food.
“I only have ferals because other people have let their cats outside and then they get lost or they move or they throw them out like trash or they’ve been born on the street,” she said.
Alford is proud of how she’s cared for the outdoor cats, something she learned about from a friend who later became a cat hoarder, keeping 55 cats in a small house. Alford isn’t worried about becoming a hoarder herself, though, because she says she knows when to say no.
Besides, for now, she’s not expecting any more cats in her life. And as for that limit?
“I think it’s appropriate for people who rent or live in an apartment building, to keep them from making things nasty or smelly. But if you own your own home, well, even then … I don’t know.”
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