Realtor: Hoarders' Houston home to be renovated

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The home where two adult sisters were found living with 130 cats in a hoarding situation will be stripped to the studs and renovated after a pending sale on the property closes later this month, according to the seller's Realtor.

The unnamed buyer owns a construction company and plans to close on the house by the end of April, according to Realtor Cheryl Barta, who represents the sellers.

The asking price on the property was $78,000 according to The actual price to be paid has not been disclosed. The Harris County Appraisal District says the home has three bedrooms, two full baths and a total of 1,640 square feet.

Nearly 130 cats were removed from a northwest Harris County home March 27. Many of the cats needed medical attention. Officials said the home had urine and feces stacked several feet high. Two elderly sisters lived inside the home, which is on Linecamp Drive near Rio Grande Drive.

No charges are expected at this time against either sister.

A local clinical psychologist says the case highlights a mental illness that people understand little about.

"This is an enormous social problem that is getting bigger every day," Clinical Psychologist John Hart, Ph.D., of the Menninger Clinic, said.

He believes two million Americans suffer from some diagnosable hoarding disorder.

"Most people don't recognize they have a problem. It can be hard to convince someone they have a problem," said Hart.

He says hoarders don't just amass animals, they can find themselves overly attached to anything.

"There is a problem of awareness or denial," Hart said. "It affects all income levels, all ethnic levels."

Hart says hoarding is a mental illness that affects the brain.

"Hoarding is a biological disorder. Something goes on in a person's brain and it causes an inflated sense of responsibility," he said. "It is a true mental illness."

In cases of animal hoarding, he says people often have a very strong attachment to an overwhelming number of animals.

"In some cases, the carcasses of dead animals will pile up and then people will have a hard time even parting with a dead animal. It's not unusual to find animals that are decomposing in a person's freezer," Hart said. "They have a strong, almost magical delusional attachment that makes them unable to part with animals."

Hart says psychologists can help hoarders if they are willing to accept help. Treatment can cost $60,000 in an inpatient treatment center such as Menninger Clinic. Outpatient treatment often runs about $100 an hour.

Have a story idea for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Email him or send him a message on Facebook.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.