PHOTO ESSAY: Peruvian nurse transforms apartment to care for 175 sick catsLoading
  • APTOPIX Peru Cat Hospice
    At her job, Maria Torero cares for sick human beings. At home, she lavishes love on slowly dying cats — 175 of them at last count. The 45-year-old nurse has turned her two-story, eight-room apartment into a hospice for cats with feline leukemia, scattering it with scores of feeding dishes and at least two dozen boxes litter boxes.
    In this Aug. 15, 2014 photo, Maria Torero's son Fabian, 7, plays with the hospice's cats. Maria Torero, cares for 175 cats with leukemia at her home in Lima, Peru. The home is permeated with the stench of urine, which cannot be eliminated with even the strongest air fresheners.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    Some have suggested Torero shelter healthy cats instead. “That’s not my role,” she told The Associated Press. “I’m a nurse. My duty is to the cats that nobody cares about.”
    She said that “people don’t adopt adult cats, especially if they are terminally ill.”
    In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Torero carries a sick cat at her Cat Hospice.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    Torero finds the cats in Lima’s streets and markets and has them tested for leukemia. Nearly all of the street cats turn out to have the disease, as well as fleas, parasites and malnutrition. She takes in only adult cats to avoid spreading the disease to new generations. “Bringing a kitten here is condemning it to death,” she said. In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Maria Torero’s son Fabian, 7, plays with the hospice’s cats.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    Torero names the cats — Fellini, Peppa, Dolly, Misterio among them — and dresses many in small shirts. “Each one has a distinct personality,” she said.
    In this Aug. 6, 2014 photo, a group of sick cats rest in Maria Torero's hospice for felines suffering from Leukemia, at her home in Lima, Peru.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    She said she doses out medicine, sterilizes the animals and treats them for parasites every two months. Her arms bear the scratches of cats that resist the injections. She estimated she spends about $1,785 a month to care for the cats, half of that from donations and the other half from her job as a private nurse.
    In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Maria Torero, plays with a group of 175 cats with leukemia in her home in Lima, Peru. Torero says caring for cats with feline leukemia is her responsibility. Anybody else can care for healthy animals.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, a cat leukemia waits to me medicated in Maria Torero's home in Lima, Peru.
    Her three children, ages 16, 14, and 6, share the apartment and often play or cuddle with the cats, many of which sleep in plastic organizer bins and sprawl across seemingly every chair and shelf.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    The cat boxes and heavy use of deodorants don’t quite mask the odor of urine, but Torero said her neighbors haven’t complained.
    In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, a group of sick cats rest in Maria Torero's hospice for felines suffering from Leukemia, at her home in Lima, Peru.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    In this Aug. 6, 2014 photo, a cat looks through the window at a Cat Hospice run by Maria Torero.
    Cats with leukemia can survive for several years, though their lifespan is usually much shorter than that of an unaffected cat. They eventually die naturally; Torero hasn’t the resources to have them put down. There are no special ceremonies. “My best gift of love and respect I give them in life,” she said.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, a sick cat sits on a ladder in Maria Torero's hospice for cats with leukemia, at her home in Lima, Peru. She finds the cats in Lima’s streets and markets, collecting around 60 in one market alone, and has them tested for leukemia by one of dozens of veterinarians who charge $25 per exam.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    In this Aug. 6, 2014 photo, Maria Torero, her arms covered with scratches, gets ready to medicate a sick cat at her cat hospice where she cares for 175 cats with leukemia at her home in Lima, Peru.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    In this Aug. 6, 2014 photo, Maria Torero gets ready to medicate a sick cat at her Cat Hospice.
    Martin Mejia | AP
  • Peru Cat Hospice
    In this Aug. 15, 2014 photo, Maria Torero, talks on her mobile phone, surrounded by several of the 175 cats with leukemia she cares for at her home in Lima, Peru. The Peruvian government doesn’t keep numbers on street cats, but Torero says there must be millions in the country.
    Martin Mejia | AP
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