Seven-seventy-eight Onderdonk Avenue, an eight-unit apartment building in Ridgewood Queens, was all set for demolition. The tenants had been bought out. The bulldozers were rolling in.

There was just one problem: the building wasn’t totally abandoned. A few dozen cats were still living at 778 Onderdonk, slinking up and down the stairs, climbing through the rafters, and hiding in various nooks and crannies.

Construction workers discovered the fluffy squatters the hard way in late July, when they began gutting a third-floor apartment and “discovered it was filled with cats,” the New York Times reports.

“When they opened the walls, they jumped out—cats, baby cats big ones, you can’t imagine,” the building’s owner, Isaac Silberstein, told the Times.

Animal rescue groups and watchful neighbors say they’ve seen the cats—which likely belonged to a former tenant—coming in and out of the building since early July. They told the Times that many of the cats are injured, and that on occasion, they’ve found feline bones.

On other platforms, people have made more dire accusations. Some rescuers accused the construction company of beginning the demolishment even though they knew cats were in there. Another told DNAInfo that they saw a cat “leap out of a dumpster where workers were unloading debris.”

“A building owner has been paying crackheads 100$ per cat they gas to death,” another rescuer wrote on Instagram, captioning a picture of an empty Clorox bottle. (Silberstein told the Times that he had hired “a private company” to remove the cats, and that they had sprayed bleach in hopes that the smell would drive the cats away.)

This cadre of concerned citizens initially mobilized to get the cats out of the building and into safer situations. Various animal shelters’ Facebook pages are full of updates about them (some have taken to calling them the “Onderdonk Orphans”). Recently, the city’s animal control agency, Animal Care Centers of NYC, took over the rescue effort. “The manager… has promised us that no more work will be done until all the cats are out,” an ACC spokesperson told the Times.

No one is quite sure how many cats remain in the building. But so far, they don’t seem to be budging, preferring the strange, private world they’ve created within the building to the one waiting for them without.

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