Cat scratch fever! Animal rescuer takes swipe at cat hoarder — on the Internet!

Brighton Beach cat lady: I want to keep my 45 kitties!
Barbara Berger’s cats have names like Jake, Yoshi, Montgomery and Caca.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Now this is a cat fight!

An attempt to save a cat hoarder from being kicked out of her Brighton Beach apartment has turned into a hissing match between the kitty collector and the woman trying to protect her beloved felines.

Brooklyn Umbrella Rescue founder Josie Marrero saved half of the 45 cats that once roamed Barbara Berger’s one-bedroom apartment on Coney Island Avenue, but she now says she won’t save the rest because Berger has become too difficult to work with.

“She’s not making sense anymore,” said Marrero, who has taken sharpened swipes at Berger on her blog. “I’m done with her.”

Marrero agreed to help Berger — who is facing eviction unless she gets rid of all but two of her cats — after reading about the cat lover’s plight on Brooklyn Daily.

Marrero rescued 18 of the cats, which were given good homes during a week-long adopt-a-thon at the Petco on 86th Street near Stillwell Avenue in March. A dozen of Berger’s cats were adopted by neighborhood residents, while the rest were taken in by the North Shore Animal League in Long Island.

But Berger’s now refusing to part with any more of her cats, even though her landlord has only given her until mid-May to whittle her brood down to two.

Marrero said she can’t trust Berger anymore and decided to pull her support.

“I’m frustrated because she doesn’t want to give up any more cats,” Marrero wrote in her blog. “I can’t trust her.”

Berger defended her actions — and lashed back at Marrero for publicizing their feud on the Internet.

“She’s making me feel like I’m a villain and it’s not true,” Berger said. “I don’t want to give up the cats that I love,” she explained.

Berger moved into her rent-stabilized apartment, for which she pays just $153 per month, with 15 cats in 2007. She said the number quickly tripled as she took in strays off the street and accepted kittens from neighbors and friends.

She’s insisted all along that she’s willing to part with most of the cats, but won’t give up her ten favorites, which have names like Yoshi, Blake and Montgomery.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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