ONTARIO, Ore. (AP) — Workers at an animal rescue operation in Oregon were caring Thursday for 68 cats found crammed into a van, many in wretched shape.
One of the rescue workers said there were only three litter boxes, and the stench was horrifying when the animals were found on Sunday.
"It was just a swirling mass of cats around your feet," Elizabeth Lyon of the Ontario Feral Cats Project said about the discovery on Sunday. "Every step I took down that center aisle, I had to wiggle my foot in so I didn't step on somebody."
The vehicle also held the bodies of five cats that died, the Ontario Argus Observer (http://bit.ly/1EHrtde) reported.
Many of the living cats were emaciated, Some had lost an eye to infection, a few were missing both eyes.
Officers made the discovery after getting a cat-hoarding complaint and have questioned 55-year-old Cynthia Allen, who has relinquished the van and cooperated with deputies, Malheur County Undersheriff Travis Johnson said.
Johnson said deputies haven't learned much about her background or how she came to have so many cats. He said it appeared she had the cats before she left Eastern Oregon for Texas about three months ago. She had recently returned to the area, he said.
He said reports on the case have been turned over to the district attorney's office, which will determine if charges are filed. Allen couldn't be reached.
More than 20 volunteers and three veterinarians spent two hours getting the frightened animals out of the vehicle on Tuesday, Lyon said.
It was full of bedding and 32 cat carriers holding shoes and other possessions.
The cats have been treated for parasites and worms. One small male was to get surgery for an eye that was swollen out of its socket. As of Thursday, all the cats were reported still alive at the building where the rescue operation sheltered them, Johnson said.
Lyon described the cats as stressed and frightened but tame, friendly and sweet. Many were spayed or neutered, she said.
The rescue group appealed to the community for donations, and for cages to borrow. It promised the cages would be sanitized and disinfected before they are returned, in about a month.
"We'll be showing cats at the stores as soon as they are healthy enough to be shown," said Lyon.
The Ontario Feral Cat Project: http://bit.ly/1u7fjFW
Information from: Argus Observer, http://www.argusobserver.com