Last week 19 cats were seized from an abandoned South Ryegate home but that was just the beginning for these cats.
This is the third seizure of this type in the last few months. The cats rescued from the South Ryegate home have temporarily been placed in the care of the Kingdom Animal Shelter in St. Johnsbury. But with successive cases resources have been stretched thin and the shelter is beginning to worry how it will continue to feed, house and care for all these cats if foster homes can't be found.
"It's still very critical because we have more cats than we can comfortably house," said Joyce Littlefield of the Kingdom Animal Shelter.
Littlefield was one of the animal advocates who helped authorities during the rescue last Thursday. Police were tipped off that something may be going on inside and what they discovered shocked the volunteers.
"I've done a lot of cruelty investigations and animal hoarding cases. This is one of the worst. It's horrible," said Sue Skaskiw, Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals after Thursday's rescue.
"Not because of the number of cats but because of the conditions they were living in," added Littlefield.
Littlefield heads the Kingdom Animal Shelter. She must now find temporary homes for all these cats while the state continues its investigation. Animal advocates say these cats were frequently left to fend for themselves and were unsocialized as kittens -- making them timid and fearful of people. They will require a very special foster parent.
"It would be somebody who could work with them, keep them confined for awhile and pretty much keep them like a velcro-cat by keeping them with them in a carrier 24 hours a day so that the cat has to look to them for all of its needs," said Littlefield.
She says that with a lot of patience and kindness it is possible for these cats to recover and become great companions. All 19 now are up-to-date on vaccines and tested negative for feline leukemia. But nursing these cats to health wasn't cheap.
"By the time we get done the bills, we will be in the thousands of dollars and that is an enormous burden for any small animal shelter to bear," said Littlefield.
The Kingdom Animal Shelter says it has learned there are at least five more cats still in the home and are now making preparations to rescue those as well. Police are continuing their investigation. We're told that the owner of the home is a traveling nurse who may have left the state -- but she could face animal cruelty charges.