By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette — Investigators removed 50 cats over two days from a ramshackle North Tonawanda home that appears to have been abandoned.
Police were called to 155 Roncroff Drive on Friday by a concerned neighbor who said that the "smell of cats" was overwhelming.
Members of the city's code enforcement department and officers entered the disheveled one-story, single-family house, where they discovered the animals surrounded by months of piled up feces, a flooded basement, missing sections of the roof and and the "extreme" odor of urine.
Rusted out appliances and mold were also prevalent, and there was no heat or running water, according to building inspector Cosimo R. Capozzi.
"It's the worst that I've seen," Capozzi said of the home, while adding a similar scenario was discovered on Robinson Street in the 1990s.
On Friday, 43 cats were removed by the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals of Niagara. Another seven, one dead, were discovered on Monday. SPCA Director Amy Lewis said she believed some of the animals may have hidden in the walls of the home to escape capture.
Investigators were not sure if the owner of the home was also living in those conditions, though Lewis said it appeared the individual would drop off water and food for the animals. Charges may be pending, though police said they would not release the homeowner's name as the investigation continues.
Many of the felines were found with severe flea issues, and seemed to be unsociable, indicating they are feral. Officials said one cat had a broken leg. The deceased cat was discovered entwined in the springs of a mattress, Lewis said, though they were unsure if the animal became stuck or went there to die.
The SPCA brought all of the animals back to headquarters and will spend the next several weeks rehabilitating them through regular medical treatment, cleanings and human contact.
Lewis said that because they animals were fed and given water they were in fair condition, though two of the SPCA employees responsible for caging the cats described 6- to 8-inches of feces around the interior of the home.
"The conditions in the house were pretty bad," Lewis said. "My driver said there wasn't a square inch that you could walk on where there wasn't feces."
Yet, despite the deplorable living conditions, Lewis expects most of the cats will eventually be adopted.
"It is hard to tell at this point," she said. "They went through a very traumatic capture process. As they are here and we clean out there cages and we medicate them we may become social again. But it could be a couple of weeks before we have true picture as to which one's are actually feral."
In the meantime, Capozzi said the home has been boarded up and the city will "keep it sealed" until an future date.