HOUSTON -- Neighbors noticed the house looked rundown, the yard unkempt, the trees untrimmed, and then there were the cats.
“The wind blows north and south and never blows this way,” said David Gonzales, who lives nearby. “Thank God.”
Somebody finally decided to call animal control authorities, but nobody expected what they found inside.
“You could see the cats through the windows,” said Christine Kendrick, a deputy constable with Harris Co. Precinct 1. “And it was like they were pleading through the windows, ‘Get me out of this house.’”
Deputies found about 130 cats – maybe more – living in a house reeking with a stench so powerful that animal rescue workers donned gas masks. Almost every surface in the home – floors, kitchen counters, tables and other furniture – was littered with cat waste.
Worst of all, the garage was almost literally full of cat feces, piled in mounds standing four feet high.
“There are some cats still in the house,” said J.C. Mosier, assistant chief of Harris Co. Constable’s Office Pct. 1. “We’re going to have to come back and work a little harder to get them, because they have burrowed into the mounds of feces like a rat would make a tunnel into a hill.”
Living in the filthy house were 60 year-old twin sisters, both of whom appeared to be in poor health. One of them was a cancer patient, law enforcement authorities said. Neighbors said the sisters had lived in the home with their parents, both of whom died years ago.
“This situation overwhelmed them, I think,” Mosier said. “And it got to where they couldn’t help themselves.”
Animal rescue workers spent much of Thursday afternoon hauling animals out of the home in the 10300 block of Linecamp in northwest Harris County. Many of them were emaciated and had lost hair and suffered from what Houston SPCA officials called “ocular and nasal discharge.”
Walking through the filthy home, a deputy lifted her gas mask to utter a warning about a dead and decomposing cat lying in the bathroom.
“It’s not just the feces smells, it’s the ammonia levels in here that are just overwhelming,” Kendrick said. “I mean, the second I walked in the front door my eyes were watering. It’s just difficult to breathe in this house.”
Mosier, a retired homicide investigator who’s worked on some of the most horrific crime scenes in Houston history, struggled for words to describe what he saw.
“I’ve never seen the inside of a house look like this,” he said. “Never in my life. And I thought I’d seen a lot of things until I saw this today.”
Houston SPCA officials said the animals would receive medical evaluations and treatment.
“We’re going to work and make sure they get into loving homes,” said Meera Nandlal, a spokesperson for the Houston SPCA. “We’re going to work with our adoption partners or even place them in reputable sanctuaries.”
Both of the women living in the house looked confused and upset. The sister suffering from cancer was taken away in an ambulance for hospital treatment. The other woman, after a long conversation with an animal welfare worker about the condition of her cats, said she planned to stay with a niece.
“They need help,” Mosier said. “I don’t know that they’ll ever be able to totally recover from what’s happened to their house. But I hope there are people who can help us help these ladies. It’s such a sad situation. It’s horribly sad.”