July 12, 2005

Elderly woman hoards more than 300 cats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 300 cats, nearly a third of
them dead, were removed from an elderly woman's Virginia home
after neighbors complained of a stench coming from the house,
police said on Tuesday.

The house, less than a mile from late President George
Washington's historic Mount Vernon estate, looked neat from the
outside with manicured lawns and bright flowers, but inside it
was overflowing with wild cats, feces and urine.

"Cats were coming out of the cabinets and drawers and were
inside the walls. There were hundreds of them," Fairfax County
Police officer Richard Henry told Reuters.

He said animal control officers removed 273 cats -- 86 of
them dead -- over the weekend and slapped a condemnation order
on the door of the house. The woman, her husband and daughter
were told to leave.

Later on, Henry said, the woman returned and attempted to
smuggle an additional 30 cats from the house. These animals
were confiscated, bringing the total to more than 300.

Ruth Knueven, 82, was charged with failing to care for her
animals and of improperly disposing of them. Dozens of dead
cats were found in plastic bins around the house.

Most of the cats were inbred and sick and were unfit for
adoption, said Henry. "These were feral cats who were given
free range of the house and almost all of them will,
unfortunately, have to be put down," he said.

Two weeks earlier, a 58-year-old woman in nearby Falls
Church, Virginia, had her home condemned after neighbors
complained of an overpowering stench coming from the property.
She had hoarded 88 cats and 29 of them were dead.