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68 cats recovered from van

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Cats ready for adoption

Several cats recovered from a bus in Ontario suffered from upper respiratory infections that caused eye problems. Many, however, now have a clean bill of health and are ready to be adopted.

ONTARIO — Volunteers are caring for nearly 70 cats recovered from a van in Ontario Sunday.

The Malheur County Sheriff’s Office responded to a complaint about a bus full of neglected cats Sunday. When a deputy and sergeant arrived at the Freedom Drive address, they found a Ford E350 full of felines.

Cat hoarding

Cynthia Allen, of Ontario, faces animal neglect charges after Malheur County Sheriff's deputies recovered 68 cats from her van Sunday. Volunteers with the Ontario Feral Cat Project are caring for the cats.

The van’s owner, Cynthia Allen, told deputies the van contained 26 cats, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office. She turned over the van and is cooperating with the investigation.

Allen, 52, likely will be charged with Animal Neglect I and II. Deputies are still investigating, with help from the Ontario Police Department.

The Sheriff’s Office is readying court orders to allow the cats to be adopted. In the meantime, volunteers with the nonprofit Ontario Feral Cat Project are assisting by housing and providing medical care for the cats until they are healthy enough to be adopted. The bus was brought to a garage that is under the care of Feral Cat Project.

Cat hoarding

Cynthia Allen kept around 70 cats in this Ford E350.

Dr. Lindsay Norman, a veterinarian with Ontario Animal Hospital and chairwoman of the Feral Cat Project, is heading the project. She was first to see the cats Sunday night, followed by Feral Cat Project volunteer Elizabeth Lyon Monday morning.

“It was just a swirling mass of cats around your feet,” said Lyon. “Every step I took down that center aisle, I had to wiggle my foot in so I didn’t step on somebody.”

Cat hoarding

Elizabeth Lyon, a volunteer for the Ontario Feral Cat Project, checks on a rescued cat during the clean-up phase after the cats’ recovery.

When volunteers arrived Tuesday to assist with rescue work, they found five dead cats along with the 68 living. There were only three litter boxes on the bus.

“It’s bad enough that we are cleaning one cat box for every three or four or five cats. That’s bad, but that was really horrifying,” said Lyon.

The bus was also full of bedding and, stacked on the seats, 32 cat carriers holding Allen’s shoes and other possessions. Lyon was sympathetic toward Allen.

“We don’t want to vilify her,” Lyon said. “She has been very cooperative about this, and hoarding is a psychological disease.”

Cat hoarding

Ontario Feral Cat Project volunteers are caring for the cats in a garage owned by Elizabeth Lyon.

Lyon; her husband, David Brown; and 20 volunteers from local animal clinics came together Tuesday afternoon to collect the cats and move them into separate cages. It took an hour and a half to remove the first 60 frightened cats from the bus. By the time Brown and Norman’s son got down to the last eight, the cats were afraid enough to hide.

It took half an hour to get the last few cats off the bus.

Cat hoarding

Ontario Feral Cat Project is desperate for more cages to house the recovered cats, until the nonprofit can get the felines healthy and find homes for them.

Volunteers fed the cats, washed their water bowls and gave them fresh water. They have continued to care for the animals since.

On Tuesday afternoon, Norman, along with Dr. Wyder Holderman from Eastern Oregon Animal Health, Dr. Erin Robinson from Four Rivers Veterinary Clinic, and Dr. Martha Eaton from Dog and Cat Wellness in Weiser, worked outside the hours of their regular practices and looked over each cat as it came off the bus to assess its health and determine its needs.

Cat hoarding

Several of the cats have upper respiratory infections that are causing eye problems.

All of the cats are being treated for Giardina, a waterborne parasite. The medication will also kill any worms that might be living in the cats’ intestines.

Many of the cats have lost one eye and a few have lost both eyes due to upper respiratory infections. One small, male cat is waiting for surgery because his eye has swollen out of its socket.

Cat hoarding

Some cats with upper respiratory infections lost one or both eyes. This cat is waiting for surgery to repair its eye.

Some of the cats are starved to the point of emaciation, but Lyon and other volunteers are working on getting them up to a healthy weight.

Although they are stressed and frightened, the cats are tame. Lyon said they are even friendly and sweet.

She indicated that a garage full of meowing is a good sign because feral cats are quiet and secretive. Many of the cats have been spayed or neutered, and the volunteers will help ensure the rest are fixed before they’re adopted.

Cat hoarding

Some of the cats were emaciated, but Ontario Feral Cat Project volunteers will be helping get them up to a healthy weight.

The Ontario Feral Cat Project has adoption partners in PetSmart in Meridian and Nampa and Petsense in Ontario. They will be helping to place the cats in homes.

“We’ll be showing cats at the stores as soon as they are healthy enough to be shown,” said Lyon.

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