Neighbors had complained to Santa Ana Animal Services for months about 62-year-old Nancy Richling's filthy home. On Wednesday, officers pulled 49 cats -- many with fleas, mange and disease -- and a dead kitten from inside the home.
"There's a lot of feces and urine, the carpet is completely soaked throughout the house," said Animal Services Supervisor Sondra Berg.
According to Animal Services, the agency has tried for months to work with Richling who lived alone with the cats. However, officials say there are more cats in the home now than ever before. Plus, there are more than a dozen other cats roaming around outside the residence, which will take weeks for workers to trap.
Neighbors say they have major health concerns.
"Our yard is full of fleas right now, and the house, you'll see fleas here and there," said a neighbor who wished to remain anonymous. "You'll sit down (and) a flea will crawl up your arm. It's a nightmare."
"They have this odor that is unbearable; people hold their breath and guard their mouth so they won't have to breathe it in," said neighbor Luis Hernandez.
Many of the cats are feral, which not only poses a health concern for neighbors but a danger for Animal Services workers as well.
"They'll jump down, try to attack us in the face, try to jump on our backs," said Berg. "So we kind of have to have each other's back in there and try to watch all the cats all at once. And we've got them in a pretty concentrated area, so it makes them even more dangerous."
Two dogs with mange were also taken from the house. All of the animals will be taken to the county shelter where they will be checked out, treated, and hopefully given up for adoption.
Animal Services is recommending an animal cruelty charge for improper care of animals against Richling to the Orange County District Attorney. Responding officers say they hope she gets help.
"This is only the beginning of a long process," said Berg. "If they don't seek help for the illness that they have, then the recidivism rate is 97 percent, so we're going to be back out here doing this again eventually."