The investigation began with a hint from a neighbor. Inside the home, officers found piles of trash and signs of hoarding.
"There's a lot of garbage, a lot of wet garbage from where the cats have used that as a litter box, overflowing litter boxes, a lot of feces piled in the house," said Sondra Berg of Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services.
Photo courtesy Santa Ana Police Department
Santa Ana police say officers served a warrant at the home at around 7 a.m. Twenty-one cats were found, including several kittens.
The house and the cats belong to Mary Edgecomb, who was very angry about the officers and the media being at her home.
"(The cats) tend to get pregnant very rapidly, and when you don't have a lot of money, you can't neuter them because it costs about $250 to neuter," she said.
Members of animal services wore protective suits and masks to remove the cats from the home, one-by-one. Officers say the filth inside took its toll on the cats, most of them infested with fleas.
"They're well taken care of. It's a bit nasty in there because when you've got that many cats in two rooms, it does get a bit nasty," Edgecomb said.
The cats will be taken to the Orange County Animal Shelter, where they'll get much needed medical attention.
"They are just laying in their own urine and feces. Some of them are underweight because they're competing for food sources," Berg said.
Once they get report on the health of the cats, officials plan to file charges of animal cruelty and neglect, which are both felonies.