POWELL — After living under one roof in squalid conditions, 157 cats were enjoying a little private space Friday, lounging in clean, individual cages at a temporary animal shelter at the Park County Fairgrounds.
Seized Thursday from a rural home just south of Powell, the cats were getting veterinary checkups, vaccinations and treatments for fleas and mites while they awaited transport to area animal shelters for adoption.
“I’ve been here for 17 years and I have not seen anything like this,” said Teri Oursler, a small-animal veterinarian from Heart Mountain Animal Health in Powell.
Oursler is leading a team of five area vets who have volunteered to examine and treat the cats, many of which suffer from upper-respiratory problems, she said.
“It can be resolved with medication and being out of the bad, ammonia-laden air they were in,” Oursler said.
Workers from the Humane Society of the United States assisted deputies from the Park County Sheriff’s Office and others Thursday in removing the cats, based on suspicion of violation of Wyoming laws against cruelty to animals.
Reports by residents Thursday that up to 170 cats had been seized were erroneous, shelter workers said Friday. They counted 157.
Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt said Friday afternoon that no charges had been filed, but that the investigation continues.
Prosecutors will wait to hear from veterinarians about the condition of each animal before making any decision on possible criminal charges, he said.
Blatt said the residents, Clifton Taylor, his wife Mimi Taylor and Miki Nesbit, identical twin sister of Mimi, had voluntarily relinquished 143 of the cats to the Park County Sheriff’s Office, which is working with the Humane Society to place the animals in new homes.
Nesbit said Thursday that she contacted authorities and asked for help out of concern about her living conditions, but claimed that no one in the house knew there were more than 150 cats living there.
The three have identified 14 cats they want to keep, Blatt said.
Oursler said the cats were being vaccinated for distemper, feline leukemia and rabies, and all of them are suffering from ear mites. They will be spayed and neutered by local shelters, which are better equipped for those procedures, she said.
Authorities said that some of the cats had already been sent to shelters.
“We’re going to try to place as many of them as we can,” said Oursler, who praised the efforts of other vets and volunteers who have assisted in the effort.
Oursler said that Blondie, a diabetic cat that requires twice-daily insulin injections, is under close supervision at her office.
Most of the cats appeared to be adequately fed and watered, Oursler said, but she condemned the living conditions in the house, described by authorities as a two-bedroom home of about 1,500 square feet with an unfinished basement.
Workers who removed cats Thursday said the home was severely soiled with cat urine and feces.
Oursler said she could not speak to the specific issues in the Powell case, but that generally, animal hoarders are unable to understand the extreme nature of their behavior or that they might not be acting in the best interest of their pets.
“They are convinced that they are the only ones that can take care of the animals, and no one else can do as good a job,” she said.
“With cats, when they have five or six to a litter and get pregnant at six months, it takes very little time to get out of control,” Oursler said.
Clifton Taylor’s son, Robert Taylor, said he had tried many times to resolve the situation but never made much headway. He said his father had about a dozen cats before Mimi and Miki moved in, and that Mimi was the driving force behind filling the house with so many cats.
Taylor, who grew up in Powell and now lives in California, said his father, who is 79, was lonely and desperate for companionship following his first wife’s death. He said the sisters are in their 60s.
“They’re taking advantage of him. He spends hundreds of dollars a month on cat food,” said Taylor, who owns the home where his father and the sisters live.
Taylor said he had threatened to evict the sisters last year after he became concerned about their interactions with his father, but that Mimi married his father so that she could stay in the house.
“I counted more than 100 cats in that house a year ago and confronted them about it,” he said.
Taylor said he has tried many times to help his father resolve the situation, but that they eventually had a falling-out over the cats.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-527-7250.