Two pensioners have been banned from keeping pets for life after their 73 cats were found living in squalor – in just one room.
Estranged couple David, 70, and Penelope O’Dell, 71, were also given suspended prison sentences after a court was shown a series of shocking images.
The felines were so sick that several had to be euthanised.
The court heard how the room inside the flat where the cats were kept was “thick with fur”, had 10 overflowing litter trays and smelt strongly of ammonia.
RSPCA inspectors had to wear special masks to enter the property in Looe, Cornwall, as the conditions were so poor.
In a report, a vet said that not only there were too many cats living in one area, 13 of them needed to have their teeth pulled out.
Sixteen cats were so badly matted that they needed grooming under anaesthetic and 35 of the felines had mites or ear problems.
Ten cats had severe eye infections including one which had a corneal ulcer and had to have its eye removed.
And a Manx cat, Piri Piri, had a painful prolapsed rectum which a vet operated on twice but she was among ‘a number’ that had to be euthanized.
The vet estimated that Piri Piri had suffered for about 46 weeks.
The elderly pair were given a 14-week suspended sentence and banned from keeping pets for the rest of their lives after pleading guilty to charges at Bodmin Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
The vet’s report added: “There was extensive damage to walls and door frames, the carpet was threaded and deep in fur. There was cat faecal matter around generally.
“This was a typical hoarding situation, the cats were subjected to a very stressful life, and this affected their immunity.”
The RSPCA was alerted to concerns about the cats in September last year.
They returned for an appointment with the O’Dell’s on September 7 when they found the shocking conditions the cats had been living in.
Lindi Meyer, from the RSPCA, said: “Some cats were petrified and hid in rotten draws.
“There was nowhere clean for the cats to toilet or any clean area to lie down. Some were mating. None of the cats were neutered. There was no ventilation.
“Health issues were clear – many had fleas, some had swollen ears, infected eyes, some were matted, some were very thin.”
In his interview, David O’Dell said he wasn’t responsible for the cats, but was looking after both Penelope O’Dell and the cats because she had broken her leg.
The court heard that Penelope O’Dell “checked the cats regularly” because they were “her life”, but because of her leg injury, she was physically unable to go to David’s flat and check on them while she was recovering.
The estranged couple said they were not aware of the overpowering ammonia smell in the flat.
Ms Meyer added that the pair were “well-intentioned but had given completely incompetent care””, stating that all of the cats were suffering to various degrees resulting in a number which had to be euthanized.
Both the O’Dell’s told the court that they had been through troubling times with family bereavements and poor health in the lead up to the cats being rescued.
In a statement, David O’Dell wrote: “I can only agree the flat was unsuitable for the cats.
“I had poor health, a lack of money and bereavement. I was not able to keep the property up to standard. If animals did suffer I’m sorry.”
In a statement, Penelope O’Dell added: “I love my cats and I have cared for them diligently.
“Unfortunately when my mum died, the property deteriorated and I had too many cats.
“I was embarrassed as to how the flat had deteriorated as a whole. I didn’t want to invite anyone in, not even family.
“I’m heartbroken and devastated. I never want something like this to happen again.”
Mr O’Dell admitted failing to provide a suitable environment for the 73 cats and failing to meet their needs to prevent pain or suffering.
Mrs O’Dell also admitted to the same two charges as well as a third charge of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by failing to provide adequate veterinary care.
Chair of the bench of magistrates, David Kirby-Welch said: “Over a prolonged period you caused considerable ill treatment and neglect which resulted in death, serious injury, and untold suffering.”
The pair were handed a 12 week suspended prison sentence for 18 months, and ordered to pay £450 each.
The O’Dell’s are also disqualified from owning, keeping, looking after or participating and or being party to any arrangement for any pets for life.
RSPCA inspector Claire Ryder, said: “This was a really sad case where things had got totally out of hand.
“There were 73 cats in an environment which was shocking and terrible to live in. Please think about neutering your cats and don’t go out and buy a cat, rescue from a shelter.”
Ruth Rickard, assistant manager of Gables Farm which took in more than 20 of the cats, said: “Inside the house was horrific, the smell was just a stench of ammonia and cat faeces.
“There was nowhere clean for the cats to sit and they were terrified and just running around. We quickly, gently and carefully caught 20 cats.
“The cats were so matted they all had to be shaved under sedation and several had claws so long they were embedded into their feet.
“We have rehomed all but two. The first month we cared for them with a hands off approach – gradually with lots of patience and cat treats they started to get braver and affectionate.”