Off 38th Avenue East in Bradenton, a home hid a secret.
"This happens to be the worst I’ve seen as far as the smell inside the house," said Steven Bell.
Manatee County Animal Welfare Field Supervisor Steven Bell has worked several animal hoarding cases in his 17-year career and says this one hit differently.
"Their whole life span they’ve spent in the house without a litter box or any litter. You can imagine it’s just wall-to-wall animal feces and urine," he said.
Deputies were called to do a welfare check at the home. Inside they found the 80-year-old homeowner, dead. There was nothing suspicious surrounding her death and investigators believe she died from natural causes. They also discovered more than 70 cats living inside.
"The safe limits for ammonia are about five parts per a million this measured in 32 parts per a million," said Bell.
Using respirators and protective gear, animal welfare officers removed cats and kittens from the home. However, some were left behind so they set traps and left out food and water for the animals.
Animal Welfare officers took 54 cats from the home and believe at least 20 remain inside.
"They're in the walls and in the attic," said Bell.
Manatee County Animal Welfare is now treating the cats for several things.
"We are seeing a lot of upper respiratory infections, parasites, eye infections," said Hans Wohlgefahrt.
Medication and attention, something they've been missing is given.
"We are hoping with our staff and volunteers we can start to bring the cats out of their shell a little bit and make them healthier again," shared Wohlgefahrt. "They all deserve a home and if we can get them homes that’s the way to do it," said Bell.
The cats will be up for adoption at a later date, but they need foster homes.
Manatee County Animal Welfare is also looking for volunteers to spend time with the cats and kittens.
LINK: Click here for more information on how you can help.