A large number of cats have been rescued from the home of a recently deceased woman in Yorkshire who had been keeping them in poor conditions. Sadly, several kittens have since died – prompting fresh calls for people to neuter their cats.

The woman was known to local charities for taking in strays in good faith, but failing to neuter or care for them properly. The result was a growing number of cats and kittens living almost as ferals in her home.

A few weeks ago, the woman was found dead in her home, and efforts to capture and place the cats and kittens in suitable rescue accommodation began.

Yorkshire Cat Rescue has so far taken in five new-born kittens, four 3-month old kittens, and ten adult cats – all in poor health and severely under socialised. All five new-borns and one of the older kittens have since died.

“The living conditions for the cats were poor and many of them suffer from malnourishment and other health issues,” says the founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue, Sara Atkinson.

“None of the older cats we have taken in will let us stroke them yet but the three surviving kittens are luckily doing well in their foster homes.”

The cats had access to the outside, which is probably how they survived after their owner died, but which also made capturing them difficult.

One female cat had only just given birth to a litter of kittens when they were found; she ran away and the kittens were taken to be hand-reared at Yorkshire Cat Rescue. The female suspected of being the mother was later captured and reunited with her kittens, but she refused to care for them – potentially due to stress or illness.

“A week after the woman was found, cats are still being trapped from her home. This is one of those sad cases where there were every intention of doing good, but where the result was far from it.

“Taking in cats that appear to be stray or feral can be a good deed, but they absolutely must be neutered to avoid more unwanted kittens from being born. Against common belief, siblings will willingly mate with each other – resulting in kittens that are often born with deformities or immune diseases.”

Although the cats are hungry, they are also extremely timid which is making it hard to handle them.

Sara says: “One of the first cats we received was very ill and showed signs of having eaten something toxic; probably out of desperation. All efforts are being made to save the surviving kittens which are now safe with our amazing foster carers. The adults will need more time to be assessed but we are hopeful that they will come around so we can find them a new, loving home.”

The kittens are in foster care where they will be cared for and socialised until they are old and healthy enough to be neutered, and then put up for adoption.