CARY — Jeanne Diaz loves cats and surrounded herself with them at her home. Soon, though, a handful of cats turned into a dozen, then two dozen and eventually as many as 65.
Wednesday, a neighbor called police complaining of cats on Diaz's front lawn on Chapel Hill Road. Police found her home filled with more than six dozen animals. Diaz willingly gave up nearly all of them, but she was allowed to keep four -- a neutered male and three unspayed females.
Diaz, 43, said she had intended to raise a litter of Siamese cats, a popular and expensive breed. She hoped to sell most of the kittens at low prices to people like her who wanted Siamese cats but could not afford to pay full price.
The original litter, however, came out larger than expected. Typical litters include around four kittens, but hers amounted to eight or nine. Paying for vaccinations and neutering became too expensive for Diaz, and soon the kittens themselves reproduced, again in large numbers.
"You would think that would be just a fluke," she said. "Turned out it was pretty regular."
Cary police took possession of the 65 felines, at which point they sent an e-mail message to an animal rescue task force looking for organizations able to take some of them in. Deborah Fox of Cat Angels Pet Adoptions responded that afternoon.
Fox initially concluded she had space for 25 and picked them up in her Ford Explorer with the biggest cages she had.
Thursday, Cat Angels agreed to take the remaining 11 cats. Nearly 30 animals were put down because of a discharge from their eyes and respiratory problems, said Chris Davis of Cary Police Support Services.
Though 65 animals in one house is a lot, the town had a similar experience in 2002 when it recovered 82 cats from a single house, said Shelly Davis of the animal control department.
No charges will be filed against Diaz because she was cooperative, Davis said.
Diaz said that she knew some of the cats had worms, but that she had medicine for the disease in her home to give them. She was dismayed that so many had been euthanized.
Many of the cats had health problems but had been fairly well cared for, Fox said. Some of them "could afford to lose a few pounds," indicating that they had been fed well. She added that the 25 already in her care at Cat Angels are friendly and sociable, a sign they were not abused.
Diaz cared for the cats but says she became overwhelmed.
"It was like I didn't have enough hands to pet them all," she said. "All I really wanted to do was get them their shots and find homes."
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