MESA, Ariz. -- Deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spent much of the day rounding up and removing dozens of feral cats from a home located in the 9300 block of East Dallas Street in Mesa.
The 64-year-old woman who lived there was found dead from natural causes earlier this week, according to officials.
Deputies were first at the home on Sunday after neighbors reported that they had not seen the woman for several days. That was when her body was discovered, but it's not known how long she had been deceased.
"Unfortunately the woman that did pass was classified a hoarder, meaning her house is filled with just a whole bunch of stuff," Sgt. Brandon Jones with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. "So it's very tight, very hard to get in."
Deputies from the SWAT division had to use self-contained breathing apparatus to enter the residence to get the cats. The masks were needed due to the condition of the home.
"The gases built up inside is just so toxic, so noxious that you can't go in with just general respirators," said Jones.
Deputies had to use nets and any method they could to humanely capture the cats. "It's hard to capture these animals that are running from deputies. There was one cat that got on the outside [that] practically scaled the side of the house to get away from deputies," explained Jones.
The cats had been given food and water since they were discovered on Sunday while the rescue operation was organized.
The Humane Society took 31 cats and kittens into its custody. Spokeswoman Bretta Nelson said they all had to be euthanized.