All but eight of the 219 live cats removed from a Fairfax County home this week were euthanized because they were undomesticated and sick, police officials said yesterday.
"Their health was so bad they would have put the other animals [at the county shelter] at risk," said Fairfax County police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings.
The cats that were spared -- one adult and seven kittens -- are being held in quarantine at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter until officials decide whether they can be adopted.
Ruth Knueven, 82, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of failing to care for her pets after authorities discovered 273 cats -- 86 of them dead -- inside her two-story home. The house, in a neighborhood behind George Washington's Mount Vernon plantation, was deemed uninhabitable by the Fairfax County Health Department, and Knueven, her husband and daughter were sent to a motel.
But Knueven was not deterred, police said.
She returned to the house Monday night, police said, ripped up the bright orange condemnation placard affixed to the front door and brought in pet travel carriers to try to remove an additional 32 animals still hiding in her home's walls, chimney and furniture.
Knueven was discovered a short time later by animal control officers who confiscated the cats and found one additional dead animal.
Police also said there may be a hole in the house that enables strays to go in and out to feed. They planned to return last night to check the traps they had set.
Police said animal control officers responded to a complaint about the Mount Vernon area home in August 2001 and removed 120 cats.
In the meantime, neighbors said, they have complained numerous times to Fairfax authorities about the strong odor coming from the house on Ludgate Drive. But police said yesterday that the first complaint received since 2001 came Friday when they discovered hundreds of cats in the home.
Neighbors said authorities failed to follow through. "They promised all of us they'd do routine checks . . . on her, and I don't think they've done any," said one neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I'm glad it's at least being addressed now. Maybe it'll finally be resolved."
The house appeared well kept on the outside, with a manicured lawn and landscaping, but it was blighted inside by cat feces and urine, police said.