Authorities have provided images of the West New York home where, they say, they found 19 cats living in squalor — with furniture covered in feces and urine, litter boxes backed up for month, and the felines burrowing through the walls as they took charge of the house.

One cat was found dead in the home when authorities responded this week — rotting behind a stove.

Animal control officer Geoff Santini told New Jersey 101.5 earlier this week that after he got a call about the home, he could tell from the outside something was wrong. The smell even outdoors was unmanageable, he said.

Inside, he and other officials found a 76-year-old man who didn't seem to know he was causing the cats harm — who'd taken them in to rescue the cats, Santini said. But most seemed essentially feral. They'd scratched apart blinds and dug through the walls. They were eating and relieving themselves on the same filth-covered floors and surfaces.

After officials entered the home in clean protective suits, they came out covered in waste and fleas.

Santini called the situation "probably the worst case of animal hoarding I've ever seen." He said neighbors had been aware of problems for years, but didn't seem to know who to call for help.

The home was deemed uninhabitable, and PSE&G cut the home's gas and electric Santini said — both to keep the resident from returning until it's brought up to code, and because cats may have cut into service lines. The resident is being assisted by Hudson County Protective Services and staying with his brother, Santini said.

Once the cats are evaluated, spayed and neutered, they'll be taken to a no-kill shelter, he said. Any that are deemed eligible for adoption will be made available through the Bergen County Protection and Rescue Foundation, which can be reached at 201-945-0649.

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