As many as 67 dead cats were found in the freezer of Scholarie County resident and Walmart office worker Irene Vandyke according to a Saturday news report from ABCNews.go.com, and 99 live cats were also present and living amidst cat urine and feces as well.
The discovery staggers the mind and begs the question: Was the woman who struggled to make ends meet as a widow using the cats for meal purposes? Statements made by the sheriff in the county point to the possibility.
Vandyke, 50, lost her husband two years ago and while her neighbor and animal shelter workers sympathized with her loss, they all said that the inhumane living conditions in her home finally prompted them to intervene with authorities after trying several times to reason with the widow about the need to get rid of some of her cats.
As one might guess, she didn't listen to reason. And that's another problem, as some think she has mental issues or is so overcome with the loss of her spouse that she isn't thinking clearly.
Police aren't saying if the dead cats in the freezer were being eaten by the pet owner, but an animal shelter employee stated that Irene Vandyke has a "hoarder problem," and that it was that condition that led to the woman refusing to give up any of her cats, even though she sought assistance in feeding them.
The cost of caring for that many cats makes the possibility that some of them could have been used as food for her or her pets a likely possibility. And Scholarie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said that Irene Vandyke told him "she was spending most of the money she made on food, cat litter and medicine." So she was struggling for sure.
The sheriff also said that Vandyke was rational when he spoke to her and that she confided to him that she had been feeling overwhelmed with caring for all the pets and her husband's death. And that makes it hard to feel too angry at a neighbor who torments those who live around her like this.
Some believe the cat collector may have suffered from the psychological affliction related to the obsessive-compulsive disorder. And Kerrie Colin, an animal shelter manager in Howes Cave, who tried to help the Walmart employee by offering to take some of the cats from her, says Irene Vandyke rejected help despite having too many cats.
"The minute anyone tried to take her cats, she freaked out and threw them off her property," according to Colin's statements to Timesunion.com.
The cat owner's home has been condemned due to the overflowing filth, smell and feces found within it by law enforcement. And Vandyke is staying with family members at present, who likely were as concerned about her deteriorating surroundings and cat collecting as others involved in the crisis. One can hope that she will finally let them take a more active role in her life now, as she doesn't seem to know how to live a balanced life when it comes to pet numbers. But at least she isn't like Burger King, buying beef that contains horse meat in it to then sell to customers.
Cat photo credit: timesunion.com