HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (CBS) — Homes are being sought for 23 Persian cats found in squalid conditions in Highland Park last month.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports, retired Waukegan police officer and animal activist Charlie Burleson made the discovery on the 1000 block of Windsor Road in Highland Park. She found the emaciated, diseased cats in the garage of a home that was in foreclosure.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

The owners reportedly put two cats in the garage several years ago, and their offspring have been free to breed in hot, squalid conditions ever since.

Since being discovered, two of the cats have died, and three underwent tail amputations.

The fur on many of the cats was severely matted, and chunks of fur were found stuck in old furniture in the garage – suggesting the cats had gotten stuck and had torn themselves free. Other cats were malnourished and underweight.

Burleson, of Beach Park, said she took a “tiny,” emaciated, pregnant cat home that soon delivered two premature kittens. The mother cat required a hysterectomy. The kittens, tube-fed by Burleson until their mother was able to nurse them, have survived so far.

“Everyone in that house is responsible for this,” Burleson said.

The cats are now in the care of Tails of Hope, a no-kill animal rescue agency.

Charges could be filed against the owners of the home, who lived in the house with their grown children. They told Tails of Hope founder Kelly Moyer they had been trying to sell the foreclosed home in a short sale.

The Lake County News-Sun contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.