LETHBRIDGE -- A southern Alberta cat rescue has come to the aid of 20 exotic felines that were removed last week from a home near Edmonton.

The hairless Sphynx cats were inbred, skinny and suffering from medical distress. Even to animal rescue veterans, the case has been disturbing, and somewhat overwhelming.

“Usually we would take in about 10 cats a year, so to get 20 in one day is a lot,” said Jennifer Begley, founder of the Alberta Sphynx and Lykoi Rescue Society, based in Calgary and Lethbridge.

Begley said she started the rescue group a few years ago because the exotic breeds are different than regular cats and often considered a novelty by people who acquire them.

“They’re fun for a little while,” added Begley. “Then people kind of throw them away.”

Sphynx cats don’t shed and are often associated with being hypoallergenic. They typically sell for more than $1,000.

Begley said these cats were in extremely rough shape.

“The cats I believe, were loved, but they weren’t cared for, if that makes any sense," she said.

Ethel Pedlar Lethbridge

Society co-partner Ethel Pedlar says it looked like the cats had tried to chew and claw their way out of their kennels.

“A lot of broken teeth, severe decay, horrible mouths," she said.  

Pedlar said many of the cats had discharge in their eyes, runny noses and foul urine. “Everything you can imagine going on with a cat is happening," she said.

Facing so many medical issues the rescue reached out to a Lethbridge vet clinic for help. The basement at the Family Pet Hospital has been transformed into what staff are calling, their “nudist colony."

“I was nervous definitely,” said Virginia Williams, the clinic’s practice manager. “But we kicked into action and I knew because we have such a large staff and 24 hour care, that we’d be able to give these guys a good hand.”

Some staff came in on their own time to bath and care for the animals. Dr. Kate Lupton did initial assessments and has prepared a care plan for each cat.

The clinic is still dealing with its regular pet patients, but staff are using spare time to clean the litter boxes, wash the beds, provide fresh food and water, and help the cats get re-socialized.

“You’ll often see a staff member just walking around with a cat," said Williams.

Support is also coming from the Sphynx cat community. The rescue society has received donations of food, litter, beds and even a cat stroller.

“We’ve been blessed," said Begley.

Jennifer Begley, founder of the Alberta Sphynx

However, the society is still accepting donations to help cover surgery costs and other expenses, which are expected to reach as high as $8,000 to $10,000 for the 20 cats.

The rescue group has received numerous inquiries from people interested in adopting a cat, but Begley said right now, the focus is on meeting the animals' medical needs.

“They won’t be available until Dr. Kate releases them medically,” said Begley. 

The Alberta SPCA is aware of the cats, and investigating circumstances surrounding their previous care. At this point, no charges have been laid.

Pedlar said anyone interested in providing a “forever home” needs to realize that the cats have been unwell, traumatized, have genetic issues, and haven’t had a very good life, so there is a potential for further issues down the road.

“Whoever adopts these little guys needs to know they’re not getting a perfect cat," she said.

The rescue society said it’s hoping to eventually find homes where people will be understanding and able to provide the care and love the animals need.

“Any pet carries a huge responsibility,” said Pedlar. “They need health care, they need emotional support, they need safety, and comfort. They need all of those things and these guys didn’t have it.”