About 1,000 rats are awaiting adoption in California after being rescued from a house they had infested and almost destroyed.
The house's owner is said to be receiving mental health treatment. The rats had become established in the house after his daughter brought a pregnant rat home and the litter began multiplying. Rats can give birth as soon as three weeks after conception in litters of as many as 20.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the man's neighbours called producers at an American television programme Hoarders – rather than animal welfare services – after the rats began tearing apart the house.
But the non-profit North Star Rescue organisation heard about the infestation and arrived to remove the animals. They found the house carpeted with droppings and with the wall insulation ripped up.
"They chewed all the way through the walls," Lauren Paul, an animal rescuer, said. "There were cages in the house, but the doors were all open. When you walked into the house, you were standing in crowds of rats. They were all around you."
The Humane Society moved the rodents over the weekend from Los Angeles to San Jose, where the rats were taken to a pet shop which agreed temporarily to house them. Ms Paul says she hopes rat lovers will now come forward and give them a new home.