Alerts for dangerous animals on the loose are commonplace in Florida, a state that leads the nation to escapes from wild creatures ranging from bears, lions and monkeys to snakes and tigers.
But a stalking “beast” currently terrifying residents of Suwannee county after sending two people to the emergency room in separate attacks turns out to be a domestic cat with attitude that has evaded capture for almost a week, officials have said.
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Deputies from the Suwannee county sheriff’s office have laid traps for the fractious feline but have so far failed to make an arrest. Instead, the office’s animal control unit is advising the public to be “mindful of the feral cat or any other animals in the area that present signs of rabies”.
According to a post on Sheriff Sam St John’s Facebook page: “During two separate incidents, residents exercising and walking on 174th Street were attacked by a feral cat. Both residents received injuries serious enough that they had to seek medical treatment at local hospitals.”
St John has so far declined to issue a rabies alert due to the cat not being captured and not being able to confirm if the cat has rabies or not. A deputy told the Guardian the office was “hopeful” of capturing the cat in the coming days but until then residents of Luraville, 17 miles southwest of the county seat, Live Oak, needed to exercise “extreme caution” when outdoors.
Comments on the sheriff’s social media post include residents fearful that the public would be scared enough to declare “open season” on any cats found outside, and another that criticized the office for failing to include even a basic description of the cat’s size or color.
Until the cat is trapped, the sheriff’s office says, it is unable to state with certainty if the cat is feral, or an escaped house cat infected with rabies.
Even if it is a lost pet, it is unlikely to break a record set by another wandering cat found in Longwood, Florida, in February last year after it went missing from its home in Chesterville, Maine, 1,500 miles away in 2015.
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