Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

SCRAPS says wild animal to blame for recent string of cat deaths on the South Hill

Tabby, a male, half-feral tabby cat owned by Bernice Furukawa, was found last month with his body severed, his top half laying in Polly Judd Park. (Bernice Furukawa / Courtesy photo)

Spokane pet owners can look past rumors of a cat serial killer stalking the city, though a critter of interest is still at large.

The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, or SCRAPS, says it’s likely not a human behind the recent string of cat killings that riled the South Hill community last month. The probable culprit? Something with more fur, more fangs and an appetite – likely a coyote or loose dog.

“So far, most of what we’ve seen has seemed to come back as animal-related and likely coyote,” SCRAPS Field Operations Manager Ashley Proszek said. “They all seemed to be animal.”

The worry surrounding the deaths began Aug. 27, when a woman walking through Polly Judd Park on the South Hill posted on Nextdoor, a neighborhood-specific social media app, that she had found a gray tabby cat completely cut in two – its back half missing and its front half in the middle of the grassy field.

The cat’s owner, Bernice Furukawa, who lives near 14th Avenue and Ash Street near the park, posted a day later, warning others to keep their pets indoors, especially at night.

Reached by phone the next day, she said she initially thought the gray- and white-striped half feral cat named Tabby was killed by an animal. But the more she pondered, the more she became convinced it was a human.

“He was propped up. That’s what really bothered her,” Furukawa said of the woman who found him. “The way he was set up. She felt it was all staged.”

Adding to her suspicion was the lingering mystery of another cat that died in a similar manner earlier in the month near Manito Park. This time, though, the cat’s back half was discovered.

Then there was another death near 38th Avenue and Sherman Street last week. Like the others, the cat was mutilated.

“I’m heartbroken,” Furukawa said. “I don’t think any animal should die that way. If a person did that, I think it’s horrible.”

Proszek at SCRAPS said in all three cases, the cuts severing the cats were not clean, as would be expected if a human were behind the mutilation. Instead, they were rough, jagged, and the felines had other injuries to their bodies, such as Tabby, who also suffered an injury to his neck.

She said the incidents were similar to last year’s spate of cat mutilations in North Spokane, in which four cats were found cut in half, some missing organs, muscles and bones. All signs, she said, again pointed to a wild animal.

“This is something that we’ve seen over the years,” Proszek said. “Most of these come in as just as a call to pick up a deceased animal. And it just seems like more recently people are calling it in now as a potential cruelty rather than a deceased animal.”

Across the Cascades, however, Thurston County officials are continuing to chase leads on a suspected serial cat killer who may be responsible for as many as 13 dead felines found in Tumwater, Lacey and Olympia.

Since February, more than a dozen of the cats have been found mutilated, often left in public places. Authorities are offering a $53,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to an arrest.