ITHACA, N.Y. – Two more cats were found poisoned in Collegetown Thursday afternoon, which will bring the total death toll to eight cats in a string of apparent cat killings, a Tompkins County SPCA official said.
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One cat was found dead and the other has “bad neurological signs” and will have to be euthanized, said Jim Bouderau, executive director for the SPCA in Tompkins County.
The cats were taken in to the SPCA around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. Additionally, three separate kittens were taken in today by SPCA officials and will be monitored for symptoms, Bouderau said.
All the cats found dead so far come from a “colony” of about 20-30 strays in Collegetown, and none was being kept as a pet. Still, Ithaca residents are being urged to keep their cats inside.
So far, all the deaths are suspected to be part of one incidence of poisoning. There’s no evidence of a new contamination, but symptoms can take weeks to surface so officials aren’t ruling out additional intentional poisonings.
In addition to the death toll of eight, an additional seven cats are being treated in the SPCA’s care with symptoms. More cats within the colony are likely affected by the poisoning, Bouderau said.
“We’ve never seen a mass poisoning of this level at all,” he said. “This is a new one for us and our community, and it’s awful.”
Officials think they have removed all the contaminated food from the area but say they can’t be 100 percent sure, either.
The new deaths are part of a criminal investigation into whoever is responsible for a series of cat deaths, the first of which were discovered Saturday.
SPCA officials have said that someone has intentionally mixed ethylene glycol, a primary ingredient in antifreeze, with cat food — likely to hurt the cats. It’s not clear how the cats found poisoned today were harmed.
Over the weekend, Bouderau said, animal control officers in Collegetown found one dead cat. Three other cats were captured when officers saw they had neurological symptoms, such as loss of balance. They had to be euthanized.
Two additional cats were found dead in the area on Tuesday night.
One cat and six kittens are currently being monitored for neurological symptoms, Bouderau said.
Officials said they are investigating the poisoning as a criminal investigation.
If caught, the poisoner is facing felony animal cruelty charges and could face a maximum of one year in prison.
This news is breaking; we will provide updates as more information becomes available.