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Monday, October 17, 2005

Cat Suspected of Eating Elderly Woman's Toes

Shukan Bunshun Oct. edition. It was a terrifying incident that has all manner of people getting toey, but investigators aren't pussy footing around when it comes to the case of a cat that supposedly chewed off and ate an old woman's toes. It looks like it all may result in curiosity killing the cat, though, according to Shukan Bunshun.

The case was discovered in the early hours of Oct. 6 when one of the elderly patients in a Saitama nursing home buzzed for help.

A home worker raced to answer the call, entering the two-person room to find an 88-year-old woman lying on the bed, her right foot a bloody mess and its toes missing. Some reports say that a cat's bloody pawprints were spotted in the room, leading to an open window. A cat immediately became the prime suspect.

"The buzzer call for help was made by the injured woman's roommate. The worker who discovered the woman called for an ambulance and she was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. All five toes on her right foot had been chewed off completely. There was also a really deep scratch on her right leg. The chewed off toes haven't been found," a reporter for a national daily tells Shukan Bunshun. "The victim is bedridden and has senile dementia. She can't talk, either, so it was impossible for her to scream for help."

On the afternoon of the same day the woman was found, nursing home workers found the apparent culprit. A big fat cat known to saunter around the home. It even had bloodstains all around its mouth. Officials grabbed the feline felon and handed it over to public health authorities. At that stage, it seemed as though the case was one of, well, having the cat in the bag. Home officials were purring.

Since then, however, animal experts have come out in defense of the pitiful pussy.

"I've been a vet for 40 years, but I've never heard of a single case where a cat has chewed off a person's toes. I could believe if it we were talking about a dog, because dogs could bit through the bones, but cats have sharp teeth that hurt when they bite, but make it physically impossible to chew through bone," Tokio Tonouchi, head of the Tonouchi Veterinary Clinic, tells Shukan Bunshun. "Even the way dogs and cats eat meat is different. Dogs chew it, but a cat is more likely to lick it for a long time until it wears down. Even if the cat were to have done what people are saying it has, there is no way it would ever eat the bones, too. If the cat has done it, you'd also be able to tell from the bite marks left on the foot."

Hirokazu Tsuji, head of the Japan Veterinary Association, agrees.

"It's impossible. It's totally unthinkable that a cat would be able to bite through human bones. It's probably some other form of carnivore," he says.

Sengoku Kasai, a Tokyo vet with 33 years experience, also dismisses claims that the cat chewed off and ate the old woman's toes.

"Cats get bored really easily. There's no way it could have chewed off all five toes, even if it was close to starvation," he says. "To have chewed them off, it would have had to have chomping away for ages. Your average cat's attention span will absolutely not hold for that long."

Though all the evidence may point to the puss, expert advice suggests otherwise. Fortunately, authorities have shed their regular reluctance to speak publicly about crimes, perhaps in an attempt to show that the cat has not got their tongues.

"We've had the cat here since Oct. 7," an official from the Kasukabe Branch of the Saitama Prefectural Animal Guidance Center says. "Normally, we'd put strays down if nobody claims them after three days here. The police have asked us to hold on to this cat for the time being, though."

Officers from the Kazo Police Station have been assigned to investigate the case. They're not ruling anything out at this stage.

"It was definitely done by some sort of animal" a police spokesman tells Shukan Bunshun. "We don't know whether it was the cat or not, though." (By Ryann Connell)


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