LiveScience journalist, Marc Lallanilla, opens his report of a recent feral cat attack of a woman like this:
One more reason to love dogs: A gang of feral cats in France attacked a woman and her poodle, forcing both victims to seek medical attention for their injuries.
This writer’s anti-cat bias is misleading. In the U.S., about 800,000 people must seek medical attention from dog bites — and about 17 to 30 of those are fatal — every year. Reports of small cats attacking and injuring humans, on the other hand, are rare. Of course, BIG cats have done their share of damage, but let’s not malign little cats just yet.
The unusual and unfortunate feral cat attack happened recently near Belfort, France, when a woman was walking her poodle in a wooded area. Full details of the event are murky, but apparently, at least six cats jumped on the woman and her dog, knocking her to the ground. The woman suffered numerous cat bites on her arms and legs and one was so deep it pierced an artery and could have been fatal.
The 31-year old woman was treated at a nearby hospital where she was also wisely administered a rabies shot. Her poodle who was also badly hurt was treated at a vet clinic. The woman’s mother, Josette Galliot, was quoted as saying, “My daughter thought it was a living nightmare. She is still traumatized.”
I do not blame her for being traumatized. Being attacked by anything is traumatizing. And I wish the woman and her poodle a quick and full recovery.
But questions remain as to why the cats would attack a human — and residents in the area are very divided over what provoked the attack and what should be done.
Local veterinarians who have commented on the attack, which they call “abnormal,” are inclined to think this feral cat colony was only protecting its territory from the dog and the woman simply got in the way. A recent heat wave may have also triggered unusual behavior in the cats, they say.
But the victim’s mother argues, “We must get rid of this scourge. There are too many cats in the neighborhood, many of which are strays. There are also lots of children here. We don’t want this to happen again.”
French veterinarian, Valerie Dramard, has tried to calm fears by reassuringly telling the people of Belfort, ”Cats are not new zombies of the apocalypse. They are just very territorial and unfriendly with unknown species.”
Since the event happened just days ago, no decision has been made as to what to do about this particular colony of feral cats. Nor has it been reported if any of the cats were tested for rabies. Nevertheless, tourists and residents alike are being warned to stay away from this area of the forest and to not approach or feed any stray cats.
It is estimated that over 8,000 feral kittens are born every day in France. Most of the colonies of cats, however, are started by people dumping unsterilized pets on the outskirts of towns. Cats being two-thirds wild and one-third domesticated often have no problem merging back into the wilderness and reclaiming their full wildness.