Some local cat owners are warning other residents to keep an eye on their felines after more than half a dozen pets have reportedly disappeared in the last few months.
Caroline Putnam, 83, of Devola, has six cats, but two 3-year-old male black cats went missing about three weeks ago. It's also been two days since she saw their sister.
"Is it coyotes? I don't know," Putnam said. "There's no sign of bodies. And it's different places."
Devola resident Caroline Putnam holds her cat, Bellatrix, in front of her home Tuesday as she discusses the disappearance of three of her other cats over the last month.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Arthur Jones, 81, who lives on Muskingum Drive in the Rathbone area of Marietta, said he and his wife haven't seen their 5-year-old cat Rudy since around Aug. 1.
"My cat used to regularly visit neighbors. He was very friendly and loving," Jones said. "Like most cats, he would wander off sometimes for a day or two."
But this has been much longer, and Jones hasn't found any sign of the cat or its collar, which had a tag with the couple's phone number on it.
In talking with neighbor Klaus Wielitzka, Jones learned of at least three other cats in the neighborhood that went missing. He also found out about Putnam's experience.
"I can't necessarily say there's a connection between the two, but it's definitely an interesting coincidence," Jones said.
Jones said he didn't contact the Marietta Police about his cat, because he figured they had more pressing issues to address. Police Capt. Jeff Waite said he hadn't received any reports about missing pets, but the department would certainly take the call.
Humane Society of the Ohio Valley manager Steve Herron said he hadn't been notified about any of the disappearances in Devola or Rathbone. However, the shelter was contacted recently about several cats that came up missing from a Front Street residence. A couple of them were found about a week ago on the River Trail, possibly poisoned.
In an area with a lot of people, it's hard to find, and prove, who might have done such a thing, Herron said.
Some older cats will simply run off when they know they're about to die, but that wouldn't have been the case with the younger cats Putnam and Jones described. And with multiple cats disappearing from the same areas, he has his suspicions.
"Either there's another animal at work, or somebody's just picking up other people's pets," Herron said.
County Dog Warden Kelly McGilton said she hadn't gotten any reports either, but noted there aren't as many laws dealing with cats as there are dogs. She too mentioned other animals as a possible cause.
"Cats are actually coyotes' favorite food," McGilton said.
Herron said he's gotten calls from people spotting coyotes as recently as last week. The last reported attack was about three months ago, when multiple coyotes attacked a horse in the New Matamoras area, he said.
Lindsay Rist, wildlife communications specialist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife, District 4, said the office hasn't gotten any reports of unusual coyote activity in the area.
But Rist said that doesn't mean coyotes, which are present in all 88 of Ohio's counties, aren't responsible for the cats' disappearances.
"We used to have coyotes up at the high school, but I haven't heard them up there in probably seven or eight years," said Wielitzka, 70, Jones' neighbor. "I also know a few cats that are always out and haven't been annoyed by anything."
Putnam said she doesn't think her cats ever bothered her neighbors and she would never suspect any of them of harming the animals.
"Is it someone who thinks it's funny? Is it someone who doesn't like cats?" she said.
Putnam said she always tried to get her cats in by 10 p.m., but is now making sure they come in before dark. She's also putting up fliers offering $100 for the return of the cats - named Jim Morrison, Primus and Sparrow.
Jones said he's resigned himself to the fact that Rudy isn't coming back, but he hopes to get the word out so other cat owners don't lose their pets.
"It was a very painful experience," he said. "There is something or someone that is helping cats disappear, without a trace."