Bengal Cats on the Loose

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SHAMOKIN -- A certain breed of feline is causing fear in Shamokin. Animal experts think they are a cross between a domestic cat and some sort of wild, Asian cat. And somehow they got loose from their owners.

Whiskers and Jessie are two Bengal cats that authorities believe got away from their owners in Shamokin.  Bengal cats are a mix of an Asian leopard cat and a domestic cat.

Sandra Benitez adopted the cats last week from a woman in Mount Carmel.  She says she did not know they could be dangerous until one bit her husband earlier this week.

"She told me they just had the leopard spots and that was just their markings and they were domestic cats and she had paperwork on them," Benitez said.

After one of the Bengal cats bit her husband, Benitez put them in her basement.  She says they escaped.

Neighbors, police, and Shamokin code enforcement officers have been looking for the Bengal cats around the clock.  Neighbors tell Newswatch 16 the cats were last seen in the cemetery behind the owner's house.

"They are technically wild animals," Stacey Balliet said.

Stacey Balliet is a vet technician at Sunbury Animal Hospital.  She says Bengal cats are more dangerous than regular domestic cats, but it depends on how the individual animal was raised.

"It would be like trying to domesticate one of our local bobcats.  They still have the mentality of a wild animal," Balliet said.

Benitez says she feels terrible because there are a lot of children in her neighborhood in Shamokin.

"I have four children.  I never would have brought them in if I knew they weren't domesticated," Benitez said.

"It stresses me out because I've got three kids here and we're always out.  I don't even let my cat out anymore because I'm scared," Bridget O'Connell said.

"We want them to be caught because we don't trust them to bite no kids.  Especially going in my back yard and everything," Crystal Mutscholer said.

Police say if you see these Bengal cats, call 911 and do not approach them.

UPDATE: This story received a lot of response from Bengal cat owners and breeders defending the cats.  They say any animal can bite if it isn't raised correctly.  That doesn't mean the breed is dangerous.  We talked with a Bengal cat breeder in Susquehanna County on Friday about these cats.  Click here to hear what she had to say.

For more information about Bengal cats, here are a few resources:
The International Bengal Cat Society
The International Cat Association
Bengals Illustrated

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