Mary Hall was working the afternoon shift on Jan. 6 when Horchata strolled into the office. The cat was a frequent and beloved visitor of the residential facility in Watsonville, where there was always someone to give him food and love.
As Hall was combing him, however, she noticed what she thought at first was a scab. Horchata took off after being combed, but at around 6pm came limping back. For only being 2 years old, Hall remembers how weak and slow he looked.
“He’s usually very energetic, spicy and playful,” Hall said. “I knew something was really wrong.”
Hall called Horchata’s owner, who for safety reasons has asked not to be named. The owner drove him to the emergency animal hospital, where an ultrasound revealed half a liter of fluid building in his lungs. An X-ray later discovered the culprit. Horchata had three pellets lodged in him—one in his elbow, another in his forearm and fragments of a third in his chest cavity.
A few months later, a second cat was shot on March 14. Another cat was shot a few days later. And now, over the past weekend, two more cats have been shot. All of the shootings took place at the same apartment complex between 327 and 331 E. Beach St. in Watsonville.
For one of the cats, the injuries were fatal.
The case is under investigation, but the shooter remains unidentified. Now, PETA is offering a reward of up to $5,000 in hopes of finding the culprit before more cats are harmed. Tipsters should call the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter at 831-454-7200.
“The unfortunate thing is, there are people out there that don’t like cats,” said Todd Stosuy, field services manager for the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.
Because there is no leash law in the county, cats are allowed to roam, and they may wander onto or defecate on others’ properties.
“Sometimes when that happens, people take the law into their own hands,” Stosuy said.
Horchata’s owner says that they used to see a lot of stray cats around the neighborhood, but now there are hardly any left. The owner worried that this may have to do with the shooting.
“If you have pets and they are outside, try and monitor them as much as you can,” the owner warned. “You never know what could happen.”