"Chum," the unusually large cat seen roaming around Detroit's northeast side, was shot and killed, the Detroit Free Press reports this morning. Welcome to your new clusterfuck of animal affection, defense of self of property and a further muddling of the image of a troubled city's residents.
No one person is to blame for the death of Chum — on Saturday, he was a terrorizing "jungle cat"; on Tuesday, he's a just a kitty with a name and a home — but it's clear to see how exactly we got here.
The Freep reports that the cat's owners live in Eastpointe (and you gotta love how they say "9 Mile and Gratiot," like we don't know where that is — but the inevitable aggregation from national reports won't bother to Google Maps this intersection, so it'll be "Detroit" everywhere else, right?) and had raised Chum, which turned out to be a Savannah cat, since he was four months old. A Savannah cat is a hybrid of a domestic house cat and an African serval; this particular pet was two feet tall just sitting down.
First strike: The owners didn't microchip Chum, so it would have been difficult to track him down if he were captured. When Chum escaped, he found his way across Eight Mile, where residents already have a complicated relationship with animal control forces, both municipal and independent.
Go back to a fear-inducing report from WDIV ("Is it a puma? A cheetah?") and you'll hear one resident say that the nonprofit Michigan Humane Society, which already has a lot to deal with, told neighbors to capture this cat, this large, mysterious, could-be-ridden-with-disease, could-attack-if-provoked, exotic feline themselves. Strike two.
There was no instruction from the city's animal control, at least none that neighbors in initial print and broadcast reports spoke of. Lest we forget that any division of the city is already financially constrained, and resources for animal control, I'm guessing, are farther down the list than, say, new police equipment. Strike three.
One neighbor took matters into their own hands and shot Chum and dumped him a garbage can. We don't know their side of the story, since the Freep leans on a teary, heart-tugging animal-rights group (“I think people can’t just go around shooting things they don’t understand,” the group's founder says) for the majority of today's wrap-up.
But then again, maybe we don't need that neighbor's side of the story. We don't need to know if the crazy jungle cat was about to pounce on someone's Pomeranian, or was foaming at the mouth underneath someone's car. We never needed to report that a giant cat was terrorizing Metro Detroit; after all, this was near the Eight Mile border, but yes, let's go ahead and stick the hysterical journalism all around the city with the 50,000-dog problem.
But nope, let's go ahead and say again that Detroiters are savages with no regard for living creatures and totally absolve the owners who let their exotic pet get loose and the animal-control organizations who left frightened residents up to their own devices. Maybe it didn't have to end this way, but let's not be completely surprised, either.
[UPDATE: MLive reports the cat was already dead a few days before media reports began circulating this weekend. Neighbors also disagree about whether the cat was shot or simply "found dead." The Freep also updates that the cat had been missing for a month. Both outlets say a full-on search began last week. So now, more unanswered questions - specifically about the three-week timeframe between the cat's disappearance and the response from its owners.]
[Screenshot via WDIV]