DETROIT — Ambling down the block a couple of weeks ago with his 1-year-old daughter perched on his shoulders, Antwaun Asberry sensed something was behind him.
He turned around and spotted a tall creature that appeared to be a cat, only a lot bigger.
“His tail is longer than my arm,” Asberry, a 6-foot-5 Detroiter with a lanky build, said of the cat. “I was like, what the (expletive) … I don’t know what it is. I just want it gone.”
So do other residents in the northeast Detroit neighborhood, who said they’re unnerved by this supersize cat roaming the streets in recent weeks. They’ve tried calling Detroit police and Animal Control, but have gotten no response. On Friday, the Michigan Humane Society said it will investigate the case and try to find the cat.
“We’re going to put some effort into this,” said Nancy Gunnigle, a director with the Humane Society. Cats this size, she said, are “not easy to catch.”
The area around Joann Street south of 8 Mile doesn’t have roaming dogs – an issue publicized in news media reports this past week.
It’s the cat that has bothered residents.
In some places, people might buy exotic cats illegally as a way to show off, said Tom McPhee, executive director of the World Animal Awareness Society, based in Ann Arbor.
“It’s part of the culture,” McPhee said. “You’re showing off your exotic cat because you can and you have the money.”
It’s unclear whether the cat is feral or domesticated and what breed it is, Gunnigle said. A photo taken by Nathan McGuire, 47, of Detroit, shows the cat to be gray with black marks.
Last Saturday, his 12-year-old ran into the house screaming after spotting the big cat, McGuire said. McGuire rushed out to find the cat, but it scampered away. A few days ago, he spotted it outside his home, its yellow eyes starting back at him.
“I’ve never seen a cat that big – even on TV,” McGuire said.
Paul Hatley, 14, ran into the cat a few days ago while walking down Joann, where St. Raymond-Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church anchors the block.
“It wasn’t normal,” he said of the big cat. “It didn’t run away like a normal cat. It just stared at you. … It was scary.”
The cat was about 4 feet tall, Asberry said. Others said it was shorter than that. It’s on the skinny side and arched its back when approached by his mother, Asberry said.
A leader with the neighborhood association where the cat is roaming said several residents have contacted him after seeing the big feline.
“I’m really concerned,” said Vondell Boyer, 55, vice president of the Greenbrier Council. Boyer and other residents said they’re worried that if the cat runs out of rabbits, squirrels and other small critters to eat, it will target small kids.
McPhee, who is helping conduct a study of stray dogs in Detroit, said there are about 10-20 stray cats in the city for every stray dog. A recent report said there are 50,000 stray dogs, but he said the actual figure is much lower.
Detroit Animal Control could not be reached for comment Friday. Cities and counties, such as Oakland County, have discontinued programs aimed at rounding up stray cats in recent years because of tightening budgets.
While stray dogs are usually seen as the bigger threat, this cat is the problem for now for residents on Joann Street.
“When I first seen it, he looked at me,” Asberry said. “I looked at him. He walked like he ain’t scared of nothing.
“This thing is out here, bro.”
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