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Family searches for cat that attacked Arnold 7-year-old

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Henry DelGrosso is combing his neighborhood for a cat that attacked his son Sunday in the hope that the boy won't need to get precautionary rabies shots.

The cat, DelGrosso says, scratched the face of his 7-year-old son, Dominic, Sunday evening near their home on Alcoa Drive.

Unless DelGrosso finds the animal, his son will have to receive a series of rabies shots as a precaution.

Arnold police said they also are trying to find the cat.

Dominic's parents took him to Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, where he needed five stitches in his lip, four stitches in an ear, and a staple in his head. Jolene DelGrosso said her son suffered scratches all over his body.

She and her husband don't know if Dominic was bitten, but he will be getting the rabies shots just in case.

The only description Dominic could give his parents is that it's a medium-sized black cat, possibly with some white near its neck, either from white coloring or possibly a collar.

"Neighborhood kids have seen the cat," Henry DelGrosso said. "I'm not going to ask them to go try to catch that cat after what it did to Dominic."

Jolene DelGrosso said Dominic was playing on a trampoline with two cousins in their yard Sunday night around 8 when he walked over to the neighbor's back yard.

"Within not even a minute he came to me screaming and crying. He was bleeding from everywhere," she said.

Dominic told his mother he saw the cat on the neighbor's picnic table. He bent down to look at the cat and picked it up when it attacked.

They don't know who owns the cat, if anyone.

"He said it was just a stray that they've been seeing outside," she said.

Dangerous bites

Cat bites can be dangerous — worse than from dogs — because they can go deep into the flesh, said Dr. Mark Scheatzle, an emergency room physician at the Alle-Kiski Medical Center, Harrison.

Scheatzle said his emergency room usually sees a couple of cases of cat bites each day, but mostly from pets that were provoked rather than strays.

"Cat bites are pretty significant bites. They have long kind of thin teeth that lead to deep puncture wounds," he said. "A dog bite is more of an abrasion or scratch that doesn't penetrate as deep. Cat bites go very deep. Cat bites usually end up getting infected."

Anyone bitten by a cat should seek emergency treatment so the wound can be cleaned and the victim started on antibiotics immediately, Scheatzle said.

A patient will respond well if treated early, he said.

Dominic shares his home with two dogs and three cats, so he likely didn't think much about approaching the cat that attacked him. His mother says kids are warned about approaching dogs they don't know, but usually aren't warned about cats.

"Kids should be told even though their cats can be nice at home not to approach a stray cat outside because they're not your cat at home," she said. "I don't want to see this happen to another kid."

According to the state Department of Health, a person is more likely to get rabies from a cat than from a dog.

In 2008, cats ranked third for confirmed rabies incidents at 11.5 percent, behind skunks and, in first place, raccoons. Rabies cases involving dogs were less than 1 percent.

"The important thing to remember is to stay away from animals when you don't know where they come from," Health Department spokeswoman Holli Senior said. "You should never pick up an animal you're unfamiliar with. The risk is always there."

Police Chief Joe Doutt said police placed a humane trap in the area Tuesday and hope to catch the cat and put it in quarantine to determine if it has rabies.

It is Doutt's experience that cat attacks are uncommon, and happen far less often than reported dog bites.

"Anybody should be wary of approaching any cat they're not familiar with and especially a black one up in that area," he said. "People should always be cautious of animals they don't know."

Jolene DelGrosso doesn't want the cat destroyed, unless it has rabies.

Henry DelGrosso said he'll keep searching.

"We need that cat," he said. "My son's going to have to endure all those shots unless I can get that cat."

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