EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Their victims include a 9-year-old girl, a 73-year-old man and a fox terrier named Walter.
They're rabid cats, and they've got one neighborhood thoroughly spooked.
"I have to admit, you look around when you go outside," said Elaine Mahoney, who lives in the Rumford neighborhood where the cats have been roaming.
Animal control supervisor John Smith III says he's been fielding about 50 phone calls daily about the cats since the first attack July 3.
To date, eight victims--including the dog, Smith and a fire captain--are receiving shots and seven stray cats have been killed. A ninth person was bitten by a house cat showing signs of rabies, but she has refused treatment until officials are sure the cat is infected, Smith said.
While officials believe that the attacks were the work of only two cats--one of which has been caught and killed--they say the disease could easily spread to domestic animals.
They've set five traps and are telling people to keep pets indoors or leashed, but some want a more drastic solution. "I think they might be willing to have a mini-genocide here," said Lt. Daniel Evans.
Mahoney's husband, Bill, was the first person attacked, one of four victims of what is believed to be the same small gray cat.
He was preparing to water his lawn when it jumped him and raked his arm with its claws. It also chased him, but tired after several blocks, his wife said.
Walter, out for a walk with his owner, fell victim to a small gray cat, too.
"It was walking down Greenwood Avenue and then, all of a sudden, it was on my dog's head, like some kind of alien," Charline Ritinski said.
It wrapped its front legs around Walter's neck and its hind legs around his stomach and bit and clawed. Walter dislodged it by banging his head against a guardrail, Ritinski said.
That cat had not been found by Thursday, and Smith said rabies may have killed it.
The victims, he said, are all feeling fine.