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Exotic cat captured in Central Islip but where the feline came from remains a mystery

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Exotic cat captured in Central Islip but where the feline came from remains a mystery

Suffolk County police patrolling Central Islip on Friday morning found and captured an exotic cat that authorities believe is an Eurasian lynx.

The elusive exotic cat found in central Islip had residents on edge for three days before the cat was caught in the small village on Friday morning. Now, investigators hope to unravel how a cat native to Europe came to Long Island.

Authorities believe the animal is a Eurasian lynx, which has been reported in various parts of Islip town since early Tuesday. Suffolk police said he was found and arrested on Hawthorne Avenue around 3:30 a.m.

The cat was then transported to the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown by Strong Island Animal Rescue.

Photos of the cat went viral on social media, with agencies scrambling to find the animal.

They deployed heat-seeking drones — most recently used to find sharks in Long Island waters — and set up traps to lure the felines to safety.

The cat-and-mouse game wasn’t over until early Friday when a resident called police to say a cat was found near a residential swimming pool.

Officials later found the cat scratching in the litter, officials said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Police used grab bars commonly used to catch stray animals and sedated the cat with two shots of the drug. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellon said the panicked cat was not aggressive.


“Fortunately, the results were good … but the results could have been very different,” he said, adding that the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County SPCA are investigating the cat’s origins. It is illegal for an individual to own an exotic cat in New York.

SPCA head Roy Gross said the cat’s owner could face charges of endangering public safety, as well as fines for illegal possession of the feral cat. Owners could face a $250 fine from DEC.

The exotic cat, found on a central island porch earlier this week, has been captured. The cat, which appears to be a Eurasian lynx, was pictured Friday with Frank Floridia from Strong Island Animal Rescue.

Strong Island Animal Rescue Team

Obviously someone has it as a pet,” Gross said. “These are wild animals, not the type of animals that anyone should have. …they do not fall into captivity in this way.

Sweetbriar wildlife rehabilitator Janine Bendicksen said the cat was about 1 year old and was an unneutered male. Despite initial concerns that he was thin, Sweetbriar’s veterinarian confirmed Friday that the cat – whom the vet named Leonardo de Catbrio – was of a healthy weight, and she said he had parasites and a wound on his face.

Sweetbriar is doing a DNA test to determine his breed, and his blood work is perfect, Bendixon said.

“He needs a little R&R,” she said. “I think he’s a little adventurous.”

When the cat was first brought to the facility, Bendixon feared he would not survive because he had been given too much sedation. He weighed nearly 40 pounds, about the size of a Labrador retriever.

Veterinarian Dr Regina Glanzberg (left) examines the exotic cat captured Friday morning in Central Islip as animal rehabilitator Janine Bendicksen watches.

Sweetbriar Nature Center, she said the cat initially showed friendly symptoms. But as the sedative wears off, so does the friendliness. The cat growled and slapped the caregiver, she said.

Bendicksen said the cat will remain at Sweetbriar until he can be taken to a permanent facility. Gross said the shelter is likely not in the state. DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said the agency is working with the SPCA to determine the best location for the cat.

Humane Long Island president John Di Leonardo said he has placed the cat at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, a shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected big cats sanctuary. The placement of the cat will ultimately be decided by DEC.

“Right now, the most important thing is that it’s not on the street,” Gross said.

Reported sightings of the exotic cat first surfaced early Tuesday morning when a resident of a half-mile road in Central Islip spotted the animal on her front porch.

The cat was found in various locations in Central Islip and was reported to police at West Islip on Boulevard Avenue, 8 miles away. The cat was captured about half a mile from where it was first spotted.

While the exotic cat was initially thought to be a lynx, lynx or serval, animal experts say photos taken by homeowner Diane Hull as she roamed around her porch on Tuesday suggested it was likely a Eurasian lynx only.

Native to parts of Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, the Eurasian lynx can weigh up to 60 pounds.

Huwer, a cat lover who owns five indoor cats and takes care of several outdoor cats, was emotional when she learned that the cat was “safe and sound”.

“I’m an animal lover and I hate seeing animals in trouble,” she said. The poor thing must be hungry. DEC is asking anyone with information about the cat or its owner to contact the agency at 631-444-0250. With Sally Einhorn and Howard Schnapp. -ND

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