Authorities are investigating a spate of cases involving what they say is the intentional poisoning of cats.
Rat poison, radiator fluid and moth balls were used to harm feral and neighborhood cats, said Pam Perry, a Hillsborough County Animal Services investigator. So far, six cats have died this month.
The poisonings occurred in different parts of Tampa at different times and don't appear to be related, said animal services spokeswoman Marti Ryan.
On Tuesday, residents of a mobile home park at 2903 W. Waters Ave. called animal services to report that cats had been eating out of bowls filled with pellets of rat poison and mixed with wet cat food, pet treats and milk.
Perry said a man who lives at the park has been identified as the person who poisoned the cats.
The man told investigators he was frustrated with the cats for ruining his strawberry plants, Perry said. He has not been arrested, but investigators direct-filed to the State Attorney's Office four charges of animal cruelty against him, Perry said.
One cat that ate from the bowls, named Goblin Tom by veterinarians, is being treated at animal services. The feline would have suffered from massive internal bleeding if it wasn't found in time, said veterinarian Isabelle Roese.
"He's not out of the woods," Roese said. "He needs to take his medication and he'll be in treatment for 30 days."
Witnesses told investigators that at least three other cats had ingested the poison, but the animals have not been located, Perry said.
Investigators are also looking into an Oct. 4 incident at Bay West Club, a mobile home park at 9315 Memorial Highway. Six felines died after eating cat food soaked in radiator fluid, Perry said.
The bright green fluid has a sweet taste to animals, Roese said, but causes brain damage, kidney failure and eventually death.
The third poisoning case occurred in a neighborhood on 18th Street near the University of South Florida. Mothballs had been scattered in a lawn next to a registered colony of feral, neutered cats.
The scent from mothballs can cause vomiting, shaking and abdominal pain in cats, veterinarians said.
Cats, especially feral cats, are typically the target of residents' frustration because they get into gardens, hop on cars and could be nuisances late at night, Ryan said.
"We understand property rights, but there's humane ways to deal with this," Perry said.
She suggested that residents call her agency to report nuisance animals or use humane traps, sold in pet and feed stores, to capture the animals.
The main number for animal services is (813) 744-5660 and its after-hours animal cruelty hotline is (813) 744-5550.