Doctor, doctor, I see a ring-tailed cat!
By Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
April 19, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated April 19, 2012 at 11:20 p.m.
ring-tailed cats at-a-glance
Habitat: Ringtails usually inhabit semi-arid deserts, rock plateaus, and canyons (in the Southwest states such as Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Texas.)
Feeding: Their diets generally consist of small mammals (rodents, rabbits, squirrels), small birds, insects (spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, centipedes, scorpions), and fruits (persimmon, mistletoe, hackberries).
Behavior: Ringtails are solitary animals, except during mating season, and are nocturnal. Ringtails are also exceptionally good climbers, which is why they make their homes in rock crevices, cracks, and cliffs. They also have been observed living in buildings.
Size: A cat-sized carnivore that resembles a fox with a long bushy raccoon-like tail.
Sources: tpwd.state.tx.us; bss. sfsu.edu
Citizens Medical Center had an unusual visitor Thursday.
A ring-tailed cat, actually a member of the raccoon family, was discovered Thursday morning just outside the doorway of Building C at the hospital complex.
A patient glanced out the window of the regional medical lab and saw a small animal with a long striped tail perched in the corner.
They didn't know what it was, so employee Rosalinda Valderrama called animal control.
People crowded around the animal to glance at it, but the creature stayed calm, Valderrama said.
"With all of the people around, it didn't snarl or anything," she said.
After Victoria Animal Control arrived, Valderrama was worried when she learned the animal might be euthanized.
"I wouldn't have called if I had known that," Valderrama said.
Heather Kern, a supervisor at Victoria Animal Control, said wild animals are euthanized only if they appear to be diseased or are a possible danger to the public. However, Kern said, she was optimistic the animal would find a home with either the Texas Zoo or through the Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens.
The Texas Zoo did decide to take in the cat and examined it, executive director Andrea Blomberg said.
The zoo took possession of the animal, which will be in quarantine for the next 30 days to make sure it doesn't have any diseases.
Zoo officials are giving the new ring-tailed cat some time to recover before determining the gender of the animal.
"We have to identify the animal and find out what gender it is and what kind of disposition it has," Blomberg said. "I have to consider its health and its disposition to determine what we can do, based on the safety of everyone, including the other animals in our zoo."
The zoo already has a male ring-tailed cat. If the animal is a female and the two get along, the zoo will keep it to let the two breed. If that is not the case, Blomberg said, a place will be found for the animal at another zoo.
Ring-tailed cats are fairly common in Texas, but they are seldom seen by people, Blomberg said.
"They're fairly common around here, but people don't tend to see them because they're nocturnal," Blomberg said. "They're wonderful animals to look at."