Providence woman accused of poisoning food for stray cats

A cat on Providence's Whittier Avenue, where a woman is accused of pouring bleach on food left out for strays.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Providence woman is facing accusations she poured bleach on food left out for stray and feral cats, and according to a police report, the woman admitted the act to officers.

“Why would someone want to poison them?” asked Elizabeth Davis, a volunteer who frequently feeds the homeless cats living inside an abandoned home on Whittier Avenue. “They suffer enough.”

According to a police report obtained by Eyewitness News, police were called to Whittier Avenue on Feb. 15 for a reported disturbance. When an officer responded, neighbors told him they had seen a woman pouring bleach on the cats’ food.

The report reads:

“Complainant stated to police that she does not want those cat rescue groups going on that property to feed the cats because she doesn’t want any more rats in the neighborhood. Complainant stated that she had been pouring bleach on the cat food left by the people working for the rescue groups for cats and that she wasn’t going to sop (sic) pouring bleach on the food.”

When questioned by Eyewitness News, the woman initially told a reporter she did pour bleach on the cat food, but then said she only poured the bleach around the food. She said she didn’t believe the cats would eat the food if they smelled bleach.

Former State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Littlefield tells Eyewitness News a cat could likely to smell bleach in its food, and would leave it alone if it did. However, she said, ingesting bleach could be harmful to the animals and would likely “burn” them.

The woman accused of poisoning the cats’ food said she didn’t want to hurt the cats, and owns cats herself. She said she’s trying to alleviate another problem: rats. She believes the food being left out by volunteers is drawing them to her street.

Davis and fellow volunteers don’t agree that the food is contributing to the rat problem, and they think the woman should be facing animal cruelty charges.

“I’m not going to let nobody stand there and hurt my animals,” said Davis. “They’re mine. They might be homeless and feral and stray to you, but they belong to me, and I’ll be damned if somebody is going to poison my cats.”

Providence police say the incident is under investigation, but no charges have been filed.

“If enough probable cause exists to warrant criminal charges, delaying could only jeopardize the safety and well being of the cats still on the premise,” said Joe Warzycha, humane officer and investigator for the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He said his group is working with Providence Animal Control to remove the animals from the property.

As of Friday, five cats had been trapped and removed from the abandoned home and are receiving veterinary care. They will be up for adoption through Care for Animals when they are healthy enough.