Meet Hackettstown’s Purr-fect Neighbor

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

People, other cats, and even deer, no one is excluded from Itheus’ friendly nature. 

Itheus is an exotic Bengal cat that can often be seen roaming a Hackettstown neighborhood, making friends wherever he goes. Some call him, “The Mayor of Hackettstown.” Others have posted their concerns on social media, thinking perhaps he was lost. But Itheus does have a loving home and family. He’s also chipped, neutered, and up to date on all his shots. 

The reason Itheus is out and about is to help combat anxiety. Earlier this year he was diagnosed with feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), according to his owner, Denise Caruth. FLUTD is caused by stress, and it all started when a renovation was being done in the Caruth household. Between all the workers, construction and chaos, the kitty began sneaking out to get away from it all. The good news was, he came back home! 

After the renovation was complete, Caruth attempted to keep Itheus inside, but that made her pet more anxious. “Spring hit and he started trying to get out again,” said Caruth, adding, “but then he would come home.” 

However, Itheus wasn’t being himself. He was spraying and Caruth rushed him to the vet. An ultrasound showed that Itheus’ bladder was filled with sand, preventing him from urinating. Bottom line, Itheus was stressed. 

After much research on the Bengal breed, and a consult from the vet, Caruth learned that they need to be out and about, having freedom. “We weighed the pros and cons,” she disclosed. “The disease is life threatening. Animals can’t tell you when they are in severe pain. You have to try to read them. His quality of life is much better now than what it would have been if we kept him inside.” 

Giving Itheus the liberty to roam put a positive spin on his personality. It started with Itheus hanging in the yard, but then he would travel further. 

“When he wants to go out, he opens the front door,” Caruth expressed. “He’s very smart. He opens cabinets. We had to put tuna packets in the fridge…he could open the cabinet and open a package of tuna. He opens drawers and has gotten into so many different foods. We had to put baby locks on the cabinets.” 

When he began crossing the street, Caruth wasn’t worried. “He looks both ways before crossing,” she explained. “Neighbors are befriending him. People let him in their house. He was spotted hanging out with deer. He’s super friendly. He’s unique looking so I’d notice people would post a picture of him on Facebook [being concerned if he was lost] and I would speak up, ‘He’s our cat, he’s fine.’” 

Caruth said she received a lot of vicious comments on Facebook from people who don’t understand the situation. “To say I’m a bad pet owner isn’t the right way to go about it,” she explained. “We know how happy he is. He always comes home. He’s a pillar of joy. If he trusts you, he will show his belly.” 

With Bengals being such an expensive breed, Caruth isn’t afraid that someone might keep him. She made it clear, “No one will be able to keep him in their house [due to his adventurous nature].” 

In addition to Itheus, Caruth has two other cats, a Singapura, which is the world’s smallest cat breed, and Artemis. “The other two don’t have the desire to go out,” she offered. “The Bengal has a little more wildness; a little more zest.” 

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