Big cat bites Santa during photo shoot at NJ store

By: AP
By: AP

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) -- Santa Claus posed with a very large kitty on his lap - and now, unfortunately, he might need rabies shots. Jonathan Bebbington was playing the jolly old elf during a Santa Paws photo event at a PetsMart store when he was bitten Sunday on the wrist and hand. The event was to raise money for Penny Angel's Beagle Rescue group.

The cat and owner disappeared after the incident. At least one person thought it was a bobcat, said Joan Kerr, president of Penny Angel's.

"It had absolutely huge paws, like 3 inches around," Kerr said.

The cat, named "Benny," appeared terrified because dogs were nearby, Bebbington, 47, told The Press of Atlantic City.

"It had very powerful jaws and big teeth," he said, estimating the cat weighed about 30 pounds.

The woman who brought it to the store told people there she bought the cat from a breeder in Wyoming for $1,500.

"Her last words were, `I have a permit and the cat has all his vaccines,' " Bebbington said.

Unless the owner produces vaccination records, Bebbington will have to receive rabies shots starting Thursday as a precaution. He's already had a tetanus shot.

"I don't want anything to happen to the cat," he said. "It's a beautiful animal and was naturally scared."

Rabies shots are not as bad as they used to be, when they were a long ordeal of dreaded, painful shots in the abdomen. They now consist of a shorter series of shots in the arm.

Information from: The Press of Atlantic City, http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com

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