Nellie Marie Palacios

A 43-year-old Santa Maria woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a felony animal cruelty charge for allegedly fatally stabbing a cat at her ex-boyfriend’s Orcutt residence last month.

Nellie Marie Palacios appeared in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria to enter the plea during an arraignment that had been delayed several times, according to Deputy District Attorney Chrystal Joseph.

Palacios, who is no longer in custody after being released on her own recognizance, will next appear in court Feb. 26 for a preliminary hearing setting with Judge Patricia Kelly, Joseph said.

The charge stems from an incident that began about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, when authorities responded to report of an animal-cruelty case at a residence in the 4600 block of Hummel Drive in Orcutt.

A male resident had called 9-1-1 to report that Palacios, his girlfriend, had gone into a home she claimed belonged to her cousin, and was removing paintings from the walls, according to Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

The caller said he witnessed Palacios choking a cat at the residence before stabbing it with a large kitchen knife.

When deputies arrived, they found Palacios in the yard, detained her, and then found the cat dead nearby in an igloo-style doghouse, Hoover said.

Palacios claimed she was acting in self-defense, and that the cat attacked her. Deputies later determined the residence was the home of her ex-boyfriend, and not her cousin, Hoover added.

The knife used in the attack was located under the doghouse covered with blood and cat hair, Hoover said, and deputies found several paintings from the home and other items in Palacios’ car.

Palacios was arrested on charges of burglary and animal cruelty before being transported to a local hospital for treatment of scratches and then to Santa Barbara County Jail. Her bail was set at $50,000.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.