Tag: Bengal cat

UK Soccer Player Pleads Guilty To Kicking, Slapping Cat

Remember Kurt Zouma, the soccer player who kicked and slapped his cat in a video posted online in February?

The West Ham United footballer pleaded guilty on May 24 to “causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal,” the BBC reported. His 24-year-old brother Yoan, who is also a professional soccer player, pleaded guilty to a single charge of abetting the crime when he filmed the violence and posted it to Snapchat.

An RSPCA investigation uncovered new details about the incident. Zouma was reportedly enraged when the cat scratched a chair.

“I swear I’ll kill it, I swear I’ll kill it,” he says in the video.

In the video, the elder Zouma, 27, drop-kicks the Bengal cat “like a football” in the prosecutor’s description, and slaps it hard in the face with a shoe. Both brothers were laughing in the footage, and Zouma’s child was present.

His brother Yoan uploaded the clip to Snapchat, and it would have remained private if not for the disgusted reaction of a woman Yoan asked on a date.

“I don’t think hitting a cat like that is OK – don’t bother coming today,” she wrote in a message to Yoan  Zouma, canceling their meet-up.

“I do not want to associate with people who find that funny, in front of a child as well,” she wrote.

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A Bengal cat. Credit: Marius Engesrønning/Wikimedia Commons

The outraged woman reported the brothers, and condemnation was swift: Zouma lost several sponsorship contracts, including his most lucrative deal with Adidas, and he was fined $250,000 by his team, which is the maximum a Premier League club can levy against a player.

The brothers don’t yet know the full consequences of their actions. They’ll return to court for sentencing on June 1, and although Zouma has been contrite and has people vouching for him to the court, there may be other considerations after Zouma’s video apparently inspired others to hit their cats and post the videos online.

People who imitated Zouma’s animal abuse formed an online group, calling themselves the “Kick the Cat Club.”

“Since this footage was put in the public domain there has been a spate of people hitting cats and posting it on various social media sites,” Thames Magistrate’s Court prosecutor Hazel Stevens said.

In the meantime, Zouma’s two Bengal cats have been in the custody of the RSPCA. The cats, Bonbon and Cherie, didn’t suffer any lasting physical injuries from the abuse, and despite enduring trauma, the RSPCA said both cats are friendly and will be ready for rehoming soon.

“What makes this case even more sad is the way the video was filmed and shared, making light of such cruelty,” the RSPCA’s Dermot Murphy said. “We hope this case will serve as a reminder that all animals deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect, and that we will not tolerate cruelty.”

With A Three-Fold Increase in Cat Thefts, UK Chooses Microchip Mandate

Mandates in the wake of COVID-19 haven’t been especially popular with a weary public, but surveys show one proposed directive has almost universal support in the UK: Requiring all cat owners get their pets microchipped.

Cat thefts in the UK have tripled in the last five years, with the pandemic contributing to the increase since early 2020, police say. Authorities say they hope compulsory microchipping — and consolidating the many chip ID databases into one — will help discourage people from stealing while making it easier to reunite felines with their families.

Thieves mostly target pedigreed kitties over moggies, with Bengals as the most commonly-stolen cats, followed by British Shorthairs and Persians, according to police statistics. Thieves try for breed cats because of resale value, police say.

Dog thefts have skyrocketed as well, with thieves targeting Chihuahuas, Jack Russell Terriers and German Shepards, among other popular breeds. The price of breed dogs has ballooned by as much as 89 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, when demand for new pets and a slowdown in breeding created a boom market.

For context, an estimated 3.2 million British families welcomed new pets, mostly cats and dogs, into their homes since the first lockdowns in late winter and spring of 2020, the BBC reported. Like their counterparts here in the States, UK shelters experienced unprecedented adoption rates as people battled loneliness and depression during the initial COVID waves and last year’s long winter when the virus came back with a vengeance.

“The number one reason behind pet theft is because the prices for pets have gone up drastically,” Becky Thwaites, spokeswoman for UK pet charity Blue Cross, told SWLondoner. “This happened exponentially over lockdown, as responsible breeders stopped breeding due to social distancing guidance, but more people were wanting pets.”

Despite the spike in animal thefts, only about one percent of all such crimes have led to an arrest, according to a public information request by a UK animal welfare group. 

Police have been reluctant to pour resources into those cases, partly because the law lacks serious consequences for people who steal animals. While the maximum sentence for stealing a pet is seven years in jail, under current UK law sentences are pegged to the value of the stolen item. (Unlike the US, the UK does not make a distinction between prison and jail.)

But for people who love their cats, it’s not about the monetary value — it’s about sentiment, love and the distress to human and animal when they’re separated.

Abductions instead of thefts

To change that, a new pet theft task force — set up earlier this year to study the growing problem — recommended a change in the law. Instead of treating pet thefts as property thefts, under the proposal they would be treated as abductions, with all the increased charges and consequences that come with the classification.

Treating animal thefts as abductions “acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC.

Advocates say treating pet thefts as abductions makes sense not just as a legal adjustment, but also as a reflection of the way cats and dogs are stolen. While some thieves stalk dog parks and lure pets away with treats, others have taken to more brazen and violent means like taking animals by force and jumping people while they’re walking their dogs.

The change would require owners to have their kittens chipped by 20 weeks and adult cats chipped upon adoption from a shelter or rescue.  Failure to microchip a pet would result in a warning and a three-week grace period. After that, cat owners would face a steep fine of £500, equal to $660 in USD.

Consolidating chip databases

There are about 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, although widespread chipping alone won’t solve the problem of pet thefts and lost pets flooding shelters. There are currently 16 different microchip databases in the UK. They don’t always share information and scans don’t cover each of the databases, so even if a cat is recovered, brought to a shelter and scanned, there’s no guarantee the kitty will be returned home.

The existence of so many non-cooperating databases operated by private companies “can pose a huge barrier to successful reunification of pets” said the British Veterinary Association’s Malcolm Morley.

UK authorities and the animal welfare groups pushing for the change are cognizant of the problem and want to streamline the 16 existing database into one central repository of cat microchip registration. That will take time and will have to include compromise on the part of the various private companies running the existing fractured databases.

“Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them,” said Pet Protection’s Jacqui Cuff, “whether it’s reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat, or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.”

The Adoptaversary of the King

We’re celebrating Buddy’s belated adoptaversary this weekend. I don’t know exactly when he was born, so we usually mark the occasion on the third weekend in April, which is when I brought Buddy home.

What better way to celebrate than with catnip, Buddy Biscuits treats and his beloved laser pointer?

It’s partay time! Nom nom!
Hilaria buys an Espanish cat, PETA doesn’t approve

Hilaria Baldwin, the indefatigable child collector, has added another little one to her family, but this time it’s a cat. As the San Jose Mercury News notes, as Hilaria “tries to move past her Spanish heritage scandal, she’s been flooding her Instagram with cute family photos from her busy ‘Baldwinito’ household.”

The new cat, Emilio Cookie Baldwin, is a Bengal purchased from a breeder who “specializes in producing pricey, exotic-looking hybrid cats that originate from crossing a domestic cat with an Asian leopard.” In an unusually mild rebuke (the Baldwinitos are donors to the charity), PETA issued a statement saying there’s “no doubt that [the Baldwins] didn’t realize what the impact of buying a cat from a breeder is” and that, “had they known, we’re sure that they would have gone to an animal shelter and adopted a cat who might otherwise die for the lack of a good home.”

No word yet on whether Emilio knows “how you say in English, cucumber.”

Hilaria Baldwin’s Spanish child holds her Spanish cat, Emilio. Credit: Hillary Thomas/Instagram
The First Cat

After announcing they were going to adopt a cat, the Bidens have been unusually coy about the who, what and when. Now Jill Biden says a female cat is “waiting in the wings” and will join the family soon. The arrival of the mystery cat will mark the first time since the George W. Bush administration that a cat has occupied the White House. Before India, the Bush family’s cat, there was the Clintons’ cat Socks, who became so famous the White House had a full-time staffer answering his fan mail. Socks even had his own video game in development, which was sadly unreleased but is available for download as abandonware for anyone who can’t get enough Socks.

Socks was a popular little fellow. Credit: The White House
Plagiarists and content thieves be warned

After I went searching for one of my old posts this week and found it had been plagiarized, a casual search turned up five (!) sites that have stolen my work, stripped it of credit, and posted it as their own content — and that was based on search strings from only three of my posts. Who knows how many others have been lifted?

Two of those posts were stolen by sites that copy the Bored Panda model of finding content on the internet and monetizing it. At least Bored Panda contacts the content owners, credits them and links back to them. These other guys just steal content from people like me, present it as their own and profit off of it.

Take a look around: This site does not have a single ad. I have no Patreon account and I don’t ask for donations. This site is a labor of love. At some point I probably will implement limited and tasteful ads, but in the meantime it’s kind of a slap in the face to find your own content has been stolen and has been used to make money for thieves.

So a fair warning to anyone else who might be tempted to steal content from PITB: I’ll go right to Google, file a DMCA and get your AdSense account suspended. I have zero tolerance for plagiarism and content-scraping. It’s no different than walking into a store, stealing products off the shelves and turning around to sell them. Worse, actually, since writers are rarely well-compensated. Fall back!

New York Times: Wild Cats Are Glamorous, Chic Pets

Sometimes it seems like writers at the New York Times are in a competition with each other to prove who’s the most out-of-touch.

The latest effort comes courtesy of Alexandra Marvar, who begins her profile of a designer cat breeder by reminiscing about the good old days when those lacking sense or self-awareness could be fabulous by keeping wild animals as “chic pets”:

Not so long ago, wild cat companions were associated with glamour, class and creativity. Salvador Dalí brought his ocelot to the St. Regis. Tippi Hedren lounged with her lions in her Los Angeles living room. Josephine Baker’s cheetah, collared in diamonds, strolled the Champs-Élysées. In their time, these wild creatures made chic pets.

But, Marvar writes, those animal welfare activists had to come and ruin things for fabulous people:

But by the mid-1970s, a wave of awareness and wildlife protection legislation changed both the optics of owning a big cat, and the ability to legally purchase one.

Killjoys. Don’t they know Dali, Hedren and Baker were just being fabulous? They were being classy and creative! Who has time for people who claim it’s wrong to keep a wild animal that ranges 50 miles a day confined in a living room? They have gilded cages, diamond collars and meals of filet mignon!

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Hedren being fabulous with one of her fabulous lions in 1971. Credit: Michael Rougier/LIFE

Now that wild cat ownership has been relegated to mulleted felons and gun-toting Texans who keep exotic cats to hold on tight to “muh freedoms” — stripping the practice of all glamour, class and fabulousness — where can the wealthy turn when they don’t just want pets, but status symbols?

The creators of the latest designer breeds, Toygers and Bengals, of course. Meet our heroes, the late breeder Jean Mill and her daughter, Judy Sugden:

Meanwhile, a cat breeder named Jean Mill was working on a more practical alternative: her leopard-spotted companion was just ten inches tall. At her cattery in Southern California, Ms. Mill invented a breed of domestic cat called the Bengal, which would offer wild cat admirers the best of both worlds: an impeccable leopard-like coat, and an indoor-cat size and demeanor.

Note: If you think a Persian makes you fabulous, surrender that cat to the nearest shelter immediately. Persians are so 2013!

[A Bengal cat breeder] recalled there used to be “tons” of ads for Persian cats in the back of Cat Fancy magazine. But the Persian’s prim, manicured aesthetic is no longer en vogue. “That look doesn’t say, ‘I can survive in the jungle,’” Mr. Hutcherson said. “It says, ‘I need somebody to open this can of cat food because there’s no way this cat is catching a mouse.’”

Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and a star of Netflix’s “Tiger King,” has called toyger owners “selfish” and said creating new breeds is “strapping a nuclear warhead to the feral cat problem.” Others might argue that compared with shelter pets, designer species (the rarer of which may cost as much tens of thousands of dollars per kitten) are a different beast altogether.

Others might argue! Who are those others? Uh, Marvar and…and…nevermind. The important thing to realize is that there are cats — the riff-raff adopted from animal shelters by plebs — and there are chic, elegant, glamorous beasts. To compare a shelter pet to a Toyger would be like comparing a Geo Metro to an Aston Martin.

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Brigette Helm being fabulous with her cheetah in 1932.

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A close-up of Josephine Baker’s cheetah, Chiquita, and her diamond collar, photographed in the 1920s. Credit: FrockFlicks

In the glowing profile of Mill’s daughter, the toyger breeder — whose cats the Times compares to the Mona Lisa and whose work it describes as a “creative effort” in “cultivating” perfect “beasts” — the newspaper devotes a single line to those who object to the industrial manufacture of designer pets when shelters are forced to euthanize cats who aren’t adopted:

…the designer cat market is a thriving one where supply rarely meets demand, and in its service, more than 40,000 registered house cat breeders around the world are devoted to supplying pet owners with Ragdoll, Sphynx and other prized breeds. (PETA has argued this clientele should instead adopt cats from a shelter.)

The fact that 1.4 million pets are put down every year in the US wasn’t considered important enough to mention in the Times story. Too much of a buzzkill. Ain’t no one got time for that!

The rest of the Times’ editorial staff and its stable of contributors will have a tough time topping Marvar’s masterpiece. But as they try — and try they will — remember these are the same people who want to teach the rest of us about privilege and inequality in modern society as they social distance in their Scarsdale homes and file their stories from their couches next to their $10,000 pets.

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Hedren enjoying a fabulous ride on one of her chic, fabulous lions in 1971. Credit: LIFE

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Wild cats are the preferred fabulous pets of ultra-wealthy twats who want to show off their wealth on social media.

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More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day, while Paris Hilton’s dog lives in a two-story air-conditioned mansion.

‘The Beast of Billionaire’s Row’: Wealthy Londoners Have Little Patience For Abandoned Cat

The saga continues in the case of the big Savannah who was mistaken for a leopard or cheetah in London earlier this week.

The hybrid cat — whose appearance prompted a massive police response that included helicopters and heavily armed squads — has been stalking the gardens of an opulent London burb for months, neighbors claim.

The British press dubbed the Savannah “The Beast of Billionaire’s Row” after it popped into a back garden in the upscale neighborhood of Hampstead on Monday, scaring a mom and daughter who were eating dinner outside.

They called the police to report a large wildcat, and authorities responded in force before realizing the mysterious felid was a Savannah, a cross between a Serval and a domestic cat. A wildlife expert confirmed the cat wasn’t dangerous and police stood down, leaving the cat to its own devices.

And that’s exactly the problem, homeowners in the neighborhood told UK newspapers: They say the rare feline has been wandering the area for eight months, and believe it was abandoned by its owner or escaped from its home.

“Anyone saying it’s a recent escape is talking absolute rubbish,” said Kate Blackmore of Highgate, an adjacent neighborhood less than a mile from Monday’s sighting.

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The cat was scared during an encounter with a woman in her backyard. Credit: Kate Blackmore

Blackmore told the Daily Mail she’s seen the cat in her yard 10 times over the months, and shot video of the hybrid in September when it crossed her yard.

“Look at you, you’re massive. Wow! Where do you come from?” Blackmore says in the video. “What’s with the growling, mate?”

The cat looks underfed and scared, making unmistakably nervous noises as the camera rolls. At one point Blackmore raises her voice and the cat flashes its teeth in response, hissing anxiously.

Blackmore told the Daily Mail she thinks the large hybrid may have chased one of her cats, who turned up dead in a nearby road last year, but admits it’s speculation. That hasn’t stopped the Mail from reporting the Savannah “has savaged a kitten” with nothing but Blackmore’s word to go on.

Blackmore told the Daily Mail she’s “really passionate about rehoming this cat,” which contradicts statements she gave to the Sun and other newspapers, in which she seems determined to blame the scared ex-pet. She’s the sole source for several irresponsibly speculative articles claiming the Savannah has been eating pets in the neighborhood.

“We have had ten visits from the Savannah. It scared one kitten away and eight weeks later it was found dead,” Karen Kate Blackmore told the Sun. “So you can understand my rage towards the cat — it could be killing other people’s pets.”

Blackmore’s crusade against the Savannah seems especially odd considering she has two Bengal cats, which are also hybrids. Bengals are a mix of domestic felines and Asian leopard cats(*). Like Savannahs they’re sold for thousands of dollars, valued for the wild-looking rosettes on their coats, and can wreak havoc if they’re not provided with enough attention and stimulation.

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Kate Blackmore with one of her Bengal cats.

 

 

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The Savannah at a local park, where it cozied up to a family. Credit: Laura Rosefield.

Other neighbors say they’ve encountered the animal and haven’t seen any signs of aggression. Laura Rosefield, who lives nearby, told the Sun she interacted with the cat in a neighborhood park, calling it “very tame.”

“I suddenly went ‘Oh my god what is that?’ and we saw the cat and said ‘It’s a leopard, it’s a mini leopard,’” Rosefield said.

She said the “shockingly beautiful” hybrid even sat with her family and was comfortable around people.

“We were ohh-ing and ahh-ing, and it padded around us for quite a long time, it padded over my foot for quite a long time,” she said. “My partner stroked it and it purred along while he was stroking it.”

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Credit: Laura Rosefield

Looking at the cat’s condition and body language in the video, it doesn’t seem like a well-loved pet out for a fun stroll near its home — it looks like a sad, confused and abandoned former pet.

Savannah cats retain the energy and intelligence of their wild cousins and are similar to working dogs in that they need near-constant stimulation and socialization. If their needs aren’t met they can become bored, destructive and could escape to make their own adventures.

First-generation hybrids, known as F1 Savannahs, are considered too wild to be kept as pets and are used as breeders. Typically pet Savannahs are third- or fourth-generation (F3 or F4), retaining the rosette-and-dot coat pattern of their wild forebears and most of their size, but with dispositions more like typical house cats.

The animals can fetch up to $20,000 in the US, with F1s commanding the highest prices. Unlike the US, where many caretakers keep their cats indoors for their safety, it’s common for owners in the UK to allow their cats to wander outside.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated the origins of the Bengal breed. Bengals are hybrids of the domestic cat, felis catus, and the Asian leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis. Thanks to reader M.A. for pointing out the error.