Zouma and his brother thought they were being clever and funny when they uploaded a video showing the professional soccer player drop-kicking the poor kitty, throwing a shoe at it and slapping it in the face while Zouma’s child held the terrified pet.
The UK Sun ran a story about the video, which the Zouma brothers uploaded to Snapchat. The story went viral this week and Zouma has taken an enormous hit to his wallet and reputation.
Zouma’s club, West Ham United, fined the footballer £250,000, which works out to about $338,00, or 20 percent of his yearly salary. In a statement the club said it was the maximum amount it could fine one of its players.
Zouma’s primary sponsor, Adidas, has dropped him, while insurance company Vitality dropped its sponsorship of the entire club and other sponsors may follow.
And on Tuesday night in his first game since the scandal, Zouma was roasted by fans who showed up to watch West Ham play Watford at London Stadium. The rowdy crowd jeered every time Zouma touched the ball.
“Kurt Zouma, he plays at centre-back, he kicks his f—ing cat!” the fans chanted.
Finally, in a scene that played out like a divine condemnation of Zouma’s treatment of his kitty, a confused stray cat bolted onto the field and interrupted play during Tuesday night’s match between English League teams Wigan and Sheffield. Fans cheered as Wigan’s Jason Kerr carefully picked up the freaked-out feline and carried her off the field, risking a penalty for leaving the playing area during the game.
The British press didn’t miss the opportunity to contrast how the two football pros treated felines.
Team staff brought the tortoiseshell to a veterinarian who treated her for injuries, scanned for a microchip, and found she belonged to a family in Wirral, a town in northwest England.
The cat’s name is Topsey and she’d been missing for eight months. Alison Jubb, Topsey’s human, said she was going on vacation and was bringing Topsey to a cattery when the cat got scared and bolted out of her carrier. That was the last she heard of Topsey until late Tuesday night.
“My daughter-in-law rang me last night as they were watching the match and said there was a cat on the football pitch” who resembled Topsey, Jubb told the BBC. “I sort of laughed it off.”
But Jubb said she was no longer laughing when she received a call from a veterinarian telling her Topsey had been brought in by Wigan Athletic staff. Topsey was given pain medication and is under treatment for bite wounds, possibly from a dog, to her neck, per the BBC.
Topsey was reunited with her humans, while Zouma voluntarily surrendered his abused cat and his second kitty to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The sequence of events restored some hope to animal lovers in the UK, who were dismayed when police said they would not charge Zouma for lack of evidence, despite the video clips and Zouma’s admission that he abused his cat.
However, Zouma’s legal troubles aren’t over. The 27-year-old is a French national and could face charges in his home country, where the public was outraged by his behavior and embarrassed that a high-profile Frenchman would harm an animal.
Zouma has been condemned by French politicians and there are calls to remove him from the French national team.
In the meantime, the RSPCA is conducting its own inquiry into the abuse incidents.
“We’re investigating and the cats are safe and in our care,” the group said in a statement. “We have been dealing with this since before the clip went viral online and we need to follow the proper legal process and not discuss due to UK GDPR laws.”
Troy Farrell’s cat, Nubbins, has been missing since October.
Neighbors told the Sonoma man that a couple who rented an Airbnb two houses down the street had been asking about the nearly tailless tabby and had seemed fond of her. That was Farrell’s only lead, but the owner of the Airbnb rental wouldn’t tell him who rented the place at the time Nubbins vanished.
When I read about Nubbins my first thought was that she was probably snatched up by people who thought they were doing the right thing by “rescuing” a neglected cat.
It turns out that’s exactly what happened.
First a veterinarian from Long Beach, more than 400 miles away, called Farrell and told him Nubbins had been brought into the vet’s practice for a health checkup. When they scanned the kitty’s microchip, Farrell’s contact information came up.
Farrell says he thought his ordeal was over, but the veterinarian — citing obligation to the client — wouldn’t tell him who brought the cat in. Instead, the vet said she’d pass along Farrell’s contact information and ask the couple to return the cat.
When they didn’t return Nubbins, Farrell filed a police report with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, hired a private investigator and implored the local district attorney to look into the case.
“Those are evil people,” Farrell told an interviewer in late January. “Those are people without a conscience, those are people without a heart.”
He said he’s been lost without Nubbins.
“I don’t have kids. She’s my kid and she’s seen me through so many things. And they took her, and I want her back,” Farrell said. “The second I’d open that door or drive up the driveway or go out back … There’s Nubbins just in my lap.”
The ‘catnapper’ comes forward
Now there’s a new development in the case: A man has come forward and admitted he took Nubbins, describing her as a neglected street cat who had been left outside to fend for herself in the cold without access to food or water.
The man detailed the allegations in a letter to Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick, and he’s not hiding his identity or denying he took the cat without asking Farrell. He identified himself as James R. Wakefield, an attorney in private practice out of Irvine, California.
“[W]e were never going to let that cat get put back in the living condition she was in without a fight,” Wakefield wrote in the letter to the sheriff.
While vacationing at the Airbnb in California wine country, Wakefield encountered Nubbins, saying she was “obviously hungry” and “she scarfed down the food” the vacationing couple gave her. Wakefield said that when he asked the Airbnb’s owner about the cat, the man said she was a local stray who needed a home.
Describing him and his wife as “70-year-old catnappers,” Wakefield said they’d do “everything in our ability to protect” Nubbins.
Farrell disagrees. He said the stumped tail and damage to Nubbins’ lip were from her days as a stray, when she escaped California wildfires several years ago and wandered into Farrell’s neighborhood. He took her in, he said, and she’s been his cat since. Nubbins is allowed in and out of the home as she pleases, he said, and always returns after she’s had her day’s adventures.
Nubbins refuses to be an indoor cat, Farrell said, and is well known to neighbors on the block, who also feed her and look out for her. It’s not uncommon for outdoor cats to make small circuits around their neighborhoods, visiting friendly neighbors for snacks and scritches before heading home for the day.
“That cat lives so large it’s not even funny,” Farrell said. “That cat has so many houses, so many people, so many little girls to play with down the block.”
That appears to be true: Farrell’s neighbors have backed up his story to the press, there are videos of the beloved cat hanging out in yards on the street, and one concerned neighbor even wrote a letter to the local newspaper imploring the police to get the situation sorted and return Nubbins to Sonoma.
The police have told Wakefield to return the cat to Farrell, while a spokesman for the district attorney told the Sonoma Index-Tribune that the DA is still reviewing the case. Like many other states, California considers pets as “property,” and authorities would have to determine if Nubbins is “worth” at least $950 to file criminal charges.
If Farrell can’t get Nubbins back via law enforcement his remaining recourse would be a civil trial, the newspaper noted.
Is it ever okay to steal someone’s pet?
This case raises some thorny questions. Farrell seems lost without his cat and has been clearly emotional in interviews with reporters as the saga of Nubbins has stretched on over the months. Meanwhile, I don’t think there’s any doubt Wakefield and his wife thought they were doing the right thing.
At least part of this standoff can be chalked up to misinformation and a lack of information: Matthew Knudsen, the man who rented the vacation home to the Wakefields, told them Nubbins was a stray who didn’t belong to anyone, according to Wakefield’s letter to the sheriff. Farrell said Knudsen owns and rents the house two doors down but doesn’t actually live in the neighborhood and doesn’t know how well Nubbins is cared for.
So from the Wakefields’ point of view, they thought they were rescuing a neglected cat and doing a good thing. At the same time, any cat servant should be able to empathize with the anguish another cat lover feels if their beloved feline goes missing or is stolen.
It’s easy to read the details and think maybe Farrell wasn’t doing right by his cat, and as readers of this blog know, I’m a strong advocate of keeping cats indoors for a long list of reasons, including myriad dangers to outdoor cats and the damage cats can do to local wildlife like birds, small mammals and lizards.
But I also know how easily people tend to toss out accusations of animal abuse and/or neglect. One reader was very upset with me when I posted a photo of Buddy with his paws stuck in the screen door that opens from the living room to the balcony. She strongly felt I was abusing Bud by allowing him to hang there for a few extra seconds while I snapped a few photos.
Buddy has gotten his claws stuck on the screen more times than I can count.
“Lies! The door attaches itself to my claws, that’s why I get stuck!”
Context is important in that case too. Buddy loves to lounge on the balcony in the summer, and he’s gotten his claws stuck on that damn door more times than I can count. (The many claw marks on the screen attest to that.) When he gets stuck he cries pitifully until I drop whatever I’m doing, lift him gently off the ground so he can unhook his claws without hurting himself, and reassure him in a soothing voice that he’s okay. It’s the cat dad equivalent of putting a band aid on a scraped knee.
No matter how many times Buddy gets stuck, no matter how many times I tell him “No!” and try to discourage him from scratching the door, he won’t stop doing it. He’s even got a four-foot-tall, sturdy scratcher literally a foot away, just a step inside the door! Clearly he has alternatives.
Not only is Buddy incredibly stubborn, but the day I took the above photographs, he’d already gotten stuck twice — including 20 or 30 minutes prior.
So yeah, I took the photos. Does that make me an animal abuser or guilty of neglect?
That woman thought so. If she’d been in a position to take Buddy, maybe she would have.
At the very least, the saga of Nubbins provides another good reason to keep cats indoors, even if they’re former strays who like to go outside. (Easier said than done, I realize.) But I don’t think there are any bad guys here, just people who thought they were doing the right thing without complete information.
Ever since a leaked video showed him punching and choking a cat at his practice, Richard Timothy Logan has tried to hang on to his veterinary career.
The Ozark, Alabama-based vet came to the attention of animal welfare advocates and cat lovers in early April 2021, when a former employee at Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital posted a video showing a man identified as Logan in a veterinary examination room, punching, choking and dangling a 21-year-old cat by her collar.
Logan was investigated by police and arrested on animal abuse charges. That case is still pending. In addition, he faces a civil suit related to the video and the state’s veterinary board is investigating his conduct after the video sparked a series of complaints and requests to revoke his license to practice veterinary medicine.
Now, more than eight months after the video’s leak and his arrest, Logan announced he will “no longer be associated with” Andrews Animal Hospital. A letter posted on the animal hospital’s doors says Logan left the on Jan. 10 and the practice is looking for a new veterinarian. If they can’t find one by Jan. 31, they’ll call it quits.
A man identified as Logan was examining a calico cat in November, in an exam room at the animal hospital when he grabbed the cat by the scruff of her neck and punched her on the top of her head with a closed fist, video of the exam shows. Still holding the cat by her scruff, he slammed her down onto the exam table, then did it again more forcefully.
Logan then swiped the cat off the exam table, causing her to fall to the floor.
Logan steps out of the frame for several seconds, then the video cuts forward, showing Logan again with his hands on the cat as a veterinary assistant holds the terrified, screaming feline down.
He punches the cat a second time, makes an annoyed gesture, then picks the cat up by her collar and dangles her as she struggles.
The cat was traumatized by the incident but survived and didn’t suffer any permanent physical damage.
Logan pleaded not guilty to two subsequent counts of animal abuse and hired an outspoken lawyer who has denied Logan did anything wrong, said his client has been the target of outlandish threats, and even tried to undermine the former employee who posted the video by claiming she brought her own dog to the veterinarian for treatment and “trusted him with her precious pet.”
David Harrison, Logan’s attorney, said his client was going to sue online commenters who condemned the accused veterinarian, and says Logan will be vindicated in court. He did not dispute that the video shows Logan mishandling the cat, but said it lacks context.
The video, Harrison claims, merely “shows Logan appearing to abuse a cat, though contributing circumstances, if any, are not known.”
It’s worth noting there are no circumstances in which it’s appropriate for anyone, much less a veterinarian, to abuse a cat. Even frustration’s not an excuse: Handling animals is part of the job in veterinary work, and vets are trained to calm cats they have to examine, as well as techniques to hold and restrain cats if they won’t tolerate routine things like having blood drawn for lab work.
“We have the best defense there is—not guilty,” Harrison told WTVY, a local news station. “One point five million Americans have died on foreign soil for us to have the right to be innocent until proven guilty.”
The number Harrison cites is untrue: There have been 666,411 total combat deaths in all US wars, and some 451,000 combat deaths on foreign soil.
Logan or his staff has also been involved in a protracted war of words with his online critics and former clients, even going so far as to pull the charts of two former clients and describing them in detail in an attempt to refute complaints they’ve made on Google reviews. While Andrews Avenue Animal Hospital has 4+ stars on Google reviews thanks to an abundance of five-star reviews counteracting the negative reviews, its rating on Yelp is considerably worse.
“There’s no [NAME REDACTED] in the aaah computer system except a [NAME REDACTED] in collections from 2014 for a bad/unpaid debt ! Her dog has not been to aaah for any surgery and has not been on the appointment book for anything & is flat out lying !,” an account that defended Logan posted. (The retaliatory review included the name of the client. We redacted the name for this post.)
I know I’ll probably catch some heat for this, but the below video, which a Newsweek writer gushes over and 8.8 million people favorited, is an example of animal abuse. It may not be violent, it may not be particularly overt, but it’s animal abuse all the same.
I get why people are saying this is “adorable” and think it’s sweet, but anyone familiar with cats can see clearly the kitty does not like being picked up, then placed in a bed on her back. She protests, then moves to get away, but her “owner” clamps her down and presses an admonitory finger to her nose.
Little Pishy’s ears twitch and her eyes dilate. Her owner slides her into position, then holds her down before tucking her in beneath a heavy comforter. Then the woman takes both of the Pishy’s paws, places them deliberately above the comforter just the way she likes them, and finally wags her finger in the cat’s face again before she’s finished, as if to warn her: “Don’t move a paw.”
Just before she steps away, she strokes Pishy’s paw a few times with a finger, an affectionate afterthought on her terms.
Let’s be blunt here: The cat is not enjoying any part of the whole charade. She would almost certainly rather sleep like a cat, and not be treated as an infantilized, anthropomorphized stuffed animal. Her “owner” is dictating everything from the position in which she sleeps to where she can keep her paws.
“She stays in bed like this alllll night ;),” the TikToker brags in the video description.
Of course she does, because she’s probably scared to find out what will happen if she doesn’t. This isn’t a person who considers her cat a living being with her own feelings. She’s a person who sees her cat as a prop and a way to earn the adulation of strangers on the internet.
The same thing applies to all the “cute” videos of cats forced to wear clothing, glasses and hats, and posed in human-like positions. Last week, a short clip of two cats watching an iPad went viral. The cats are snuggled together in a miniature chair, posed like miniature humans. The larger cat has a paw around the smaller cat’s shoulders, and the tablet is balanced between their free paws.
Instead of gushing over the seemingly perfect 8 seconds we see, it’s worth thinking about what we don’t see, and how that manufactured scene came to be. I can assure you it does not involve animals who enjoy being posed like dolls for the benefit of an audience they don’t know exists, on a medium they don’t understand.
I keep coming back to the best advice I ever got about taking care of a cat: The strength of the human-feline bond depends in large part on how much the human takes the cat’s feelings into consideration.
We’re much bigger, stronger and some of us subscribe to the archaic “might is right” way of thinking. Imagine the reverse: Five hundred pound cats as large as tigers, subjecting us to tongue baths at their whim, posing us like dolls and forcing us to sit, stand and sleep in feline positions because it’s “cute.”
I am by no means an expert in cat care, and I don’t pretend to be some sort of cat whisperer or cat guru, but one thing I’ve always done is let my cat decide when he wants affection and interaction. I’ve never grabbed him and held him in my lap, or tried to dress him in miniature samurai armor for social media snaps.
When he meows for a head scratch or lays down on my chest and purrs as he listens to my heart beat, it’s because he wants to be there, and he knows I won’t grab him and force him to stay when he wants to get up.
If I treated him like a doll and tried that tuck-in move with him, he’d claw the hell out of me, and I’d deserve it. He’s my Buddy, not my property or my puppet.
What do you think? Am I overreacting, or are you disturbed by these videos as well?
Proving once again that social media has little or no redeeming value, TikTokers have latched onto a trend that has them using Christmas trees to terrify their cats.
The trend was started by a user who shared a “hack” she’d invented: Chase your chat around your home while wielding your new Christmas tree like a weapon, she said, and the cat won’t mess with the tree or its ornaments the rest of the holiday season.
“If you chase your cat around with the Christmas tree, it’ll be too scared to f**k with it,” said the “hack” originator, @alexisjj_.
User “@becs.richards” racked up more than 25 million views with a video that shows her holding her Christmas tree and thrusting it like a lance toward her confused and scared cat. She wore a big smile as she did so, and set the video to upbeat Christmas music.
Terrorizing your cat is a bad idea, author Anita Kelsey told Newsweek.
“A cat will not have any idea why you are causing them stress or fear and, more than likely, frightening a cat with a Christmas tree can lead to the cat being fearful of the room the tree is in, fearful of the tree, urinating around the home or on the tree and urinating on anything around the tree—like presents,” said Kelsey, author of Let’s Talk About Cats. “It also can cause a breakdown of trust between the cat and the person trying to frighten them.”
Daniel Cummings of the UK’s Cat Protection nonprofit said the method may seem successful, but it “doesn’t take into account how cats learn” and could cause long term problems.
“No cat owner would want to intentionally stress out their cat,” he said, “and part of cat ownership is accepting their natural behaviors.”
Unfortunately this newest trend isn’t surprising, especially coming from a user base of people who happily hand over their user data to the Chinese government, which controls TikTok and makes use of its data just as it does with any other ostensibly “private” company operating in China. There have been more than enough investigative stories illustrating how the Chinese government weaponizes data for any reasonable person to avoid platforms like TikTok.
I’m fortunate that Buddy is a good boy and mostly doesn’t mess with Christmas trees. He’s swiped a handful of ornaments off branches in the past, but so what? He’s a living being with feelings, and ornaments are just things.
Besides, as Cummings notes, curiosity and playfulness are part of the deal when we adopt cats. If people aren’t up for that, they shouldn’t adopt.
Top photo credit Jessica Lynn Lewis/Pexels.
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.