Tag: New York

SPCA Offers $6k Reward After Shooter Kills NY Woman’s Beloved Cat

When Margaret Oliva’s husband died eight years ago, her cat Stella helped her through her grieving.

“She was my sanity, you know?” the Long Island woman said.

Oliva’s beloved tortoiseshell went outside on Sept. 1 and didn’t come back that night. Oliva enlisted the help of relatives to find Stella but wasn’t able to locate her until she heard “whimpering cries” on her Ring system’s audio.

Stella had collapsed near a bush on the front lawn. Oliva rushed her badly injured cat to an emergency veterinarian, where the fading feline fought for her life but succumbed hours later. The vet told the shocked Hicksville woman that someone had shot Stella twice, likely with a pellet gun.

“To have her taken like this…No, I can’t accept that,” Oliva told a local TV news station.

Now the SPCA is offering a $6,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of Stella’s killer. Matt Roper, a detective with the Nassau County SPCA’s law enforcement division, said he believes Stella was shot by someone in the immediate neighborhood.

spcastella
The SPCA is offering a $6,000 reward for Stella’s killer.

Studies have shown that house cats who are allowed to wander outside during the day rarely go far. In a paper published in Scientific Reports earlier this year, a team of scientists from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences tracked 100 indoor/outdoor cats by equipping them with GPS collars. The data showed cats spend almost 80 percent of their time within 50 meters — or about 164 feet — of their homes, and a handful of statistical outliers who traveled a longer distance didn’t exceed more than a quarter mile.

The SPCA’s Roper said Stella suffered one projectile to her chest and one to a leg. Her killer is likely nearby and almost certainly knows about the anguish caused to Oliva. If caught, the killer could face a felony charge.

“This could be a high powered pellet gun,” Roper said. “This could be something that could be shot a couple of houses length, a couple of yards in length.”

Oliva’s home in Hicksville is about 10 miles from Glen Cove, where a cat named Gracie was shot and left paralyzed last summer when one pellet hit her stomach and another hit her spine. Poor Gracie was in a neighbor’s yard, dragging herself toward her home while her back legs hung limp. A woman found Gracie after hearing her crying out in pain, Newsday reported.

“What happens is a woman takes her kids for a walk,” said detective Lt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department. “When she returns to the house she hears an animal crying and goes to investigate. She finds this cat, just beyond the neighbor’s chain link fence, and the animal is crying and it can’t walk. Another neighbor, who happens to be a vet, comes over. She gets a cat cage, places it in the yard — and the cat immediately crawls over to it … She takes the cat to her vet, where she works, thinking maybe it’s been hit by a car. That’s when she finds out it’s not damage from a car, but that there’s two bullets.”

There’s a $5,000 reward for Gracie’s shooter.

In October of 2021, a young cat the rescuers named Abraham was shot with a pellet gun in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island. Like Gracie, Abraham was struck in his spine. The SPCA of Suffolk County, which called Abraham’s shooting “a horrific act of animal cruelty,” is offering a $4,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his shooter.

graciecatreward
Gracie’s shooter hasn’t been found yet either.

Every Attempt To Translate Meows Has Failed. Why?

New York Times science writer Emily Anthes details her experience with MeowTalk in a new story, and has more or less come to the same conclusions I did when I wrote about the app last year — it recognizes the obvious, like purring, but adds to confusion over other vocalizations.

Back in January of 2021, in MeowTalk Says Buddy Is A Very Loving Cat, I wrote about using MeowTalk to analyze the vocalizations Bud makes when he wants a door opened. After all, that should be a pretty basic task for an app that exists to translate meows: Cats ask for things, or demand them, some would say.

But instead of “Open the door!”, “I want to be near you!”, “Human, I need something!” or even “Obey me, human!”, it told me Bud was serenading me as he pawed and tapped his claws on the door: “I’m looking for love!”, “My love, come find me!”, “I love you!”, “Love me!”, “I’m in love!”

According to MeowTalk, my cat was apparently the author of that scene in Say Anything when John Cusack held up a boombox outside of Ione Skye’s bedroom window.

John Cusack and Buddy the Cat
Buddy the Director.

Anthes had a similar experience:

“At times, I found MeowTalk’s grab bag of conversational translations disturbing. At one point, Momo sounded like a college acquaintance responding to a text: ‘Just chillin’!’ In another, he became a Victorian heroine: ‘My love, I’m here!’ (This encouraged my fiancé to start addressing the cat as ‘my love,’ which was also unsettling.) One afternoon, I picked Momo up off the ground, and when she meowed, I looked at my phone, ‘Hey honey, let’s go somewhere private.’ !”

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, MeowTalk took Buddy’s conversation with me about a climbing spot for an argument that nearly came to blows.

“Something made me upset!” Buddy was saying, per MeowTalk. “I’m angry! Give me time to calm down! I am very upset! I am going to fight! It’s on now! Bring it!”

In reality the little dude wanted to jump on the TV stand. Because he’s a serial swiper who loves his gravity experiments, the TV stand is one of like three places he knows he shouldn’t go, which is exactly why he wants to go there. He’s got free rein literally everywhere else.

If MeowTalk had translated “But I really want to!” or something more vague, like “Come on!” or “Please?”, that would be a good indication it’s working as intended. The app should be able to distinguish between pleading, or even arguing, and the kind of freaked-out, hair-on-edge, arched-back kind of vocalizations a cat makes when it’s ready to throw down.

buddytranslations
Accurate translations of Buddy’s meows.

Still, I was optimistic. Here’s what I wrote about MeowTalk last January:

“In some respects it reminds me of Waze, the irreplaceable map and real-time route app famous for saving time and eliminating frustration. I was one of the first to download the app when it launched and found it useless, but when I tried it again a few months later, it steered me past traffic jams and got me to my destination with no fuss.

What was the difference? Few people were using it in those first few days, but as the user base expanded, so did its usefulness.

Like Waze, MeowTalk’s value is in its users, and the data it collects from us. The more cats it hears, the better it’ll become at translating them. If enough of us give it an honest shot, it just may turn out to be the feline equivalent of a universal translator.”

There are also indications we may be looking at things — or hearing them — the “wrong” way. Anthes spoke to Susanne Schötz, a phonetician at Lund University in Sweden, who pointed out the inflection of a feline vocalization carries nuances. In other words, it’s not just the particular sound a cat makes, it’s the way that sound varies tonally.

“They tend to use different kinds of melodies in their meows when they’re trying to point to different things,” said Schötz, who is co-author of an upcoming study on cat vocalizations.

After a few months in which I forgot about MeowTalk, I was dismayed to open the app to find ads wedged between translation attempts, and prompts that asked me to buy the full version to enable MeowTalk to translate certain things.

The developers need to generate revenue, so I don’t begrudge them that. But I think it’s counterproductive to put features behind paywalls when an application like this depends so heavily on people using it and feeding it data.

To use the Waze analogy again, would the app have become popular if it remained the way it was in those first few days after it launched? At the time, I was lucky to see indications that more than a handful of people were using it, even in the New York City area. The app told me nothing useful about real-time traffic conditions.

These days it’s astounding how much real-time traffic information the app receives and processes, routing drivers handily around traffic jams, construction sites and other conditions that might add minutes or even hours to some trips. You can be sure that when you hear a chime and Waze wants to redirect you, other Waze users are transmitting data about a crash or other traffic impediment in your path.

Bud
“I’m thinking deep thoughts about turkey.”

MeowTalk needs more data to be successful, especially since — unlike Waze — it depends on data-hungry machine learning algorithms to parse the sounds it records. Like people, machine learning algorithms have to “practice” to get better, and for a machine, “practice” means hearing hundreds of thousands or millions of meows, chirps, trills, yowls, hisses and purrs from as many cats as possible.

That’s why I’m still optimistic. Machine learning has produced algorithms that can identify human faces and even invent them. It’s produced software that can write prose, navigate roads, translate the text of dead languages and even rule out theories about enduring mysteries like the Voynich Manuscript.

In each of those cases there were innovators, but raw data was at the heart of what they accomplished. If MeowTalk or another company can find a way to feed its algorithms enough data, we may yet figure our furry little friends out — or at least know what they want for dinner.

Sunday Cats: Eurasian Lynx Captured On Long Island, ‘Loneliest Cat’ Has Been Returned To Shelter Twice

The saga of a “big cat” spotted on Long Island this week has come to an end with the animal’s capture.

Authorities believe the cat is a Eurasian Lynx and was a pet who escaped or was abandoned by his owner. The frightened feline was first spotted on Wednesday in Central Islip, Long Island, a suburb that stretches for 118 miles just south of New York City.

“Scared the daylights out of me,” Diane Huwer, a self-proclaimed cat lover who was the first to encounter the lynx, told the local ABC affiliate.

The area encompasses two counties and is one of the most densely populated places in the U.S. with more than 7.6 million people. It’s one of the worst places in the world for a wild cat to be abandoned, with heavy traffic, ubiquitous environmental noise and endless shopping plazas surrounded by labyrinthine residential neighborhoods.

It’s illegal to own wild animals in New York, and the cat’s “owner” likely would have kept it without a proper enclosure to avoid attention from authorities.

The lynx’s sightings made the headlines in the New York papers, as well as coverage by local TV news and online publications. It went viral on social media, with users trying to determine what kind of cat it was from the handful of blurry photos witnesses were able to snap. Some media coverage suggested it was a true big cat. (Here at PITB, we thought it was possibly a Savannah cat or an American lynx.)

lynxleonardo
Authorities said the Eurasian Lynx was clearly socialized and wasn’t aggressive when they finally caught him. Credit: SPCA

Local authorities searched fruitlessly for three days and were about to give up early Saturday morning when someone spotted the wild cat in a residential neighborhood and called police.

The hungry feline was pawing through garbage cans next to a house in Central Islip. Authorities said the young lynx was friendly and socialized to humans.

“He was rubbing his face on the cage, looked like he was a friendly cat and from the tips we’ve gotten,” Frankie Floridia of Strong Island Animal Rescue said. “It seems these people have had him since he was a baby.”

Veterinarians have named the lynx Leonardo de Catbrio and said he’s about a year old. Despite his ordeal, the 40-pound cat was not malnourished or dehydrated, and the vets who gave him a check-up said he’s in good health. They’re waiting on lab results to confirm his species.

“Someone obviously had it as a pet,” the SPCA’s Roy Gross told Newsday. “These are wild animals, not the type of animals anyone should have. … They don’t belong in captivity this way.”

In the meantime, police, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the SPCA are looking for Leonardo’s “owner,” who faces misdemeanor charges and a fine of up to $1,000 if he or she is convicted. They’re sure to have questions about how the person acquired a wild cat, let alone a non-native species. It’s been illegal to “import” wild animals since the Wildlife Act of 1976, and the illegal wildlife market has been a scourge on law enforcement and conservationists alike.

“I know everybody wants something that’s exotic,” Gross said. “They want something cool. It’s not cool.”

Header image of Eurasian Lynx courtesy of Pexels

A lonely cat in the UK needs a forever home

Eleven is a silver tabby who’s been returned to the shelter twice by would-be adopters, and staff at the shelter are appealing to the public to find her a forever home with patient humans.

The four-year-old with bright green eyes has been with Battersea Cats and Dogs in south London since April. Her rescuers say she takes a while to adjust to new surroundings, and they believe that’s why Eleven was returned twice within days. If Eleven’s failed adopters had been more patient, shelter staff said, they would  have discovered she’s a loving lap cat once trust is established.

Eleven the Cat
Eleven the Cat takes a while to warm up to new people. Credit: Battersea Cats and Dogs

They hope to place her in an “understanding home” with people who “will give her the time and space to settle in, as she would be a wonderful addition to a home.”

“Eleven needs her own space when she’s settling in, so she can hiss and swipe if pushed into interactions that she is not ready for,” a shelter spokesman told the Mirror. “She expects respect, but once given she will reward you with plenty of love. She is a super clever cat, who enjoys learning and she will sit on command for a treat of course.”

Do You Live In A Cat Or Dog State?

I spent a weekend dog-sitting for the first time ever in the spring of 2 B.B. (Before Buddy), rising early to walk my brother’s Chihuahua-terrier before work.

The Manhattan of 7 am is a different world: Everywhere I looked, bleary-eyed New Yorkers clutched leads, yawning as dogs of all shapes and sizes pulled them along. I never knew there were so many dog-friendly apartments, let alone so many people willing to share cramped spaces with dogs of all sizes. Seven-pound Cosmo was one thing, Greate Danes and Dobermans quite another.

You’d think New York City, with its sky-high population density, would be a cat town. It isn’t. Neither is New York State as a whole.

Sadly, Buddy and I live in a state dominated by dog-lovers, one of 25 including California, Texas, Florida, Virginia and both Carolinas. Although cats are the most popular pets in 25 states as well, feline strongholds tend to be in places with lower population density, from Oregon and Washington in the west to Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi in the south, to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine in the east.

The information was compiled by market research firm Time2Play, which surveyed more than 3,000 Americans. The team also asked respondents whether they posted photos and videos of their pets online. Even though cats remain the undisputed masters of digital space, almost 57 percent of dog people showed off their pooches online, while only 43 percent of cat servants did.

Bud and I have been thinking about moving someplace warmer for years, but of course the king’s needs come first. Maybe we’ll settle in Louisiana or Nevada, where Buddy can establish a new realm for himself.

Do you live in a cat or dog state?

dogs-vs-cats-states

Uvalde And Buffalo Mass Shooters Both Had History Of Killing Cats

One of the takeaways from the 2019 documentary Don’t F*** With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer is the connection between violence toward animals and violence toward humans.

The 30-year-old who killed college student Jun Lin previously announced himself to the world with a series of videos in which he killed cats and kittens, then led online groupies on a years-long goose chase, parceling out crumbs of information to keep them interested until he finally “graduated” to humans and murdered Lin.

If police had taken the cat-killing videos more seriously, some of the documentary’s subjects believed, detectives could have caught the killer before he set his sights on a person. Of course, this blog’s position is that animal life has intrinsic value and animal abuse should be investigated for its own sake, but if police are more motivated out of fear that animal abusers could commit violent crimes against people, that helps cats and other animals too.

Now we’ve learned that the 18-year-old gunman responsible for the Texas school shooting and the 18-year-old who gunned down 10 people in a Buffalo, NY, supermarket were both cat killers before they were murderers of human beings. The former murdered 21 people, including 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 while the latter took the lives of 10 people, all black, in a hate-motivated massacre on May 14.

The Texas shooter filmed himself grinning while holding “a bag of blood-soaked dead cats,” the New York Post reported on Sunday. David Trevino Jr., who knew the shooter, said he was “known for hurting cats.”

“He liked hurting animals,” Trevino told the Post. “I’m told he killed the cats and carried around the bag of bodies for s–ts and giggles The video shows he was not right in the head. He’s not all there. The video raises all sorts of red flags.”

The Buffalo murderer told online acquaintances he’d beheaded a cat, and wrote about it in a journal as well. Like the Texas shooter, his animal abuse wasn’t a secret. His mother knew, and gave him a box to bury the dead animal.

brown tabby cat lying down on gray bed sheet
Credit: Mark Burnett/Pexels

The shooters both fit the profile of animal abusers who move on to hurting people: Most animal abusers are men younger than 30, according to the Humane Society, and studies have found men who abuse cats often target them as an emotional proxy for women. More than 70 percent of women who have companion animals and were in an abusive relationship reported their significant others harming their pets.

Classmates of the Texas shooter described him as “eerie,” “scary” and quick to lose his temper. He was known for physically threatening girls and women, and for harassing them online. One classmate, 17-year-old Keanna Baxter, said he got “super violent” when he dated her friend.

“He was overall just aggressive, like violent,” Baxter said. “He would try and fight women. He would try and fight anyone who told him no — if he didn’t get his way, he’d go crazy. He was especially violent towards women.”

The Texas shooter spent a lot of time creeping on women on social media and in group chat services, which brings us full circle back to Don’t F*** With Cats. In a conversation with a teenage girl on group video chat app Yubo, he told her he “wanted his name out there” like the deranged killer at the center of that documentary.

The shooter, who lurked in group chats uninvited, also showed off the guns he bought after he turned 18 on May 16.

“He would be active every day and join our lives, repeating girls’ names until they paid attention to him,” the girl said.

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone was widely condemned for putting one of the Boston marathon bombers on its cover as if he were a rock star, but the issue was its best selling of the year.

Although the blame game begins while the bodies of the victims are still warm, as shrieking heads speculate on cable news, no one ever talks about the obvious and uncomfortable truth, which is that these disaffected young loners desperately want to show people they’re important, that they matter.

If they can’t find fame, infamy is a second prize they’re happy to embrace, and they’re motivated in part by the notoriety that previous members of their grim brotherhood “achieved” by massacring fellow human beings.

Major media figures aren’t merely willing to grant that wish. They’re wholeheartedly, enthusiastically in on it, filling hours of airtime looping the same short bits of footage, breathlessly reporting every nugget of information, and holding court over panels of “experts” who are happy to speculate on motivations regardless of how little they know. They blame video games, society, the lack of nuclear families, the lack of male role models, white supremacy, bullying, guns — everything but their own role in turning the killers into household names.

After all, almost everyone who was alive in 1999 can name the two trenchcoated murderers who perpetrated the Columbine massacre, back when things like that still shocked the country. But how many of us can name a single one of the 13 victims?

That’s why I won’t name the killers on this blog. It’s just one blog, in one small corner of the internet, and it won’t make a difference. But if everyone stopped naming them, stopped making them household names and the stars of obsessive crime porn, stopped turning them into objects of fascination whose faces are plastered on magazine covers like rock stars, maybe it would change things.

If would-be killers knew infamy was off the table, that if they survive they’ll remain anonymous nobodies without prison groupies begging for face time, journalists begging for interviews, and grief vampires discussing them for years in “true crime” books and on podcasts, would they go through with it?