Tag: police

‘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.

 

Reason #127 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: Bad Guys

“Hey! Sorry for stealing your cat. I felt really guilty about it, so I abandoned him by the side of the road in another town. Totes a bad impulse decision lol! I never meant to be the bad guy! I hope you can forgive me, but don’t worry, if you don’t I forgive you! Buh-bye!”

That about sums up the bizarre letter a Minnesota woman received on Dec. 11, three months after her cat, Dot, went missing.

She last saw Dot on Oct. 10, when Byron Thomas Vieau delivered a package to her home in Watertown, 20 miles west of Minneapolis. Vieau was visibly taken with Dot, the cat’s owner would later tell police, and bent down to pet the 12-year-old tabby as he delivered the package.

Security footage shows Vieau encountering Dot on his way over, and it’s clear the cat follows Vieau, but the 23-year-old Minnesota man likely nabbed Dot on the driver’s side while walking back to his truck because we don’t get an angle on the theft itself:

 

Vieau completed his delivery, and Dot was never seen again. Dot’s worried owner called the cops, who questioned Vieau, but he denied knowing anything about the missing moggie.

“Byron lied to me (twice) immediately after Dot was stolen, he lied to police the next day, I feel he is still lying about what he did to Dot,” Dot’s owner wrote in a Facebook post. “In my world this is such an unnecessary tragedy and I wish this upon nobody!”

Then in mid-December, Dot’s owner received this batshit-crazy letter from Vieau:

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The letter reads:

Dear Heidi,

My name is Byron and I unfortunately made a poor judgment decision to take your cat. I cannot stress enough how sorry I am, I am a HUGE animal lover and I only wanted to have a pet of my own. It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. I am so embaressed [sic]. I did make a bad impulse choice right outside of Watertown to let the cat go, I started feeling awful and quickly shoved the cat out of my car. I do not know where it went after that. This isn’t the story I gave you the first time, I felt so bad and I didn’t want to own up to things. I just wanted to take it home with me, but I quickly changed my mind. I never hurt it and I never meant to cause this much pain. I should have owned up sooner. I can only hope they can find it where I dropped it off. Again, I never meant to be a bad guy, I just wanted to give it a home. I’m so sorry for doing what I did. If you can’t find it in your heart to forgive me, I totally understand.

Byron Vieau
Dec. 11, 2019

What stands out is the lack of genuine awareness, of any consideration for the victim’s feelings or the welfare of the cat. Everything’s about Byron. Every sentence is “I wanted” and “I didn’t mean to” and “I can only hope.”

Every action is minimized: Byron Vieau didn’t steal the cat, he “made a poor judgment decision.” He’s a HUGE animal lover, and all he wanted was a pet of his own! Byron didn’t heartlessly shove a house cat — who doesn’t have the skills to survive as a stray — out of his car and abandon it on the roadside, he simply “made a bad impulse choice to let the cat go.”

Vieau tells us he was “embaressed,” he “didn’t want to hurt anyone,” and “never meant to be a bad guy.” He doesn’t mention how Heidi pleaded for the return of her beloved cat, or her anguished posts on Facebook as she asked for help looking for the “clearly well-loved” tabby.

He’s looking for forgiveness and absolution from his victim without troubling himself with considering her feelings, because he wants to feel better about what he did.

Police have arrested Vieau and charged him with misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor animal abandonment, which carry extremely light penalties. Under Minnesota law, Dot’s theft is a minor property crime of the same severity as the theft of say, a toaster, but not as severe as a shiny new flatscreen TV.

In the meantime, Dot is still MIA. Dot is primarily white and black, with traditional tabby markings on his head, and he weighed about 14 pounds at the time he was taken, according to police.

Any readers in the Carver County or Watertown area of Minnesota can call Detective Neil Kuhnau of the Carver County Sheriff’s Office at 952-361-1212 if they’ve spotted the missing moggie.

We hope Heidi and Dot are happily reunited.