Tag: police

Bring Your Cats Inside: Thieves Are Snatching Cats From Yards And Selling Them Online

A week after a brazen thief stole a Portland family’s cat off their front porch, a pair of cat thieves were caught on security footage snatching a cat from a residential street in the UK.

The latter is not an isolated incident. A group of amateur sleuths, comprised of people whose cats were stolen and others concerned about the spate of thefts, found several of the missing cats listed for sale on a UK pet classifieds site, Pets4Homes.co.uk.

The latest cat-napping happened in East Birmingham, where home security cameras captured footage of a man and a woman creeping along a residential street shortly before 4 am, armed with cat treats, milk and a plastic bin and quietly searching for neighborhood felines.

East Birmingham’s Charlene Jones told the UK Sun that she was woken up by her dogs, who alerted her to intruders on her property.

“I didn’t notice anything until the dogs started barking, and I looked out the window and caught them in the act,” Jones said. “It all happened around 20 to four in the morning, at this point she was just putting the cat into the bin. I opened the window and the cat escaped.”

Cat thieves
In this still from Jones’ security cameras, the cat thieves are seen with the treats, milk and plastic bin they were using to capture neighborhood kitties.

An angry Jones, whose own cat was stolen three weeks ago, confronted the thieves, who claimed they were working for a local animal welfare charity and were trapping strays.

“I went out and spoke to them and she started reeling off all these charity numbers and claiming she worked for them,” Jones said.

When Jones later reviewed the footage she recognized the cat, who belongs to a neighbor a few doors down the street.

“I feel angry,” Jones told the paper. “I have done my own research, she has been selling cats for eight months.”

Jodie Smith of Solihull, a town of about 123,000 about 18 miles from Birmingham, said her family’s cat, Arlo, was stolen in January. A friend later spotted Arlo on Pets4Homes, but the Smiths weren’t able to recover him.

“It’s awful, this is my daughter’s cat,” Smith said. “My daughter can’t go to bed with cuddles from her fur baby. She is absolutely gutted.”

Arlo the cat
Arlo was listed on Pets4Homes but the family was unable to recover him.

Pet thefts on both sides of the Atlantic have been on the rise since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As entire countries went into lockdown, demand for companion animals skyrocketed, leaving many shelters bare and breeders sold out.

Criminals saw an opportunity and began stealing pets, mostly dogs at first, from yards, homes and kennels, prompting the owner of one lost pet site to dub 2020 “the worst year ever” for dog thefts, according to the BBC.

With exotic cat breeds commanding large amounts of money on the open market, from a few hundred dollars for breeds like Persians to $20,000 for Savannah cats, opportunistic thieves began targeting felines as well. “Moggies,” cats of indeterminate origin or no particular breed, aren’t exempt either. Some may be stolen because thieves mistake them for exotics, while other thieves apparently find it worth their time to snatch cats that can net them $100 or more on sites like Craigslist and Pets4Homes.

In the UK, cat thefts have increased threefold within the last five years, a trend accelerated by the pandemic and the resulting scarcity of cats, especially those with breed pedigree. Police rarely recover the stolen pets, and authorities say some people are targeted after sharing photos and video of their pets online.

Stealing cats is especially easy in the UK, where the majority of people allow their cats to roam free outdoors and the idea of keeping cats strictly indoors is seen as cruel or improper, even though felis catus are domesticated animals and don’t have a “natural habitat.”

In the Portland case, no one has come forward with any solid information in the theft of Kiki the cat despite two relatively clear shots of the suspect’s face and extended footage of her approaching and taking the cat from the Autar family’s front porch on Feb. 20. Like the UK catnappings, the Portland suspect seemed motivated by profit: The family said their cameras also caught the woman checking for open car doors, and the way she grabbed and held the cat — holding him at arm’s length, dangerously carrying him by the scruff of his neck — indicated she saw him as an object, not a living creature.

Karina Autar told PITB on March 1 that her family hasn’t given up hope.

“We are all just getting by, we are coping by putting in all our energy [into finding] him,” she said.

Cat thief suspect
The thief was caught snatching KiKi off his family’s front porch on Feb. 20.

In the UK, Jones is not the only person to confront the cat thieves. Amy Buckley, 29, told The Sun that the woman seen in Jones’ footage also told her she was an employee of an animal welfare organization.

“She came to mine around January, claiming she worked for the PDSA and that they’d had a report about a large number of stray cats in the area,” Buckley told the paper.

She said she was immediately suspicious because PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) is a charity run by veterinarians that provides care, not TNR or general trapping services.

PDSA confirmed the woman does not work for the organization, while local police told the paper they had taken several reports from people whose cats had been stolen and were investigating the thefts. Meanwhile, an RSPCA spokesperson urged caretakers to have their cats microchipped.

In the meantime the victims are trying their best to locate their stolen furry family members, but they’re also angry at the pain the thieves have caused families and children.

“There are other families going through the same heartbreak,” Smith said. “For a lady to have some money in her pocket, she is destroying little children.”

Help Catch This Portland Cat Thief And Get Kitty Returned To His Family

We’re putting out a call to our readers and all cat lovers to help identify a woman who brazenly snatched a family’s cat off their front porch in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday.

The woman was wearing a pink jacket with a white scarf, black jogging pants, white sneakers and green socks.

Cat thief suspect
The thief was caught snatching KiKi off his family’s front porch on Feb. 20.

Home security footage shows that at 7 a.m. on Feb. 20, the woman approached the Autar family’s home and tried to get their cat, KiKi, to approach her. KiKi wasn’t having it and turned toward the front door several times, refusing to approach the woman, but she slowly made her way onto the porch and snatched the well-loved kitty.

It’s clear from the way she holds KiKi that she’s not familiar with cats: Footage shows her holding him by the scruff of the neck, which is extremely painful for adult cats. Here’s a video of the entire sequence courtesy of Karina Autar:

And here’s a video from a second camera overlooking the driveway. The thief is clearly holding poor KiKi by the scruff with one hand as she briskly walks off:

The woman leaves in what looks like a black or dark blue Chevy suburban, quickly fleeing the neighborhood with the trunk still open. The SUV did not have a front license plate:

Earlier footage shows the same woman on a bicycle stopping in front of cars on the block and checking their doors. It appears she tossed the bike in the back of the SUV and drove off quickly, perhaps after someone spotted her.

Anyone who recognizes the woman or has information about the theft can call the Portland Police Department’s non-emergency number at 503-823-3333 or email Karina Autar directly.

UK Footballer Who Abused Cat Gets Ridiculed By Fans, Dropped By Sponsors

Kurt Zouma’s cat is getting the last laugh.

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.

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Scotsman Jason Kerr of Wigan gently scoops up Topsey, a house cat who interrupted play on Tuesday night.

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.

zoumacats
A still from the Snapchat video showing Zouma just before he drop-kicked the kitty while his other cat cowers on the floor.

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.”

Nubbins The Cat: Is It Ever Right To Steal A Kitty You Believe Has Been Abused Or Neglected?

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.”

Nubbins and her kittens
Nubbins in Farrell’s home. Originally a stray who escaped California’s wild fires, Nubbins gave birth to a litter before Farrell had her spayed and chipped.

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.”

Nubbins the Cat: Lounging
Nubbins lounging outside. Her human, Troy Farrell, says the former stray likes to visit his neighbors every day.

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.

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.

PITB readers: What’s your take on this story?

Sunday Cats: FDA Approves Kitty Arthritis Drug, Woman Calls Cops On Her Cat, Grudge Gets A Book

Older cats could soon have easier lives after the FDA approved the first-ever drug to treat feline arthritis.

Degenerative joint disease and the pain that comes with it is extremely common, impacting 45 percent of all domestic cats and 90 percent of cats older than 10.

It’s the reason kitties “slow down” later in life, it’s a significant blow to quality of life and it often leads to decisions to euthanize beloved pets who are in severe pain. The new drug, called Solensia, has been described as a “highly efficacious treatment” by experts. It can “extend [cat] life, extend their happiness, and extend that beautiful relationship between cats and their owners,” Dr. Duncan Lascelles told USA Today.

“This is absolutely groundbreaking,” said Lascelles, who researches pain and surgical methods at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine. “I have been in pain research for 30 years and this is the most exciting development that has happened.”

Solensia is administered via injection by veterinarians, with doses calculated by weight. Because traditional painkillers and other drugs can aggravate kidney disease and other common feline ailments, the new medication “marks the first treatment option to help provide relief to cats that are suffering from this condition,” said Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

“You’re Grounded, Go To Your Room!”

A Nebraska woman called the police on her cat this past Monday, Jan. 10, after kitty supposedly flipped out.

The woman told police she was breaking up a fight between her cats when she warned one of the feline aggressors she would “put it in its room” if the fighting didn’t stop.

“At this point, the cat became enraged and attacked,” the police report says.

The woman suffered “superficial” scratches from the cat’s claws and was treated at a local clinic as a preventative measure. Unfortunately Omaha police took the cat and brought it to the Nebraska Humane Society. It’s not clear if the cat was permanently removed from its home or what its fate will be. Calls to the police and the Humane Society by Newsweek were not immediately returned.

The Book of Grudge

Grudge The Cat Gets Her Own Comic

I’m not a big fan of Discovery, the newest iteration of Star Trek, but there are some elements of the show I like — including Grudge, the feisty Maine Coon companion of the rogueish Cleveland Booker, played by David Ajala.

Now Grudge stars in first issue of a new spinoff comic, dubbed Adventures in the 32nd Century.” The comic will tell Grudge’s origin story, as well as how she encountered Booker and appointed him her loyal human servant.

Although Grudge is female and often referred to as Queen Grudge in the show, she’s played by a pair of Maine Coon brothers, Leeu and Durban, who swap off between acting in front of the camera and napping.

If you can’t get enough of the well-traveled kitty, there’s also The Book of Grudge, in which the Star Trek feline shares her opinion on everything from space travel to the nature of time.

“Depending on what planet you’re on, what sun you’re passing or what temporal anomaly you find yourself in, I’ve learned that time is nothing but an artificial construct,” Grudge muses in the book. “So it’s in everyone’s best interests to synchronize their clocks to me.”

Grudge's origin story