After Josie Saltarelli’s cat, Capone, went missing for a few days, it was her 13-year-old daughter who found him — directly across from the family’s driveway and cleaved neatly in two, as if to send a message.
“I don’t know how anyone could do that to an animal,” Saltarelli told a local TV news channel in Oklahoma. “The last image we have of him is cut in half and gutted. My 13-year-old daughter had to see that and that is our memory of him, and it’s awful.”
Capone had been with the family his entire life, for nine years, and was well-loved, his family and neighbors told local media. He was found on Aug. 20.
Police and a local veterinarian have ruled out another animal, due to the precision of Capone’s wounds and the fact that the cat was placed in front of their home.
Now there’s a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest, and police in Tulsa are treating the killing as a hate crime. They suspect the cat was killed because Saltarelli’s boyfriend is a police officer, and the family flies a “Thin Blue Line” flag in front of their home as a message of support for law enforcement. Like officers in many smaller jurisdictions, Saltarelli’s boyfriend also drives his patrol car home and parks it in his driveway.
“For that reason, investigators believe someone could be targeting the officer and his family,” the Tulsa Police Department wrote in a press release about the case.
The Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for killing Capone.
“It is well documented and proven that violence and abuse against animals leads to other major crimes,” the group wrote in a Facebook post about the killing, “including violence against children and elders. We need to find the person who did this.”
Having Google alerts set up for cat-related new can yield some pretty awesome and unique stories as fodder for this blog, but it can also be seriously depressing, with story after story about cats getting shot with arrows, pellets and bullets, cats poisoned with antifreeze, cats abused for online fame and even cats killed by psychotic ex-boyfriends or girlfriends.
There are, unfortunately, plenty of hoarding stories as well, and they’re a reminder that cats don’t just suffer physical abuse at the hands of humans, they suffer mental abuse and neglect by mentally ill people.
That’s the case in Park Township, Michigan, where authorities acting on a tip found more than 150 cats living in “deplorable conditions”. Even protective gear couldn’t entirely filter the smell inside the home, animal control officers said.
The town declared the house unfit for human habitation and the local animal authority, St. Joseph County Animal Control, needed help from nearby animal shelters and rescues to confiscate the cats, who will be given veterinary care and rehabbed before they’re offered for adoption.
The raid was “by far” the “biggest animal seizure we’ve done,” animal control supervisor Greg Musser told the local NBC affiliate.
The cats range in age from newborn kittens to adults. Two cats were euthanized. Taking in more than 150 cats is no small task, and the shelter is asking for help with cat/kitten food, litter and other supplies.
“We have been working tirelessly to take care of all these cats on top of the normal business,” the shelter’s Facebook page reads. “We are doing our best to answer the phone and return messages. We are in need of wet and dry kitten food, litter, pee pads, laundry detergent and bleach. We are also in need of gently used baby blankets.”
In an updated story, authorities in a nearby town found similar hoarding conditions in a second property owned by the same woman, who moved some of the cats between them after a natural gas leak at the first home.
Those are just a sampling pulled from the first few results on Google News. Doubtless a lot of these people mean well when they start taking in cats, and the behavior is the result of untreated mental illness. But what can be done to protect cats from these situations?
Featured image credit Chamber of Hoarders. It depicts another hoarding situation, similar to the Michigan case.
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.
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 severalirresponsibly 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.
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.”
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.
“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:
The letter reads:
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.
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.
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.