Someone catnapped one of our campus cats!

I was going to submit this to the main site but it felt too rambly to me :sweat_smile:

So, my university has several feral cats that live around its campus. A few of these cats- Mama, Tommy, and Doc- are very well-loved by a portion of our student body because they’re actually pretty friendly despite being adult feral-borne cats. In other words, they sometimes let you pet them if you’ve given them food in the past.

Last year, my friend decided to start a small organization through our school to raise money to get all the cats fixed and vaccinated, and to have a small money reserve in case any of them need emergency vet visits and she was very successful with this. This organization also has an “official” group chat where it’s highly encouraged for people to share any encounters they have with the cats to help my friend keep up with their health at all times.

Anyways, on to the actual story! About two days ago, someone in that group chat asked if anyone had seen Mama lately, which gets a chorus of "nope"s back. A few hours later, my friend drops this bombshell into the chat:

Mama has been located, someone took her. I’m trying to get the person’s information to contact them. Please refrain from negatively speaking about this person.

Today, I managed to catch up with my friend to ask her if she’d heard back about Mama yet. She didn’t get their contact info, but she did find out that the person that took her was in the process of withdrawing from our uni and took Mama back to their home. In Montana. For reference, my uni is in the deep south USA! According to my friend, they’d have to drive about 25 hours one way to go get Mama from where she is.

Now, to my very limited understanding, because my friend was the one to sign off on all those procedures for the cats, she is technically the legal owner of them in the eyes of our local law. My friend and her boyfriend are now debating whether it’s worth it to pursue this legally because, of course, they want to get Mama back, but ~50 hours of driving is insane for a couple of college kids. And, they would also have to hope local law would even take this case seriously, so I think they’re leaning towards letting Mama go.

I’m honestly still half caught up on who thought it was a good idea to try and make an adult feral cat a housepet in the first place! I really can’t imagine Mama’s catnapper had a fun time getting her into any sort of carrier, much less getting her across the country.

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I never knew a cat club could have drama like this, honestly.

On a much lighter note, please look at these pictures taken of one of our other campus cats Tommy:




I’ve never seen a cat with a worse RSF (Resting Sad Face) haha

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If a judge does rule that they have to return the cat, wouldn’t it be on the catnapper to return them and not your friend? They’d be the ones who have to do 50 hours of driving instead.

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That was my thought too, but my friend seems convinced they’d have to go get her? I’m not familiar enough with the law to really know for sure, though.

Oh, my! I hope Mama is okay.

This may be a weird question, but is it known whether the person who took Mama realized that she was considered “owned” and wasn’t up for adoption? I ask because when people talk about cats as feral and not having homes, there’s often a perception that they should get homes if they can or even that they’re up for grabs – even in cases like this where the cats had sort of been adopted by the whole campus. (That perception is especially frequent when the ferals don’t have full shelter from the elements or don’t get food 365 days a year.)

Your friend did a marvelous thing raising money to get the cats fixed, vaccinated, and covered for medical needs! Especially with that much personal investment and care, I can imagine this was quite a blow, no matter what the person who took Mama was thinking.

We have a local rescue that does trap/neuter/release operations on ferals and strays, and while they release the ones that don’t seem like they’d do well with people, they do put quite a lot up for adoption each year, many of them adults – some ferals do really well indoors, and some are very glad to have a roof over their heads, regular meals, and regular cuddles. So it’s definitely not impossible, but it does require the right temperament. (We crated a possibly feral, possibly stray, generally friendly, and definitely extremely pregnant cat at my dad’s farm once simply by putting a dish of wet food at the back of the carrier; she made a beeline in and didn’t care when the door was closed as long as she had more of that wet food. She wound up adopted by friends of mine and never wanted to go back outside.)

As to whether your friend should go through all the headaches to get Mama back, as it’s so much trouble and distance maybe the first question to ask is whether the person who took her is giving her a good home. If so, maybe just let her stay there instead of putting her through another multi-day drive (but perhaps see if the person who took her could pay back the vet bills?), but if not, yeah, it may be worth trying to pursue getting her back to campus – and getting that transit paid for by the person who took her.

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This may be a weird question, but is it known whether the person who took Mama realized that she was considered “owned” and wasn’t up for adoption?

Most likely not. I mean, I didn’t even realize that ownership law was a thing until this whole situation. I don’t think the person that took her is a part of our cat club either since it’s been talked about several times amongst us why it’s (generally) not a good idea to just try and take random adult feral cats off the streets. We think this is some who realized they were about to go home permanently where they can actually have and keep an animal (as opposed to in college dorms) and who didn’t know there was a whole club dedicated to keeping these cats safe and healthy, so they decided to take the first feral that let them approach them home. We also highly suspect this person was part of a group of sorority girls that fed them regularly which is likely why Mama let them near in the first place.

…some ferals do really well indoors, and some are very glad to have a roof over their heads, regular meals, and regular cuddles. So it’s definitely not impossible, but it does require the right temperament.

Yeah, I’m aware of this! But, I really don’t think any of our campus cats meet this at all, even the more friendly ones like Mama are more than willing to give a fight when they’re trapped for any reason.

As to whether your friend should go through all the headaches to get Mama back, as it’s so much trouble and distance maybe the first question to ask is whether the person who took her is giving her a good home. If so, maybe just let her stay there instead of putting her through another multi-day drive (but perhaps see if the person who took her could pay back the vet bills?), but if not, yeah, it may be worth trying to pursue getting her back to campus – and getting that transit paid for by the person who took her.

We don’t really know yet how she’s being kept since my friend can’t seem to actually get in touch with the person, but it does seem like they’ve decided they won’t be pursuing this legally unless they do find out she isn’t being kept well.

We have a local rescue that does trap/neuter/release operations on ferals and strays,

I wish we had places like that here :frowning:
The town my uni is in has a massive issue with strays and feral cat colonies, something like that would really help curb it and the impact they make on local wildlife. But, the community also has a lot of poverty related issues that put that on the backburner.

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That makes sense. I’m sorry your friend has had to deal with this! :frowning:

On the topic of local rescue: Is there an animal shelter or animal control organization in the area? If so, then IF the cat club would be up for it, I wonder whether it’d be possible for the club to work with that group on at least occasional trap/neuter/release (TNR) sweeps, simply releasing all the fixed cats if they can’t shelter and find homes for any that seem potentially adoptable. That’d help keep the population and their impact down, and help keep the cats healthier. If it’s an occasional thing, perhaps some local vets would be willing to offer the cat club a charitable volume discount.

(Our local rescue says they help over a thousand cats a year. We adopted our three from them; ours were part of a group of at least 17 that were reportedly living in a literal hole in a wall before being trapped. They weren’t sure about humans at first, but they love people now. :slight_smile: )

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Hm, I’m honestly not sure but it could be something to keep in mind! We already do a lot of volunteer work with a local cat rescue but that’s more of just helping the place stay clean, up and running, and socializing the rescues. They also don’t do TNR as they largely work with surrendered cats and socializing feral kittens, not adult ferals, but they do make sure all cats that come their way are fixed.

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Socializing the rescue kitties is a splendid thing, as is helping keep the rescue clean and running. Thank you on behalf of all the cats you’ve helped. :slight_smile:

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