“Thanks to all of those people who decided to play their version of internet justice league, I now no longer have the ability to use the internet to post a lost and found ad to possibly help the real owner find the cat I have. Thus, the very people who were accusing me of being cat thief and harming an innocent cat, had just possibly robbed this cat of finding its home.”
On a slightly cold afternoon this past weekend, I went out to check on my chickens as I do on a daily basis. That’s when I suddenly heard what sounded like the distressed mewing of a cat coming from within the bushes and trees that are halfway between my house and the chicken coop.
Upon investigation, I found a black and white cat who came right up to me. She was super friendly. She is also a tuxedo cat with black and white markings including white on and around her nose. At first, I thought it was my cat, Poussey, who had gotten out of the house. They look a lot alike as many black and white cats do. Then, I wondered if maybe this cat had been dumped by someone from the city nearby. I don’t have a lot of neighbors and the ones right next door to me hate cats — as in they will shoot them or run them over with their cars–so I know it’s not their cat.
The kitty followed me to the chicken coop and then all the way back to my front door. To repeat, she followed me — I didn’t carry her. I was surprised when she came in the house with me, but figured it would be the safest place for her until I could, hopefully, find her owner.
I did a search and put a found ad with a picture of her and didn’t think much of it until the next day when I got a message through Facebook saying “We think you have our cat.”
My other cats were not loving the presence of this new kitty and I had gone out and bought an extra litter box, extra supplies, etc., not knowing how long she would be with me. I have been super busy with work and other responsibilities, so really didn’t need an extra cat long-term or even short-term, but I couldn’t just not help the kitty. And, when I received the message, the possibility of the cat being claimed that easily was exciting.
Except that when I messaged back the person who had messaged me, something seemed off, including the fact that the Facebook page looked like it had been newly-created, with no one “friended” and only a couple of pics on the site. They seemed to have a lot of difficulty understanding that I was telling them I lived three hours away from where they were (they asked me how far I lived from them at least twice in a row even after I had responded the first time) and that my cat was a female, whereas there’s is a male. The person then wanted to video chat with me so they could see more of the cat. Instead I took a few more pictures of the cat, sent it to them and got back to working and cleaning my house, shopping, and other weekend chores. I was beginning to wonder if maybe this was some kind of scam as I had just very recently learned about people who will try to get you to click on a link or otherwise try to take remote control of your cell phone so they can steal your personal information. I didn’t feel comfortable responding further.
So, I didn’t.
Then, the next morning I woke up to a flood of comments on my post. People were calling me a cat thief, asking me why I wouldn’t return this man’s cat or at least respond to his requests for more pics or video, telling me that not all cats that are outside need rescuing (trust me, the cat would have been a goner had it set foot in my neighbor’s yard), and on and on.
Apparently, the person who had messaged me the the day before had gone on to the same lost and found pet site and started telling everyone he was “95 percent sure” I had his cat and that I wouldn’t respond to his requests for more information. He had posted pics side by side of the cat I found and his cat.
In the pics I could clearly see differences in the markings on the noses. I could certainly see some similarities, yes, but not enough to declare a match.
However, others were responding to his post with “Those are one and the same,” and “It’s the same cat!” comments.
So, I decided to try to clear things up by editing my post and noting the difference in gender, age (his cat was approximately three years old), markings on the nose that didn’t match up.
Then, my post started getting additional comments about how awful I was for not letting the man come to see if it was his cat, that he should get the police involved and more. I decided to just stop responding, which is when I starting getting PM’s from apparent internet cat detectives, one of whom called me a, “bucking bumb bunt,” (well, I changed the first letters of these words, but I think you get the idea.
It was at that point that I realized I was literally shaking and almost feeling like someone was going to do me harm. I also realized that this was one of those crazy instances of pack mentality on the internet I had seen before but never directly borne the brunt of. It was really awful. People had made up their minds about who I was and what I had done and there was no changing that via evidence or rational explanations.
I sent two more videos to the person who had accused me of having his cat (one showing him evidence that the cat I found is, indeed, a female). He still kept saying that he wasn’t entirely sure it wasn’t his cat and wanting additional video. I asked him if he would be interested in adopting the cat I had if it turned out to not be his missing cat and he said he didn’t think he could do it since he loved his missing cat so much. This seemed weird to me from someone who wanted this cat so badly that they wouldn’t leave me alone.) I’m still not sure if this person is trying to run some kind of scam, is enjoying the attention from others, or is just really missing his cat so desperately that he isn’t seeing reason. I asked him to please remove his post and told him about the harassment I was getting. Fortunately, he did take it down right away, he also apologized for causing me problems. And, then he proceeded to send more requests for information, such as ‘could I go to the vet and have its microchip checked?’ (which is not a bad idea at all and I will if I haven’t found the owner within a certain amount of time but I don’t need a stranger whose cat I don’t have telling me what to do with the cat I have found). I’m probably going to have to block his messages if he doesn’t leave me alone, but I’m afraid that will mean him going back on the pet website and making more accusations about me, leading to more people messaging me with awful accusations, cursing at me, etc.
I also deleted my post, deciding that all the comments and controversy were just going to get worse. Thanks to all of those people who decided to play their version of internet justice league, I now no longer have the ability to use the internet to post a lost and found ad to possibly help the real owner find the cat I have. Thus, the very people who were accusing me of being cat thief and harming an innocent cat, had just possibly robbed this cat of finding its home.
I know what it’s like to lose a cat. It’s frustrating and scary and you just want the creature that you love so much to be found safe and sound. So, if this person is telling the truth and their cat is really missing, I hope they do find it.
But, the purpose of me writing this was because it’s pet-related and I wanted to see if anything similar has happened to anyone else. I have found that there a lot of internet scams out there to be wary of for people who post “lost” pet ads, with scammers who seem to have no souls saying they have a person’s pet and then demanding money for it. But, I couldn’t find anything when I searched about “found” cat scams.
I also wanted to strongly caution people about commenting on posts in situations where they don’t know the full story and to avoid jumping to conclusions. It’s straight up dangerous in some situations and it sure didn’t do anything to help this kitty. I also ended up having a panic attack and a related asthma attack, neither of which were any fun.
Here are some links to information I found about internet bullies and trolls this is pretty interesting reading:
And, I found the process of writing about this and telling my side of the story to be therapeutic. Besides the panic attack and anxiety attack, I just felt “off” most of yesterday as I never thought I would be attacked on social media for trying to help a cat find its home. It’s not a good feeling when a huge part of your life has always been about trying to help animals, yet dozens of strangers are telling you that you are “the reason that most lost cats don’t find their owners,” etc.
As for what’s next: I plan to put up Found signs locally. I believe that will be more effective and way less stressful.
So, what do you think of all of this? I’d love to know in the comments…