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Woman takes in stray cat; owner comes out of the woodwork 2 years later to 'make threats.' AITA? UPDATED 2X

Woman takes in stray cat; owner comes out of the woodwork 2 years later to 'make threats.' AITA? UPDATED 2X

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When this woman adopts a cat and things get weird two yeares later, she asks the internet:

"I took in a cat; 2 years later I'm getting threatened. AITA?"

Over two years ago a stray cat wandered into my yard. He had no tags and no microchip, and had multiple infected bite wounds. He was also unneutered. I had his wounds treated and made a good faith effort to find the owner.

This included posting flyers, giving a description and contact info to the local vet offices and shelters, and posting to the community Facebook page and places like Craigs list and the forum for the local paper. No one came forward.

After his initial wounds healed we discovered his hind leg had been broken and had healed wrong. He needed a major operation to fix it and was neutered at the same time. Though I had originally planned to find him a new home...well, after months of physical therapy and bonding he wasn't going anywhere.

Fast forward to a few months ago. Someone contacted me on social media claiming to be the cat's original owner. The cat has a distinctive marking and he does have photos that appear to be the same cat as a kitten. He claimed that they allowed the cat outside and one night he didn't return.

They assumed he was dead and per the man himself made no effort to find him. The cat was less then six months old when he disappeared and less then a year when I found him. The man claimed his daughter was devastated and wants the cat returned.

I did not confirm the cat was the same animal (since I can't know for sure), but I did say if it was the same cat I've now have him for longer then the original potiential owner (6 months vs. Almost 3 years). Due to this and the fact that he had no tag or chip and the owner never searched for him, I don't feel I have to return him.

I have not contacted the man since, but he continues to message me at least once a week and is now threatening to take me to court. (I have not replied.)

Is this something I need to worry about? Should I look into getting a lawyer? If he did try to sue for cat custody would he have a case? Considering the time line, it's likely the cat's leg was broken while in the care of the owner and my vet is willing to testify to that. Would that increase the likelihood I would win if he tried to sue?

I'm really not willing to give up this cat. I've paid over 5,000 getting him healthy, but more important then the money is the simple fact that I love the furry little jerk. I don't want him going back to a home that neglected him and let him roam without even the most basic care.

I don't believe the man knows where I live...my social media was pretty locked down as far as personal info in the first place. I don't actually know how he found me though, and that makes me nervous. If he continues contacting me is there anything I can do legally to to discourage that?

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

conchagre writes:

Coincidentally, I just got out of a cat-related civil court case and live in PA; I’ve been doing a lot of research over the past few months, and there are a few things I’ve learned that might help you.

Also, please note that I am not a lawyer, and in the event that this guy does file a civil claim against you, I highly recommend you get representation, or at least consult a lawyer before proceeding.

There are a few factors that really matter in how this situation would proceed legally: the most important factor is whether or not the other party has any proof of ownership over the animal (adoption papers).

If he doesn’t have any documentation, then he has virtually no case against you. If he does, then other factors will have greater weight in determining the outcome of the case (and fortunately, I think they all lean in your favor).

attempts made by the finder (you) to identify if/who the owner is of the animal. You made several attempts to locate the owner, even though the cat had no identification or a microchip to suggest that it was a pet; when paired with the cat’s poor condition, your conclusion that the cat was a stray was completely logical.

expenses incurred/care of the cat - by showing that you have been responsible for the medical and general expenses of the cat for the past two years, you can establish your possession of the cat for an extended period of time.

In addition, the other party would likely be responsible for paying for those expenses you incurred caring for “their” animal if they can prove ownership at all.

the amount of time that has gone by; you’ve had this cat for two+ years, the guy assumed the cat was dead, and never responded to any of your numerous attempts to locate an owner of the animal.

Not only that, but kittens can’t be separated from their mother until they’re at least 12 weeks old, and are usually put up for sale between 14-18 weeks of age.

Even if he did buy the cat, he couldn’t have had it for more than three months before he lost it; although cats are still considered property in PA, in my recent experience, at least some, if not a substantial amount of consideration is given to to the more subjective details like these in cases involving pets.

I wouldn’t give in too easily, and even if he can provide documentation, you may still have a good shot at keeping the cat. I’d talk to an attorney and see what they think you should do if he tries to sue you for the cat.

mdgproperty writes:

Cats are property. He can sue you and you'll likely have to pay him the value of the cat. Given the length that you've had the cat and the amount of time you have spent with the cat, I doubt any judge would force you to hand it over.

Send him one final message telling him to stop contacting you or you'll consider it harassment and inform the police.

If he wants to sue you, he can go thru the proper legal channels, but you have no interest in communicating with him further on this matter.

And now, OP's first update:

On advice from the good people here I blocked further messages. Yesterday I got a letter in the mail demanding return of the cat. Previously they were only contacting me on social media, which did not have my home address or any identifying information.

I don't know how they found out where I live but I'm now very worried they might try to steal the cat. I have home security and the cat is indoor only and chipped. I'd like to think the guy wouldn't be dumb enough to break and enter, but clearly he isn't firing on all cylinders to begin with.

Should I file a police report? Can I even do that if they haven't broken any laws? The letter didn't contain any specific threats, just demands. Is there anything I can do legally to discourage further contact? Could a lawyer do something like a cease and desist letter?

I have no idea why this dude wants the cat he wrote off as dead years ago back so damn badly but kitty is happy and healthy and sassy and not going anywhere. I don't want to spend my life afraid to run out to the store though, so any advice would be much appreciated.

And now, OP's second update:

Recap. Years ago I took in an injured kitten. Earlier this year I was connected on social media by someone claiming to be the original owner. They demanded return of the kitty and I ignored them. They then escalated to sending letters to my home.

Some LA posters thought it might have been a scam. I was sceptical because they hadn't asked for money even after things had dragged on for a while. Well, I guess they were playing the long con because I just got my first letter suggesting a few hundred dollars might just assist the "owner" to move on from their loss.

As a bonus, it was sent on letterhead from a nonexistent lawyer's office. If I don't pay the cat fee they plan to sue. My favorite part is that they don't specify for what, exactly. They're just going to sue. You know, like lawyers do.

I'm still kinda worried they might try to steal kitty and demand a ransom (kitty is indoor only, chipped, and rarely left alone...on days I do have to work in office I've been taking him in with me.) But yeah, I'm thinking this is one of the weirder catfishing schemes on record.

I tried to tell kitty about his custody dispute, but he just yawned in my face and joined his big brothers for a celebratory afternoon nap. Though he did hack up a hairball on my pillow yesterday...paying someone else to take him is starting to look pretty tempting.

And now, OP's final update:

You all thought it over. So did I. But no! Turns out this story really could get weirder Recap- years ago I took in an injured stray cat. The cat was did not have a collar or chip. A good faith attempt was made to locate possible owners.

After owning the cat for several years I began receiving messages on social media from someone claiming to be the original owner. They demanded I return the cat and I refused and blocked them.

Eventually they escalated to sending letters to my home on letterhead from a nonexistent lawyer's office. The letters demanded I pay hundreds for the privilege of keeping the cat or they would sue (for what exactly was unspecified.) At this point it was clear this was a scam, albeit a bizarre one.

Someone on the bola thread suggested reporting the letters to the local bar association. I ignored the first two but when they kept arriving I went ahead and did so.

I assume the bar association took some kind of action because the next letter I received was basically the scammer raging 'how dare you'. This was the first letter that contained an actual threat against my safety.

So, to cut this already way too long story short, I filed a police report. After some additional letters my cat now has a no contact order. Okay, okay, it's in my name, but we all know it's really for the cat.

I will say the threats were of the more creative, less actionable sort, but I'm hopeful this will truly put an end to it. This is honestly the single dumbest thing I've ever gone through. My cat continues not to care.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for her?

Sources: Reddit
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