The Time I Discovered a Cat-Stealing Conspiracy

One of the most heartbreaking truths I have to face on a near-daily basis is that I love every single cat on the planet and they’ll never even know.

As such, the converse is also true: if someone harms a cat, I want nothing more than to run a length of barbed wire from their mouth to their asshole and give it a big old floss.

This week, I may have the opportunity to do just that.

The good lady Mrs. Iddon stumbled upon a dastardly criminal plot in our home town yesterday, and I’ve figured out how to unravel it and restore a small amount of justice to the world.

But first, allow me to set the scene. Let me introduce you to…


LOST CAT


Pictured above is the cat we know only as Lost Cat. We’ve got this odd nickname convention with cats; we refer to the late Marcy as Old Cat, Nala is still called New Cat (we’ve had her for over a year) and her sister – the one we ended up having to rehome – is known as The Cat That Couldn’t Stick It.

Here’s the latter two on the week we inherited them:

Anyway, we were out for a walk one day when we met Lost Cat. He was barely out of kittenhood, clearly lost and starving, and wandering around right next to a main road. I don’t know why, but nobody else seemed to have enough of a brain in their goddamn head to stop and help him – just a bunch of dumbfuck tourists walking around this tiny cat sitting next to traffic.

I find myself wondering whether they’d do the same if it was a human baby on the side of the road. I dunno, man. Probably.

I don’t know how many people walked past this cat before the universe decided to bestow us with the problem. “Those two people will do,” the universe said. “They don’t look like they’ve got much on. Let’s give them a conundrum to solve and see how they get on.”

There wasn’t a huge amount of choice, really; it was either a case of take the cat home, or give it a pat on the head and wish it the very best of luck.

So we pick this collarless cat up and start knocking on doors. Nobody has a clue who owns the cat. Nobody has ever seen the cat before. Lost Cat is a Mystery Cat.

Fast forward ten minutes, and I’m in my living room, on the phone to the RSPCA, trying to separate two cats who have just met and whose first impression of each other was a mutual “I’m going to evicerate this other guy if it’s the last thing I do.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Iddon was posting onto local Facebook forums to see if anyone had lost Lost Cat as I spoke to the RSPCA fellow.

“Have you tried the local vets?”

“Yeah I called around, they’re all closed for the day. I don’t know what to do with this cat. It’s currently attached to my upper arm.”

“There’s not a great deal I can do to help. We don’t take in animals unless it’s an abuse or cruelty issue.”

“It’s pretty malnourished and it’s got skin sores?”

“I mean, like, active cases of cruelty.”

“I cannot keep this cat here. You can probably hear my other cat screaming in the background; that’s not meowing, that’s literal screaming.”

“I’m sorry. Try calling the vet as soon as they’re open in the morning.”

There was no way I could keep Lost Cat and New Cat in the same location in space time. I suspected Schrödinger would have had some thoughts on the matter if he was available, but as it was I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. The hard place currently had its teeth sunk into my bicep.

I had to try a different tack.

“Okay. Thanks for your help anyway. If you get any more calls about a lost cat from this area, don’t worry, it’s probably this one again.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, as I say, I can’t keep him here tonight so I’ll have to put him back outside.”

“Sir, I… erm, I don’t think that’s a goo…”

“It’s okay, I’ll try and put him a little way back from the road.”

“I really think it’d be best if you could…”

“Can’t.”

A thoughtful pause.

“Huh.”

“I know, right?”

The sound of a moral dilemma drifted silently over the airwaves. Turns out that difficult decisions were quickly becoming the order of the day for every soul that came in contact with this cat.

“Look, okay, we’ll send someone out. I’m not really allowed to authorise this, but you can’t put the cat back outside…”

“Of course not. That’d be monstrous.”

“… wait, so you will keep him overnight?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Problem is, you’ll never know for certain either way.”

I hated acting like an asshole and playing Guilt Chess with him. He was a nice guy and the RSPCA are deserving of every praise one could afford them, but I had a fair amount of incentive to mind-game my way through this puzzle, a puzzle in the form of two cats trying to kill each other and my incentive coming in the form of a bleeding forearm.

“What’s your address?” he replied with a sigh. “I’ll get someone to you.”

“I’m at number seve…”

“I’ve found her,” Mrs. Iddon interjected.

“Found who? What? Honey, I’m trying to play a game of Guilt Chess here.”

“What’s Gui… nevermind. I’m in contact with his owner.”

“Oh, sweet!” I exclaimed, putting the phone back to my ear. “Not to worry mate, we’re okay.”

“Huh? You’re okay?”

“We’re okay. Thanks so much for your help.”

The woman left a comment on Mrs. Iddon’s Facebook post to say that she’d been worried sick since Lost Cat had gone missing and desperately wanted him back. We moved the conversation to email.

Now, one thing you need to know about my wife is that you’ll never meet a more trusting person. A person who always thinks the best of people until proven otherwise.  Someone who has an unwavering optimism that humankind is inherently good.  Someone who takes everyone at face value. Someone who I’m genuinely surprised has gotten so far in life without getting into the back of a stranger’s transit van on the promise of free puppies, never to be heard of again.

So when she thinks something is fishy about a situation, there’s almost certainly something fishy going on.

“There’s almost certainly something fishy going on,” she stated.

“How so?”

“Her Facebook profile. All there is here is pictures of dogs.”

“That is odd,” I concurred.

“Just… various dogs. There isn’t a single photo of a cat, let alone this cat,” she said, pointing at the cat who had decided the house was under his rule as the Kingdom Of Bellyrubs Now Plz, at least now that the other one was shut in the bathroom (screaming).

“Hmmm. Converse with her, see how it goes,” I replied.

They had a brief back and forth. It all seemed legit – she said she had pictures of Lost Cat on her phone to show us, and seemed to know the area to such a level that it was clear we were in the same town. But as soon as we mentioned that we’d been in contact with the RSPCA and he’d nearly gone there, the conversation stopped – complete radio silence from her end.

Weird. I called the RSPCA again to arrange the promised pick-up (I got put through to the same guy, and let me tell you, that was an awkward conversation), the cat got taken in by safe hands, and we sent a courtesy email to the woman to let her know the situation if she wanted to get her cat back.

Didn’t think anything more of it.

That was six months ago. Let’s fast-forward to…


THE GORGEOUS BENGAL


I wish I could find the photo of this bengal, but I can’t, so let me just say that this was the most stunningly beautiful cat I’ve ever seen (no offence to Old Cat, New Cat, Lost Cat or The Cat That Couldn’t Stick It.)

Mrs. Iddon tagged me into the post. It was a gorgeous bengal on sale for £150 in the local Facebook Buy & Sell group.

I conceded that it was an outstandingly beautiful cat, but reminded her that we operate a homestead in which the current cat has some kind of holocaustic vendetta on all of catkind.

We cannot have another cat. There is only one cat in this house, and the one cat reminds us of such in catty scripture:

“Yet for us there is but one cat, The Cat, from whom are all things and we exist for Cat.” 1 Catinthians 8:6

And so it is written. Let’s fast forward three more weeks to…


THE STOLEN [GASP!] CATS


Nala managed to lose her collar last week. Holy Cat knows how, but we came home one evening to find her naked. It was a total non-event until my wife said the following over dinner:

“Shit. We need to keep Nala in. At the very least until we replace her collar.”

“Why so?”

“There’s a cat thief targeting expensive-looking cats in Dawlish.”

“Seriously? In Dawlish?”

“Yeah. Take a look at this.”

She passed me her phone. There was a Facebook post from a guy saying that two cats – sisters – were recently sold in Dawlish to two separate people. It transpired that the microchip company called one of the owners and said “I don’t know who you bought this cat from, but it wasn’t the original owner. The cats originally lived in Gloucester, hundreds of miles away.”

The Facebook poster was trying to track down the new owner of the other cat in an attempt to reuinite them both with the rightful owner. Attached to the post was a photo of the two bengal cats together.

“They’re beautiful cats,” I said.

“Outstandingly beautiful,” she replied.

“They’re the most stunningly beautiful cats I’ve ever seen.”

A pause. Silently, our eyes rose from the phone screen and simultaneously locked in disbelief, as if a terrible rom-com director was orchestrating our lives. Richard Curtis, probably.

“That’s the cat I tagged you into a few weeks ago, isn’t it?” Mrs. Iddon said.

“Uh-huh.”


A CAT BURGLARY UNRAVELS


Mrs. Iddon found the original post she shared with me. Bengal cat for sale, £150. Picture of the cat. She screenshotted it and shared it with the guy trying to track down these stolen cats.

By the way, I hate the past participle of screenshot. ‘Screenshottted’. Too linguistically awkard for my liking; I’m going with ‘screenshit’ from now on.

So she screenshit the original sales post and asked if that indeed the same cat in question. “That’s her,” came the reply. “That’s definitely the same cat. She’s somewhere in Dawlish.”

What was strange was that the two cats were snatched in Gloucester before being posted for sale in our town. That didn’t make much sense to me; either we’re looking at a one-off, opportunistic sale, or some kind of national operation to steal cats from one town and sell them to another?

But that would be mental, right? I mean, It’d be hard to draw such a conclusion from a sample size of one case; as far as we know, this was just a one-off incident.

“As far as we know, this may NOT be a one-off incident,” my wife stated boldly.

“Honey, it’d be hard to draw such a conclusion from a sample size of one case,” I pointed out.

“Except it’s not a sample size of one case,” she said, passing her phone back to me. “Check this out.”

Well, I’ll be damned. The woman that sold those two stolen bengals on Facebook?

It was the same woman that tried to collect Lost Cat, six months prior.

No wonder she suddenly went silent on us once we mentioned the RSPCA. That made sense now; she got spooked.

At this stage, I think we’ve stumbled across something that may be bigger than it first appears…

… and I must put an end to it.


THE PLAN


It’s admittedly not the most complex plan that’s ever come out of my noodle, but I think it’s simplicity makes it elegant.

I’m going to bait this woman.

I know she (or the fake profile she uses) is fairly active on the local Facebook groups. I’m going to post a random picture of an expensive looking cat along with a note saying she’d gotten lost and we’d taken it in until we can find the owner.

Obviously, the plan will fall flat if she doesn’t take the bait. But she seems both brazen and pretty sloppy in her operation – terrible qualities for a criminal who wants a lengthy career in theft – so I have a fair amount of confidence that it’ll be easy to take advantage of her greed.

If she does take the bait and I can persuade her to come around, she won’t find a cat.

She’ll find a house full of the local constabulary, and a guy with a camera filming a brilliant YouTube video.

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