Keeping the Cat
December 3, 2004 1:53 PM   Subscribe

HomewreakerFilter: A neighbor of mine has a cat door that allows her two cats unrestricted access to the outdoor world. Unfortunately, these cats don't get along, so the smaller cat can often be found hiding somewhere in the neighborhood trying to avoid the larger, bullying cat.

Over the past two years, the sweet, smaller cat has developed a special relationship with my partner and I. What started as infrequent visits and little pats has turned into the cat staying at our place for a minimum 20 hours a day, only returning to his rightful owner when we leave the house (banishing the cat to the outdoors) for several hours at a time. The owner knows that her cat practically lives with us and has never come over to retrieve the cat.

Recently, the cat became ill and needed medical attention. I notified the owner and offered to take the cat to the vet or to assist in any way I could. She refused my offer and took the cat herself. The next day, the cat was back on our couch, happy to be "home".

Both my partner and I are madly in love with the cat, and the cat seems to be madly in love with us. We're moving in a couple of months and the idea of having to leave the cat behind makes my heart break. Should we approach the neighbor and try to get her to give the cat to us? Should we steal the cat? Should we be adults and realize the cat belongs to someone else?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
Expain the situation and offer to buy the cat if she wont give it to you. If she says no, move on with your life and get another cat when you move. In a short time you will become just as attached to the new cat.

Stealing is stealing, even if the item you're stealing "loves" you.
posted by bondcliff at 1:54 PM on December 3, 2004

If the cat had really adopted you, I'd take her. Ask yourself, "what is in the best interests of the cat?"... Maybe you should just stop banishing the cat, just start keeping it now. If it stays for days, weeks, whatever, then take her and feel good about it.
posted by john m at 1:56 PM on December 3, 2004

If the neighbor knows about your attachment to the cat, as it sounds like she does, I think she'll guess what happened to it if it disappears when you leave. Even though she may seem to be less than attached to the cat now, I'd guess that she'll suddenly become very, very fond of it if it's taken from her.

You said that she did take it to the vet when it needed attention; it would be hard to make the case for neglect. I'd say offer to buy the cat, but be prepared for the worst.
posted by handful of rain at 2:03 PM on December 3, 2004

I wouldn't take the cat but state your case to the owner. If she doesn't agree to let the cat go, move on and find a new cat from a shelter in your new town. As long as you are a good host, most any cat will return all the love in kind.
posted by mathowie at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2004

Stealing the cat is a very bad idea. But you know that. (And I hope you realize it's easy to be mistaken about the emotions of felines.)
posted by languagehat at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2004

All you can do is ask.

It really wouldn't do to just steal someones pet and the womans willingness to take the animal to the vet indicates that it is a long way from abandoned.

A little lower (well, a lot lower) on my entirely arbitrary ethical scale would be waiting for the cat to be set free (likely illegal), contacting animal control and scooping it from the pound.
posted by cedar at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2004

You used to be my neighbor! (Or someone like you.) This couple had one woman who worked at home all day. I think she was a little bored and ready for kids. She saw my kittie on the fence, flirted a little with her. At some point, the neighbor started leaving milk out for her, which meant my cat was over there all the damn time, waiting on her milk. After a couple of months of baby-talk, catnip, and other kitty seduction sketchiness, the lady sent her husband over to say that it was obvious we must abuse the cat since we have a dog, and the dog barks at the cat, so she was going to keep it. She was actually a little crazy about the whole thing.

I told her to go get her own damn cat, put my cat inside for a month, and told all the neighbors to Beware the Cat Stealer. My cat didn't love her more than she loved me, my cat doesn't love ANYONE - she just wants to be fed and to have a place to hang out.

They moved about two months later. Three years later I saw them in the grocery store and they already had three kids.

so - no! Don't take someone's da*n pet. It's inapropriate and makes you look a little crazy.
posted by pomegranate at 3:16 PM on December 3, 2004

Damn that's a lot of da*ns. And inconsistent with the cuss editing stars, too! *Sorry.*
posted by pomegranate at 3:17 PM on December 3, 2004

I don't even like cats so have no frame of reference but why not let the cat stay with you as much as possible until you move, then ask the neighbor a few weeks before the move? If the cat has been essentially living with you for weeks, it may be easier to make your case.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:51 PM on December 3, 2004

I second Pomegranate's sentiments. Cats are attention/food/warm couch whores. Do not attribute their use of your resources as love.
A better idea than stealing someone's pet: I recommend that you go to your local shelter and find a cat for yourself there. THOSE are some cats that need saving. Put your love to use on someone who doesn't have anybody at all rather than focusing on this already owned cat. Good luck!
posted by tinamonster at 5:48 PM on December 3, 2004

Speaking from the other side of things as pomegranate, we "acquired" a dog when I was a kid from the people across the street. The owner's had a son, and it was his dog, but when he went away to school, the dog started spending more time at our house, where there were still kids who would pay attention to it. He wasn't neglected at home, just bored. After a short time, the dog returned home only when absolutely forced, and sometimes not even then. They very generously brought over his food dishes and let him move in with us.

I'd say if you want to start a dialogue with your neighbours, you need to frame it in a concern for the cat and them sort of way. I'd suggest something along the lines of, 'We're going to be moving soon, and we're worried about the cat suffering withdrawal after all the time it has spent with us. How can we work together to make this easier on it?' See what their reaction is to this question and use it to gauge whether they'd even be open to the possibility of you taking the cat with you.

If they're not, you should probably gradually increase the amount of time you force the cat to be away from your house so it's not a huge problem when you finally do leave. Because it's not your cat, and if they're not willing to give it up, you need to live with that.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2004

It's a cat. Aren't there like 10,000,000 others in the neighborhood you could choose from?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:46 PM on December 3, 2004

Don't steal your neighbor's cat. I suspect that you have no idea what that cat may or may not mean to that woman.

Your impulse to steal the cat is selfish. Realize this and your decision becomes easy.
posted by sic at 6:10 AM on December 4, 2004

My roommate and I almost had a cat stolen from us, and the cat wasn't gone that much - he was just friendly. But, he was our only cat, and we stupidly let him wander. (In retrospect of this cat, I've become a keep-your-cats-inside-Nazi, and our kids never go out. Too dangerous.) If the big cat bullies the little cat, it's even harder, but "stealing" him isn't a good idea. Sadly. I feel really badly for outdoor cats. Anyway, you can ask. But, as others have said, be prepared for her to say "NO" no matter how bad a cat-mommy she may seem to be.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:25 AM on December 4, 2004

I disagree, a bit, with jacquilynne: to me, it seems like framing your request in terms of "we're worried about the cat", in any way, would not be likely to win much sympathy with the neighbor, who probably already suspects that you don't think that she is that great as owner. This is the last thing that you want to insinuate or suggest. If it were me, I think I'd just say something along the lines of, "we've become ridiculously fond of your cat, and since we're moving we just thought we would give it shot and ask if we could buy or adopt her. I know it's crazy, but maybe you could consider the idea."

Anything that makes her feel defensive will not help your cause.
posted by taz at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2004

I agree with taz 100%. If she willingly gives you the cat, then great... But, don't take it without asking.
posted by sic at 7:04 AM on December 4, 2004

Adopting a new cat from a shelter is an excellent idea. There are many many cats that need loving homes like yours. Why not leave this cat where she already has a home?

Share the love, you know?
posted by raedyn at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2004

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