My dog killed a cat; what to do?
February 9, 2012 8:30 PM   Subscribe

My dog killed a cat in my yard. I have no idea where it came from, but suspect it is not wild. We are traumatized, what do we do?

So tonight we let the dog out at the usual hour, and she began barking incessantly. She's been barking late at night more recently, but never quite like this. Turns out there was a cat in our (fenced in) back yard that she was barking at. My wife went out to corral the dog, but after tussling with the dog, the cat turned and jumped my wife... and the dog intervened. The cat is dead now.

We are both kind of shocked, and wondering what to do. I didn't see any tags on it, and it seemed healthy (skinny, but well groomed) enough to be somebody's pet. I feel like the right thing to do is try to find the owners and explain what happened.

Has anyone else been through this?
posted by butterstick to Pets & Animals (70 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh God.

It's awful. I think your instinct to explain is correct. But how to find out whose cat it is? Some cats have microchips under their skin which a vet can scan for (mine does, it's really common for shelter adoptees today).
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Miko. Animal control could probably look that up I'm guessing?
posted by butterstick at 8:38 PM on February 9, 2012

I don't know if I'd go looking for the owners, or quite how that'd go. Post signs? You're going to totally crush someone when they call you thinking you found their cat, when in fact your dog killed their cat. I'd treat the cat's body respectfully and dispose of it properly, and if a neighbor asked I wouldn't lie, but I don't know that I'd go trying to break this grisly bit of news. If they don't find you, they'll assume the cat just ran away.
posted by axiom at 8:39 PM on February 9, 2012 [12 favorites]

If the cat jumped at your wife and the dog defended her, I don't think the dog did anything "wrong", even though it's a shame what happened to the cat.

By actively seeking out the owners and admitting that your dog killed their cat you're just asking for trouble -- personally, and perhaps legally, although IANAL. You don't know who the owner is and how they'll react.
posted by hamsterdam at 8:47 PM on February 9, 2012 [30 favorites]

You're simply inviting trouble if you go looking for the owner. For all you know they're litigious nutbars who will not accept your apology and drag you to court. I mean, just look at coolguymichael's comment - people are stupid about their pets, even those they let roam free and can only expect will get into trouble. Do yourself a favour; triple-bag it and put it in the trash. If you see posters, make an anonymous call from a phone booth and apologize.
posted by Dasein at 8:47 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, this is a great reason not to let your cat run around outside. Bad things can happen, and this is only one of the possibilities. I'm sure you're traumatized but there's no reason to beat yourself up - the cat was in your space, and it attacked your wife. Doggie probably thought she was doing her job.

I would also suggest treating the body respectfully and being honest if asked by anyone, but leaving it at that.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 8:48 PM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh, yes, another possibility in addition to being sued for monetary damages: they try to have your dog declared dangerous and destroyed. Probably wouldn't happen in the circumstances, I'm just trying to say that the more of these possibilities you can avoid, the better.
posted by Dasein at 8:52 PM on February 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

I love cats and I'm a total crazy cat lady. I love my cats so much that I don't allow them outside where bad things can happen to them. That being said, you shouldn't feel guilty about the incident and I would suggest to not do anything for fear of people retaliating against you. Yeah it really sucks and I feel sorry for the cat, but you did nothing wrong. The cat owner was at fault.

If a dog killed one of my cats, there'd be one less dog in the neighborhood.

This is wrong and you shouldn't be letting your cats outside where dogs can eat them, or where they can get hit by a car, or killed by a sadistic human, or contract a disease or think it's a good idea to crawl up inside the hood of a car and sleep next to a warm engine and then get killed when someone starts their car or...wait, why are you letting your cats outside again?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2012 [36 favorites]

You're going to totally crush someone when they call you thinking you found their cat, when in fact your dog killed their cat.

I really disagree. As someone who's lost cats in my lifetime, the worst of the worst is letting them out one night as usual, and then waiting for them to come back, walking the neighborhood to look for them, posting messages, waiting for the days to go by, and finally giving up, wondering whatever happened to your cat, with nothing to bury and no way to mark its passing. If anything sucks, it's that.

So that's why I would try.

There's always a possibility that the cat owner(s) are crazy or not nice. But this is exactly the reason why vets and shelters will tell you it's not a great idea to let cats roam. This kind of thing happens. If it wasn't your dog, it could easily have been a car or coyote. If you're letting your cat roam outdoors, you already accepted a risk; if you want to keep your cat safe from interactions with other animals and bad people and machines, you keep them inside. It would be ridiculous to be vengeful.

Still, I would want to know. You know, animal control is not a bad idea. You could call and just describe what happened, describe the cat. IF anyone then called animal control looking to learn whether their cat was picked up, that agent could connect the dots. If there is a major local vet, you could do the same.

If it were my cat, I would want to know. I would be sad but there's no way I could blame you. It would save me a lot of grief in searching for days or weeks, and I'd keep my next cat inside.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2012 [22 favorites]

I wouldn't assume there are owners to find, just because it was well-groomed; cats like to clean themselves and owners like to keep their pets fed. Your dog did the right thing. I would just take a deep breath and let the matter rest.
posted by bleep at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2012

I want to second what hamsterdam said—your dog didn't do anything wrong. The cat went after your wife, and your dog defended her. Good for your dog, sad for the cat (and you). I fear that point might be lost on animal control, though.
posted by waldo at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your dog did his dog job, which is to protect you and your wife from intruders. What happened wasn't your fault; the cat shouldn't have been roaming your yard freely. But as evidenced by this thread looking for the owner is probably a bad idea.
posted by Justinian at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

What would you do if the cat was hit by a car and died on your lawn?

In that case and in this case (which is basically the same: it was an accident) I think you should put at least a little effort into trying to find the owners.

No question in my mind it's the right thing to do.

It's better if you find them than they find you. What if next week the owner knocks on your door, or you're walking your dog and run across someone putting up flyers about their missing cat? It'd be way better to say "there was an accident on our property and we found its body. We tried to find the owner by XYZ but came up empty" than say... anything else.
posted by itesser at 8:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm curious about the legalities of this if that's not too much of a pony, special request.

I mean, the cat was on your property, your dog was on your property, your dog didn't necessarily corner it and kill it for pleasure/maliciously....

I don't see how you'd be liable. But nthing what others have said about not seeking out the owner. You didn't hit their cat with your car. You didn't leave out hazardous chemicals that the cat got into. Those are still not really 'your fault' but, personally, are more negligent than what occurred here.

I mean, this is like a cat crawling around in your woodpile and getting squished or something. I'm not trying to be flip about things, just calling it as I see it.

Did the cat have a collar? Do you suspect someone you know owns the cat? What breed is your dog; not that I care, I have my two loveable pitbulls that I know are safer around kids than many, many dogs/breeds but perception is going to be a concern here if this gets out.

If the owner didn't care enough about the cat to have a collar with ID and information on it then I'd be that much more convinced that they didn't really have the cat's best interest in mind.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:58 PM on February 9, 2012

Response by poster: Roland, there was no collar on the cat. AFAIK my immediate neighbors do not own cats. My wife and I have been thinking about this, and a few houses away we think they may have cats... though we've been living here for 2 years and have never seen them this close to our house. The cat (victim?) doesn't look familiar to either of us.

And yes, our dog is a pitbull. Which sadly makes me reluctant to call Animal Control. Her shots are current but the paperwork on her municipal license is out of date. I assume we'd face some sort of fine if we reported this (which I am not averse to paying, ironically we were talking about getting said paperwork done tonight)
posted by butterstick at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2012

OK this might be nuts but ... your dog is never out of your yard off leash, right? Could you ... take ... the cat down to a corner and THEN call animal control to report a deceased kitty? It's terrible that the owners would wonder but you and your dog shouldn't face any consequences, either.
posted by cyndigo at 9:10 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

the cat turned and jumped my wife... and the dog intervened.

Your dog did his job - the cat attacked your wife, and the dog defended her. Don't punish the dog.

I agree that by locating the owners of the cat and telling them what happened, you are exposing yourself to risk. The owners of the cat, if indeed they give a damn about it, could kick up a big stink or sue you or try and have your dog put down, not withstanding that they let their cat out without a collar and the cat attacks people. It's not worth the risk to you.

Bury or dispose of the cat, and get on with your lives.

Get your dog licenced immediately.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:11 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was a child my cat was killed by a neighbors dog. They didn't make any effort to identify the owner and just buried the body in their backyard. My father was finally able to locate our cat after several days of going door to door, but my final memory of her is an unrecognizable mess of dirt and fur in a blanket in the back of a pickup truck after Dad dug her up to verify her identity.

I've always blamed those dogs and their owner for her death, but sometimes I think it might have been different if it didn't feel like they were trying to cover up what happened and we had to dig up her body in the dark after work, days after she disappeared.
posted by Amaterasu at 9:17 PM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Do your homework. What happens in your community when a dog kills another animal. Until you know the answer to this, you don't know how to handle this event.
posted by HuronBob at 9:20 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would take the cat to a vet to see if it is microchipped; Also, you might also want to be sure it's not contagious (rabies, worms, etc.). I'd check your dog very closely for fleas and ticks - they are pretty good about leaving a dying animal.

I wouldn't sweat it too much - especially as the dog was in your yard and the cat is an apparent stray. You probably want to give a call to city hall or otherwise find out what the ordinances are. If you wanted to be really sure, I'd call a lawyer and have a chat with them to be sure.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:21 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I showed this to a neighbor who teaches a philosophy and ethics class. He gave a long answer that he boiled down to dispose of the cat in an appropriate manner, be aware of any searches for cats and be willing to explain.

I would add, if it it not too gruesome, to take a picture of cat for identifying purposes. Let anyone who claims to have had such a cat show you a picture to identify, not you show them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:22 PM on February 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

The cat was in your yard without a collar or identification. Your dog was fenced inside of your yard and killed a cat inside of its territory. Beyond that, the cat attacked your wife. Your dog acted quite rationally for a dog.

I know it's a bit cruel to say this, but the cat owner is out of luck. They let an untagged cat roam free and the cat went somewhere that is dangerous. While the cat owner was the irresponsible one, cats do not face the prejudice of being dangerous animals. Pit bulls do face that, even if you have been a responsible owner. Get your dog's license up to date and say nothing about the cat. The cat was trespassing, the cat attacked your wife, and the cat is already dead. There is nothing further you can do and while it may be the nice thing to do to inform the potential cat owner what happened, they can and may very well be irrational and litigious. There is a non-trivial chance that they will aim to see your pit bull euthanized in revenge.

Basically, it sucks for the cat owner, but the potential positivity from closure for them does not outweigh the likely trauma for you and your dog who have done nothing wrong. Yes, I'm suggesting CYA in no small part due to your dog being a pit bull. Yes, it is sad that this seriously matters. Point is, you and your dog did nothing wrong and there is no reason either of you should be at risk of suffering for what happened because of it.
posted by Saydur at 9:24 PM on February 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

She's been barking late at night more recently

This was probably not the first time the cat entered your property. I agree with hamsterdam, et al - your dog did absolutely nothing wrong but protect her family.

As Dasein mentioned above, I would hate for anyone to misinterpret your dog's sense of loyalty as a reason to have her put down.
posted by invisible ink at 9:26 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing disposing of the cat appropriately and keeping your eyes open for missing cats. We have strays in my neighborhood and they all look really well-kept/fed. And yeah, if your dog didn't attack until the cat attacked you, that's a good pup, especially if she was barking beforehand. Each bark was a warning to the cat, and the cat didn't GTFO of there but instead attacked you. Good dog, dumb cat.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:26 PM on February 9, 2012

Mod note: Please do not turn this thread into a rant against outdoor cats, please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:29 PM on February 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Can you post what happened on the Pets section of Craigslist without identifying yourself? That way if someone is looking for their lost kitty they will at least know what happened. I would not give any info about oneself though because it will be a total shit storm.

I would want to know as a cat owner and I would be upset. Would I complain to Animal Control about your dog? Probably. Would they care? Probably not. It would be on record though and if there are future incidents with your dog, well you know how people are about could be a problem.

I feel for you guys whatever you decide to do. It is a horrible situation.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:35 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a cat owner, I would be way less traumatized to know my cat had been killed by a dog than to think of it lost and wandering outside, shivering in the cold, looking for me and somehow not finding its way home, or to imagine numerous other slow deaths (e.g. trapped in a shed somewhere starving to death).

I agree with the comments that suggest checking for a microchip - animal control or a vet should be able to do it easily. If you aren't squeamish about handling the dead cat, you might be able to feel the chip under the skin of the back of the neck. It's a tiny square of hard plastic. That won't tell you for sure if the cat DOESN'T have one - they can migrate - but you might get confirmation that it does.

I can't imagine you are liable in any legal sense, but if you are worried, you could claim you came across the cat being attacked by a stray dog that ran off when you arrived on scene, or you could even just say you found it dead already.

Another thing worth considering is putting up a few posters around the neighbourhood with a description of the cat and a note saying you found it dead. Again, as a cat owner, I would find it more comforting to see that than never to know.
posted by lollusc at 9:36 PM on February 9, 2012 [12 favorites]

You don't owe anything anything. Don't bother looking for the owners. Just bury it and forget it. You certainly shouldn't feel a moment's guilt over your dog doing a good job of being a dog.

Had this all occurred in a public space or the cat owner's yard or whatever, things would be different, but as it is you have no obligation to the theoretical owner of a cat that attacked you in your yard.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:38 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The cat was in your yard without a collar or identification.


If the owner didn't care enough about the cat to have a collar with ID and information on it then I'd be that much more convinced that they didn't really have the cat's best interest in mind.

Unless you check for a microchip, you can't say the cat had no ID or that the owner didn't care enough to tag it. Many people do not collar cats because it is said to be dangerous. Even supposed quick-release collars can get jammed, and then the cat strangles on a tree branch or fencepost that the collar snags on, or dislocates its jawbone trying to get out of the collar, or gets a leg stuck between the collar and its neck trying to get it off.

I'm not saying these people are right or wrong; I'm just saying you can't assume that a lack of collar means the cat is a stray or that its owners don't really care about it.
posted by lollusc at 9:48 PM on February 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

I think a bit more could be learned from the condition of the cat. So far we know it didn't have a collar, doesn't belong to your immediate neighbors, and was in your backyard, possibly not for the first time since you mention your dog being agitated before.

Was the cat fixed? I'm guessing this won't be simple to tell with a female, but a tom that still has his gonads should be pretty obvious. To me, an unfixed male cat that's roaming free outdoors would be indicative of a pretty strong laissez faire attitude in an owner.

Was the cat declawed? I'm neutral on the whole declawing thing but it would show it did have an owner at one point. Cat people can speak to the ethics of a declawed cat existing in the outdoors, I can't.

Do you feed your dog outside? I ask because maybe the cat was scrounging for food which would indicate it wasn't necessarily being well fed at home.

Was the cat overweight/normal/underweight/emaciated? See previous question and related interpretation.

Did it have scar tissue on it's ears/nose indicating a rough and tumble outdoor life? All these things could be indicative of how likely the hypothetical owner is to A) exist at all and B) be broken up about their animal.

Set the collar issue aside I guess, I'm not a cat owner (nothing against them, I just sneeze constantly) so didn't realize the collar risk was such an increased issue with felines instead of canines. We remove collars when ours are securely in their kennels to avoid any potential, no matter how remote, of them being snagged when we're away but that's about the only time (baths are another). I see how cats are a bit more inclined to be at heights where a snag while falling might be catastrophic.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:02 PM on February 9, 2012

Where are you taking the body? If you drop it off at animal control, they should keep a record of it and inform the owners if they come in looking or if they find microchip. That way they won't be left wondering and you will have done enough to have the information out there. You don't have to tell animal control what happened, just that you need to drop off a dead cat you found.
posted by Vaike at 10:02 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm grateful that you're able to consider the cat's existence as worthy of regard, and not just as a transitory annoyance in your territory.

There's no way of knowing how responsible or not the owner was. Any assumption could be wrong, even cruelly so. Perhaps it's normally an indoor cat and simply escaped and was trying to find its way home? No way of knowing, so doesn't make sense to assume. Better to assume that the cat had loving owners who are worried and do the kind thing.

The suggestions above that had the most resonance for me were putting something regretful but factual (and anonymous) on Craigslist, being aware of postings regarding lost pets, and (if you can bear it) checking for a microchip. You could post a sign that doesn't mislead - "owner of [cat description] - [gender] was found deceased in this vicinity. you have our sympathies" - then post in a couple-block radius of your place.

No matter what you end up doing, I'm glad you're at least thinking of reaching out to whatever people the cat had. Thanks for that.

PS: would be a good time to get pup updated across the board, now that it's fresh on your mind.
posted by batmonkey at 10:08 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Finding the owners is the right thing to do but unfortunately, it's not the smart thing to do. Dogs who kill cats get a bad rap and dog owner's whose dogs kill cats get an expensive penalty. I'm not sure about the laws in your state but in my home state, owners have to put up signs that they have an aggressive animal and sometimes have to double fence their yards. I'm sorry for the cat. It was probably just trapped and frightened. I'm sorry for you guys for having to see it. Try to put it behind you. Be very careful whenever your dog is around a cat from now on. He's got an answer for how to deal with cats from now on embedded in his mind.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2012

dchrssyr has an extremely good point about watching your dog around cats from here on out! glad I was still reading the other answers when it popped in - nthing that to the nthiest degree.
posted by batmonkey at 10:11 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vaike, I dunno, seems like animal control could put two and two together if it got to the point where they really wanted to. OP's name/tag info + dead cat with teeth marks of the size matching a certain size dog + city records of OP owning a pitbull is a tenuous trail but still a trail.

I feel like Vaike has the right idea with regards to where the body should go but the execution should be handled carefully if anonymity is indded a concern of the OP.

How's your dog by the way OP? I'd reiterate the concerns of others above that this is a good time to make sure immunizations and flea treatments are fully caught up and that it didn't break a tooth or anything. Probably pretty unlikely but you never know...

I think if our pups would have done this I'd be beating myself up and wondering if I did the right thing in the heat of the moment and immediately afterwards. I honestly don't know whether chastising them or simply removing the cat's body immediately and ignoring them would have been the right reaction, and I know even less about what I would have done. I'd watch the pup around cats but I don't know if I'd isolate it from felines altogether (as if that were possible). Careful supervision is absolutely required until you're 100% that doggy will be ok with any kitty incursions.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:14 PM on February 9, 2012

Also, you might also want to be sure it's not contagious (rabies, worms, etc.).

Especially if the cat bit your wife or dog.
posted by cairdeas at 10:34 PM on February 9, 2012

My cat refuses a collar, and is therefore microchipped.

Find some safe way to check for the chip that doesn't expose you to negative consequences.
posted by jbenben at 10:44 PM on February 9, 2012

Pretty sure if all of this happened in your fenced-in yard, Animal Control will not be fining you nor are you liable if the owners do decide to sue. (Not a lawyer. Have watched episodes of People's Court on this very thing, did a quick search, but can't parse which cases apply from titles on Youtube. Do volunteer/work for a shelter, but not on the AC side.) Leash laws may in fact apply in your jurisdiction to the cat.

And to answer your earlier question, yes, almost all shelters will have multiple microchip readers. And a lot of vet offices have them now, too, if you're still scared of penalties from AC but do want to check for a chip. But again, I really, really think this is neither morally nor legally your fault.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:14 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, missed the bit about an outdated license. I meant you won't be fined for this specific incident, not for any other issues.
posted by vegartanipla at 11:16 PM on February 9, 2012

Things happen fast and I understand that this is an outcome that no one wanted. But if in the future another cat gets cornered in your yard, may I suggest, before approaching the cat, tell your dog to stop, come to you, and bring the dog inside. Don't approach a cornered cat with a barking, defensive dog at your side. The dog may not have "done anything wrong" but its owners did, sorry to say.

If you have not taken the time to train your pitbull to "leave it" and come to you, please do so. That your wife, when trying to corral the dog, was unable to keep the dog from attacking the cat--this is a sign your wife had inadequate control of the situation and you need to take your responsibility to train your dog (and yourselves) more seriously.

(I know in your post you said it was the cat who "tussled" with the dog, but I'm reading it the other way... let's be honest, the cat didn't pick that fight.)

That said, the outside world is a dangerous place for cats. There are a hundred ways it can shorten their lives and that's just the risk cats and cat owners run. C'est la vie. I'd post fliers saying, "Are you missing a cat matching this description: [...]? If so, I'm sorry to say I have bad news. Please call if you would like more information. Your neighbor, [phone number]"

Taking the body to an animal shelter to look for a chip is probably even better.

I'm not a lawyer, and maybe I'm naive in thinking that there is essentially zero legal risk here (if you have to pay a fine for the unregistered dog, uh, I'm ok with that), but the chorus of CYA advice above seems way off base and, frankly, unethical. Do the decent human thing and make some effort to find the owner and tell them what happened to their cat. And then tell them you're sorry their pet is dead.

(I know you're having a rough night. You have my sympathy for that; I hope you and your wife have a better day tomorrow than you did today, and I hope what I wrote doesn't come off as harsh--if I'm being honest, in your situation, I doubt I'd get everything right, either. Shit happens fast. But that's all the more reason to try to learn how to handle it better next time. Disposing of the body and pretending nothing happened is absolutely the wrong answer, in my book.)
posted by kprincehouse at 11:45 PM on February 9, 2012 [29 favorites]

If it were my cat, I'd want to know.
posted by zippy at 11:56 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

@kprincehouse To be fair, this was not a public space, and we do not know what kind of commands the OP and his wife have taught their dog. "Leave it" is an important lesson, but not an easy one. And definitely not an easy one when it comes to encountering trespassing animals, in the dark, off leash, with a human pack-member under "attack." Maybe one person in a few million would handle that situation "correctly," and that person is probably Cesar Millan.

This is truly an awful situation, and my heart goes out to the OP. But subjecting the dog to the (even remote) possibility of being euthanized would only make it worse.

There are some good suggestions above. Whatever you do, butterstick, please make sure your dog doesn't have to suffer from retaliation.
posted by ariela at 12:29 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please, please, please at least make a rudimentary effort to tell the cat's owners. I completely agree with Miko.

However, if you're concerned, simply omit the cause of death. Say you found it on your lawn or whatever you feel comfortable with. The owners will naturally be curious, but at that point it's purely academic - letting them know that their pet has died is the main thing.
posted by Magnakai at 1:17 AM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Animal Control is who you want to contact for taking care of the body. Disposal of animal remains is one of the main services they provide, and they will be better equipped to check for microchips and keep a record for Lost/Found notices should the cat have an owner searching for closure.

However, to avoid any sort of reprisal against your pet (because while I think the fact that this happened in a fenced yard protects you from most legal trouble, it doesn't stop a disgruntled neighbor from tossing rat poison over your fence, as someone up thread insinuated they would do if it were their cat), I would not mention it was your dog that killed the cat. Two wrongs don't make a right, but people can be very (understandably) emotional and unreasonable about situations like this, so it is probably better to be safe here.

Loose/stray dogs happen, and coyotes happen. Put the cat remains in a cardboard box or trashbag, call Animal Control, and tell them you found a dead cat that looks like a dog or coyote got it. Let them know you don't recognize it, but that you wanted the owners to be able to find out what happened to it if it has them. They will come and pick it up and handle it from there.

If the cat was microchipped, or if the owners contact Animal Control first when they realize their cat is missing, that will take care of the issue entirely. After that point, if you see any lost cat signs or anyone comes door-to-door, you can let them know then that you found a dead cat that might be theirs and that they should check with animal control for a description.

It also might be worthwhile to invest in some dog training, as some others have suggested. Pits can have aggression issues, so it's a good idea to make sure you have a controllable animal in case of any future incidents like this one. And definitely get your dog registered, sooner rather than later.
posted by internet!Hannah at 1:25 AM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

You could post a few signs in the neighbourhood which say something like "Deceased cat found: a dead cat was found on our property on X St., apparently killed by a larger animal. We have taken the body to a local vet / animal control (contact info). Our sincere condolences to the owner".

No lies, but no contact info for you and thus and no way for any future blowback.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:02 AM on February 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

I agree with those advocating the "white lie" approach. Either you found the cat already dead, it darted out and you hit it with your car, something like that. Please do make an effort to find the owners. You mention some folks down the street have cats? Start there.
posted by hazyjane at 4:30 AM on February 10, 2012

Don't assume the owners are negligent for letting their cat roam outside. It could easily have been an indoor-only cat who slipped out; this happens all the time. If you'd never seen the cat before, and if he acted spooked, he may have easily been an escaped indoor cat.

I would call animal control and say that you found the cat, and not mention your dog's role. They can check for a microchip and test the body for rabies if needed. (Rabies is rare, but so is a cat attacking a human.) Don't post signs in the neighborhood, but for the next few weeks, regularly check anywhere nearby where lost pet signs are regularly posted (grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries) and keep an eye on Craigslist. Go with internet!Hannah's approach: say you found a deceased cat, and animal control has more info.

If you can still look at the body and it doesn't upset you, write down as many identifying details as you can: what color are the nose and paw pads? If it's a tabby, are the stripes long and narrow or thick and swirly? If it's a bicolor, where are the white spots? Male or female? Extra toes? Declawed? This can help you avoid mistaken identity.

And do whatever needs to be done to ensure your dog won't do this again. An isolated incident like this can be chalked up to a scared dog just doing his dogly duty, but a second incident will be much harder to justify.

I'm sorry this happened. Thanks for wanting to do right by the cat.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:31 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the "white lie" approach -- call animal control to report that you found the cat already dead on your property and let them take it from there. If there is a microchip, at least the owner will know what finally happened to their cat (and if my cat were missing I'd wanna know), but you've left mention of your dog out of the picture so he won't be implicated.

Neither you nor the dog did anything wrong.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on February 10, 2012

Mod note: Some comments deleted; please stick to the question.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:39 AM on February 10, 2012

I love cats, but do not own one. I have two dogs and have dealt with random cats both stray and pets hanging out on top of the back fence, and jumping into our yard. For some reason, the cats seem undeterred by the dogs' barking and often tease them from higher tree branches or tempt fate by walking the top of the fence while the dogs jump and bark at them. I am constantly in fear of this same thing happening.

I am so sorry for all involved- the owner of the cat, the poor cat, and you guys. I am with the other posters who recommend not looking for the owner. There are people who would react to the news with grace and a clear head, but experience tells me that you have a greater chance of inviting a lot of scary trouble for you and your dog. You did nothing wrong, and your dog was not loose or out of your control. Give it a respectful burial and move on. Your dog did what he felt was right- to defend your property.

Depending on the breed of the dog- "leave it" could be trained and a dog might obey in this circumstance...but most dogs are faster than we are and it takes but a second to make a kill. When faced with a yard intruder, they will usually do what instinct tells them and for many dogs that means dispatch of it. Even a very well trained dog, if it is of a protective or guardian breed and an independent thinker and extremely aroused- will not respond to "leave it' in this case.
posted by catrae at 4:50 AM on February 10, 2012

If you decide to post flyers or an ad in Craigslist, be wary of "owners" who angrily demand money... odds are better than even that they're just scammers. Also be wary, as warned above, of vengeful nutbars who love a grudge.

I would inform Animal Control, the local shelters and nearby veterinarians, and give them a good description of the cat, let them scan for a chip if requested... and leave it at that. A responsible pet owner will check with those authorities when they lose their cat, and it leaves a layer of anonymity between you and scammers/lunatics. You'd have done the right thing =and= protected your family from unnecessary fallout.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:11 AM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

First, a dog attacking a cat does not mean the dog is vicious or out of control or will attack a person. Dogs are predators, sometimes they act like predators, cats are smaller than (most) dogs, therefore cats are sometimes prey for dogs. That's it. It doesn't mean your dog is dangerous and will be declared dangerous (to people), it just means your dog is a dog. It also doesn't mean your dog is badly trained, a dog in full prey drive is very hard to call off. The cat was in YOUR yard.

Second, while I commend your efforts to find the owner, I really do think that nobody should have to deal with anyone's pets except the owner, when you allow your pet to roam freely, you really are not being a responsible owner, and this is the sort of thing that happens. It is not your fault this happened, and it is certainly not your dog's fault. A shelter or vet can scan the cat, but disposing of the body respectfully would not make you a bad person.

This sucks, but dogs (and cats, for that matter) are predators. Would it be a tragedy if the dog had killed a rabbit or a raccoon? Dogs don't know that cats are domesticated.

Finally, I would take your dog to your vet for a rabies booster, you have no idea about the vaccination status of the cat and it is very likely that the cat scratched, bit or at least got saliva on the dog (for future reference, if your pet comes into contact with any animal whose vaccination status is unknown, you should not touch your pet for a couple of hours, and you should always get the rabies vaccine boostered right away).
posted by biscotti at 5:39 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please please PLEASE talk to the Lexus Project before you decided whether or not to call Animal Control or to try and find the owner yourself. If they aren't familiar with the dangerous dog laws in your area, they will contact someone who is.

In MY area, your dog would not be labeled dangerous for attacking another animal on your property, but that's not true everywhere.
posted by muddgirl at 5:49 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pits are large dogs. Of course they maul more than say, puggles. They scare the crap out of people. But seriously- would you be super pissed at a cat that killed your escaped Parrot? The dog did what dogs do. I think it is something you want to address with training now, though. Your pit may see all cats as threats from this point out.

I would be VERY careful about contacting the owner. We have some pretty aggressive stray toms in my neighborhood- they chase my little dog whenever they see her. Most of the time people see dogs as the only possible aggressor and that is simply not the way it works. If AC has a super anti-pit person, or the owner is anti-pit or just vindictive- you could have some pretty ugly things in your future.

One thing though- if the cat got a bite or scratch in on your wife or your dog, you need to take it to a vet or AC. Overly aggressive animals can mean rabies, and you need to be aware of that as soon as possible.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:27 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

oh im a little slow- your dog bit the cat. you need to get the cat tested, anyway. Call your vet and see what they say.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:32 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why don't you put the cat in a cardboard box, take it to Animal Control yourself, and say that you found it in the street near your house? This gets the cat to the people who can scan the cat for microchips and who can dispose of the cat's remains if necessary without tying it to your dog. I would not try to contact the owner yourself to admit that your dog killed the cat. If you see flyers or whatnot I would answer them and say that you found a dead cat in the street that you took to Animal Control. A lot of folks are just looking for a reason to jam pits and their owners up, don't give them the opportunity.

Also, this means that your dog is not safe around small animals, please take this into consideration if you ever consider adding a cat to your family. My brother's dog killed one of my sister's cats several years ago and it remains one of the most traumatic things that has ever happened to us, so I am terribly sorry you are going through this.
posted by crankylex at 6:33 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been in this exact situation.

Don't tell animal control that your dog killed the cat. Tell them you found it already dead.

We thought it was the neighbor's cat too and it turned out to be a stray. The Animal Control officer told us we should have just called them to dispose of the body. Instead they had to quarantine my dog for two weeks. We had to pay almost $300 just for them to basically put her in the pound for weeks. It was horrible.

That cat was on your property. Your dog is not in the wrong. I know it is awful that this happened, and I still feel horrible about it. Don't cause yourself more stress by having your pet taken away as well.

MeMail me if you want more info.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the outpouring of support everyone, I'm catching up on the thread now. I haven't further examined the body, but will do so when I get home from work. Right now my wife and I are leaning towards notifying animal control and offering as little information as possible.

Brody is doing ok. She's pretty scratched up but doesn't seem to mind. I was pretty worried about one of her eyes last night, but it looks like that is recovering as well.

My wife wasn't bitten or anything, just some minor scratches. I think the cat was trying to climb up her to safety. We appreciate all the advice, and are more concerned about doing the "right" thing for both the cats owner and our own family.
posted by butterstick at 8:38 AM on February 10, 2012

Response by poster: Things happen fast and I understand that this is an outcome that no one wanted. But if in the future another cat gets cornered in your yard, may I suggest, before approaching the cat, tell your dog to stop, come to you, and bring the dog inside. Don't approach a cornered cat with a barking, defensive dog at your side. The dog may not have "done anything wrong" but its owners did, sorry to say.

If you have not taken the time to train your pitbull to "leave it" and come to you, please do so. That your wife, when trying to corral the dog, was unable to keep the dog from attacking the cat--this is a sign your wife had inadequate control of the situation and you need to take your responsibility to train your dog (and yourselves) more seriously.

This is an excellent point, and something my wife (her second pitbull, my first) and I both take to heart. Brody does in fact know "leave it", and performs it on command on a regular basis. Unfortunately, live animals are a different situation. She is a rescued street dog, possibly a breeder. She was found SEVERELY malnourished, and as a result has a very strong prey drive. She is VERY hard to reach when fixated on prey. It is a very difficult situation to simulate and train her for. This is why she is never off leash outside our yard.

The weird part is she was barking at the thing for a good 10 minutes before we moved in. I'm assuming it was wounded or something since it was right next to the fence the whole time but never tried to escape up it.

And you're right, moving in only escalated the situation. I had a break stick and felt I was out of options.
posted by butterstick at 8:48 AM on February 10, 2012

If someone hit your dog, would you want know?

And am I the only one who thinks the cat "jumped" your wife because she expected a human to save her?

A small cat, even a large cat, is not a threat that requires lethal force. A dog that was a protector would know that.

Your dog is a dog. We can't fault the dog for grabbing a small furry creature in flight. That's a normal thing for a dog to do.

You should check for a microchip, look for lost cat postings, and try to find the owner and explain that the cat perished in an accident - because that is what happened.

There's a reason that shelters and rescue groups ID dogs as cat safe, not cat safe, or unknown. Dogs will kill cats. It is not a moral failing on your part. It's just a dog being excited and being doggy.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

And am I the only one who thinks the cat "jumped" your wife because she expected a human to save her?

I would say that's definitely the likeliest scenario - cats tend to run away from, not toward, threats. Even so, an agitated cat can be scary - claws generally out and a lot of scrabbling. But yes, I'm sure the cat was hoping for protection from the dog, not attacking the person.
posted by Miko at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To be fair, I've never used the term "attacked". We have always assumed the cat was trying to flee via my wife.
posted by butterstick at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please get your dog a checkup, just in case. A friend's dog lost an eye to a cat scratch that turned infected.

I had a cat who got out and was killed by a car. I spent almost a week looking for him and putting up signs. A neighbor two doors down saw them and told my boyfriend that he had found my cat after the accident and disposed of him in a garbage can (!). I was heartbroken, but it was much more of a comfort to know what had happened to my kitty.
posted by vickyverky at 11:37 AM on February 10, 2012

Also, when a cat I didn't recognize was killed by a car on my street (I heard it happen), I posted a short note on Craigslist and Facebook, and somehow the news made it to a neighbor I didn't then know down the street who had been looking for her pet.
posted by vickyverky at 11:38 AM on February 10, 2012

ETA: because we picked up the cat from the street and called ACC to take the body away, and it didn't have a collar.
posted by vickyverky at 11:39 AM on February 10, 2012

In short, we've two dogs, one cat (now). If it happened with our cat, I'd want to know. If it were our dogs and a neighborhood cat, I'd put the word out.

Simple as that - for us, at least.
posted by Man with Lantern at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2012

A small cat, even a large cat, is not a threat that requires lethal force. A dog that was a protector would know that.

Yes, because the dog wasn't "protecting" anything (as you mention later). The dog was in prey drive. People vastly overestimate and mistake how much actual "protection" a pet dog will do. A dog attacking a cat is not protection, it's predatory behavior, which is absolutely normal behavior for a predator. Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate and even like cats, but even cat-friendly dogs will often attack strange cats, especially if they are running away.

butterstick, your dog needs a rabies booster RIGHT AWAY. Please do not delay getting this done even if the dog looks fine.
posted by biscotti at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

Unfortunately, I think you need to be very careful based purely on the dog being a pitbull. The breed is very much a current hot button issue. Where I live, if what you described happened with any other breed, everyone would say it was sad and that would be the end of it -- but let it be a pitbull that did it, different story entirely.

Due to the number of pitbull problems in my area, non-owners of them have complained so loud and often that breed-specific laws have been rush-enacted. EVEN THOUGH it was in their yard, at best the owners would be looking at fines (that would increase depending on how imperfect their paperwork was), having the animal confiscated temporarily, and having a significant portion of neighborhood upset and pushing the police on the topic (calling to complain every time it's outside and barks to complain, etc.).

I agree that it's best to get the animal to animal control in case it can be identified, and kudos to you for caring enough to consider it. However, you might want to see if you could find someone you trust to do it for you, so that there's no way it can be traced back to your dog. Given the breed, and the climate of opinion about it right now, it's just not worth the risk.
posted by Pufferish at 2:21 PM on February 10, 2012

Mod note: More comments deleted; once again, if you have practical advice to give the OP regarding the question asked, fine. If you just want to vent about Pit Bulls or anything else, please move on.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:46 PM on February 10, 2012

butterstick, your dog needs a rabies booster RIGHT AWAY. Please do not delay getting this done even if the dog looks fine.

If this is the case, then his wife needs rabies shots, too. She got scratched up by the same cat. OR... Animal Control might be able to test the corpse for rabies.
posted by artemisia at 7:22 AM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

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