Someone stole my cats. Please help.
November 3, 2014 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I live in Ontario. I was being sexually harassed by my male roommate ("Come on, share my bed with me"), so I left my apartment halfway through the month of October. I hired a petsitter from at the very last minute for $50/week. Now he/she/they will not return my cats, and I am very upset.

I was supposed to pay them $100. Fine. I emailed them to ask for their address and full name, details I would have gotten up front if I hadn't been in such an awful, mentally taxing situation where I had to evacuate my cats at literally the last minute.

Suddenly, my petsitter became taunting and antagonistic. I never, ever would have expected that turn of events. It's so out of character from the person I spoke to that it's almost as if his account had been hacked.

A series of email exchanges and text exchanges tells me that they absolutely refuse to either let me meet them at their address, meet them in public, or meet me at my new apartment, in exchange for the promised money and my cats. This isn't a question of money. They simply refuse to return my cats!

They told me that "Bob's brother is a lawyer" and "We went to the police and they told you to double up on your meds." What the hell? Is that something that police would actually say? I called the police station in question. All the officer could say is that "I don't know. I don't know which officer she was speaking to. Let me transfer you back to Communications." At which point I hung up on him. Communications has already made it clear that I have to take this couple to court because "Catnapping is not a crime." But I live way below the poverty line on Disability. I can't afford court fees. I can hardly afford food.

I originally made the agreement with Bob. Bob runs a delivery service. Bob sent Jim to originally pick up both of my cats.

Now my emails and texts are being answered by a "Marg", who keeps calling me "idiot" and "dumbass" and otherwise harassing me and ignoring my questions about why I can't pick up my cats as agreed. In all caps, "This is my last message to you you can deal with the police or Bob's lawyer"

Are these people sociopaths? I don't even know their full names or address. I tried to out them on Kijiji, but the website censored every line of my ad. I am close to giving up. I will do anything in my power to get my cats back, even if my power isn't financial like theirs. I mean, what can I actually do? I don't have the money for a lawsuit. I just want my kitties back. They are my children.
posted by quiet earth to Grab Bag (47 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Ontario. Stealing a pet is absolutely a crime. Call the police and say you are calling to report a crime. Don't ask them what the other people said. You don't want to speak to Communications. You want to file a report with an officer.
posted by Jairus at 8:04 PM on November 3, 2014 [47 favorites]

This is crazy! Call 911 right this minute! Right this second!
posted by oceanjesse at 8:11 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Assuming Bob's delivery service is a legitimate business you can probably find his full name and address, so put some pressure on him. Tell him you're filing a police report and will be naming him since he put you in touch with Jim. I'd be surprised if he didn't then become eager to help you identify and find Jim.
posted by jon1270 at 8:11 PM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, file a report. It's not "catnapping" but pets are considered property, so it definitely is a crime - theft or something similar.

It sounds like you have only emailed and texted. Do you have another phone number for Bob where you can call him? Perhaps contact him again through the website instead of the email address he gave you? If you're willing and able to pay for the services, and he wants continued work through that site, he'll respond.

Also - contact the site's customer service. See if you can initiate a dispute or otherwise have them contact him on your behalf. Perhaps they have other contact information for him that's not accessible to you.
posted by trivia genius at 8:12 PM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

"We went to the police and they told you to double up on your meds."

No, this is not a thing that police say. Go into the police station and file a full report.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:16 PM on November 3, 2014 [29 favorites]

Can you confirm that they did indeed pick up your cats? Were you there when they picked them up? Or do your roommates still have your cats and these kijiji guys are messing with you?

Yes go to the police station to file a report.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:24 PM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Do you have any identification beyond email addresses such as actual names, phone numbers, address, business name, screen names, etc? Does a reverse lookup of the phone number get you identifying info? What is the domain name for the email addresses? Does a web search of their email address give any info? Do you know how to view headers of the email?

Here is how law enforcement can work with Kijiji.
posted by ridogi at 8:25 PM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Call the cops right now.
posted by tristeza at 8:30 PM on November 3, 2014

Wow, this sounds horrible. Good on you for getting out of there and trying to get your cats somewhere safe. This is definitely something law enforcement can and should help you with, and if you're able to get the info that ridogi mentioned above to them, then they'll be more apt to do something productive.

That said, I'm wondering if there isn't some more information that you could provide that might help figure out what happened/why they'd do this/et cetera, like a (even if paraphrased) chronological log of communication between you and the sitter(s). Something just seems weird and I can't decipher their motives for wanting to keep your cats, and suddenly becoming mocking and antagonistic.

Edit: this info would also be very good to provide to the police.
posted by destructive cactus at 8:32 PM on November 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

You need to file an actual police report.

Print out any vet records you have - rabies vaccine information, or maybe you've registered the pets with your city, and print out a few photos.

Print out absolutely all of the email documentation you can. Print out the original online ad that you posted (or answered). Bring all cell records (print from your current month's report online).

Write out a very clear timeline of dates, arrangements and specifics. For example:
Monday, October 13th - Emailed about arranging pet care at $50 a week
Tuesday, October 14th - Met with Tom to transfer the cats. This happened at 123 Street Name.

Take all of this documentation down to the police station and file a report. They will have an idea of next steps. Keep us posted!
posted by barnone at 8:33 PM on November 3, 2014 [30 favorites]

Catnapping is a definitely a crime (it's theft of property!). Call the police to report a theft, and you might also call the local government-funded pet shelter (typically county animal control or animal protection, in the US, not sure what it'd be for you) and ask for their advice. Sometimes they have an officer who liaises with the shelter for pet-related crimes or animal abuse (who would be more sympathetic and helpful in recovering your cats!) or, in larger municipalities, they may have their own officers separately chartered from the municipal police.

Finally, your city councilman (or equivalent) or even your MP's office of constituent services can help you access police services if the police aren't taking you seriously. A call to your city councilman saying, "I'm disabled, I boarded my cats while I moved, the catsitter now won't give them back, and the police are ignoring my calls about my stolen pets." A call to the local police from an elected official often gets them moving pretty quickly.

It will help if you have vet or vaccination or registration records for the pets, but the police should be helping you either way.

In all caps, "This is my last message to you you can deal with the police or Bob's lawyer"

Deal with the police. They dared you to.

(And if Bob's lawyer is a real lawyer, I'm guessing he's going to tell Bob to give back the damn cats and take the $100. Ask for Bob's lawyer's complete contact information.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:36 PM on November 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

Also, regarding a lawsuit: The police should help you; this is a criminal matter that the state should deal with. But if you do need to proceed with a lawsuit, my understanding is that Ontario's state-funded legal aid is more generous than in the U.S., and Ontario has a well-regarded private charitable program called LawHelp which provides legal assistance to lower-income individuals who don't qualify for government legal aid but can't afford the expense of a lawyer. They can help you figure out how to file a lawsuit in small claims and fill out the necessary forms and pleadings and so on. Ontario also has fee waivers for low-income litigants. So even if you do have to go to court, you have options and resources.

(I am not a Canadian lawyer, etc.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:49 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

No, this is not a thing that police say.

They told me that "Bob's brother is a lawyer"

By the same token, I'm also guessing that Bob does not actually have a lawyer brother, and if he does, he wouldn't touch this situation with a 3m pole.
posted by rhizome at 8:54 PM on November 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

Are you sure that they picked up your cats, or that they still have your cats? Tbh that's what I would be worried about -- that they aren't returning the cats because they don't have them to return.

Other people know better how to deal with the police and lawyers, but in the meantime, if I were you I would also be putting up "Lost Pet" signs with pictures and the $100 reward (or a reward for whatever amount you can afford), on the off-chance that one of these people's acquaintances or someone else knows/saw what happened and comes forward. Do you have pictures of the cats to put on your facebook feed and otherwise get out to as many people as possible that they're missing and you need them back? That can also be useful. Get the word out as best you can as to what these cats look like, that they're YOURS, and that you need them back. (Putting up "lost cat" signs is how I heard about what happened with one of my cats after she went missing. Unfortunately the ending to that story isn't happy, but at least I found out what happened).

Have you checked at the animal shelter and at the pet stores in the area? Are your cats microchipped? Do you know of anybody around who the cats could have been sold or given away to? Just in case, I would check those places to see if the cats ended up there. A neighbor found her lost cat that way after another neighbor had snatched the cat and taken her to the pound out of spite. Also, do your cats have a specific vet, or do you live in a smaller town where there aren't a plethora of vets? If so, then I would also go to the vet(s) and distribute fliers and tell the staff what's going on, in case someone brings your cats in.

I'm so sorry! My heart goes out to you and your pets!
posted by rue72 at 8:55 PM on November 3, 2014 [22 favorites]

Indeed, knowing a lawyer is not the same as having a lawyer willing to represent you. Bob's brother could be a Real Estate lawyer for all we know-- sure, to some degree lawyers can practice all over the spectrum of law, but that doesn't mean they're interchangeable to the degree this kind of situation requires.

If anyone ever claims to be a have a lawyer, get the lawyer's contact info and start dealing with the lawyer. The lawyer might know their side of the story, or might be perplexed as to why his brother Bob is telling people he's a client, and want to clear up that confusion with Bob immediately. Lawyer's ethical codes require a certain give and take in order to establish a legal relationship between client and lawyer; that's why you see a lot of "I am a lawyer but I am not your lawyer" disclaimers here in AskMeFi.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:01 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you contacted kijiji, whatever that is? They surely don't want to be advertising for a cat thief. They might help you identify these people.
posted by spitbull at 9:35 PM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

What reason have they given you for not returning the cats?
The line about doubling up on the meds sounds like either they refuse because they think you are mentally ill or the reason they are not returning the cats is so obvious that not accepting it makes you sound unhinged (i.e.. They never had your cats, they're not your cats etc.)

If you do what previous posters suggest and contact police or:lawyers you need to provide a coherent and understandable account of what happened. I know this is hard in distress. But you need to explain exactly what was said and by whom and the exact timeline. Provide all emails and proof.

Your post itself is confusing as I'm sure the situation is confusing to you. But it's not going to help your cause if you sound rambling.
posted by Omnomnom at 9:59 PM on November 3, 2014 [17 favorites]

The sneaky way: post another ad to kijiji asking for pet sitters, or a series of ads. Get these guys to respond, get all of their info, and then get the cops to go with you when you go to meet these guys. This kind of thing has been known to work for stuff like stolen laptops, I don't see why it wouldn't work for your cats.
posted by zug at 10:50 PM on November 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

Yeah I agree with omnomnom that the story as presented here seems like it's missing some pieces. Why did the "guy who runs a delivery servce" send someone else to pick up your cats, and which if any of these people were supposed to be the actual cat sitters? Did you never get an address or arrange payment at the beginning?

The whole situation sounds confused, and if you are going to claim theft of your animals you'll need to explain this sequence more coherently to the cops than you did here.

No one threatens with lawyer talk over two cats and $100. They aren't serious about that.

Did you have no contact about your cats with these folks for two whole weeks? Were they maybe expecting to be paid in advance?
posted by spitbull at 12:19 AM on November 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

It's unclear even if someone actually did pick up your cats? Were you present? Did you supply any food or medicine or sign any paperwork or pay anything in advance? Did your harassing roommate, who had perhaps a reason to seek revenge on you, perhaps handle the supposed transfer of the cats to "Jim?"

*Calling* the cops, as you did, is not going to help. I'd suggest your best bet is going to the police station in person with every shred of printed out email or paperwork and any other evidence and swear out an official complaint. You have to figure the cops are not going to expend huge energy on this. But getting them even slightly engaged could shake your cats loose if these people actually have them.

Have you ruled out foul play by your former roommate?
posted by spitbull at 12:30 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't panic, just start filling in details. Contact Kijiji to try to start tracking down this guy - they may have an IP address, or payment details, or something like that. Also call the police. Just one step at a time.

It doesn't sound like they actually have that many resources, either. If you can just find them, then you can think about the next step.
posted by amtho at 3:30 AM on November 4, 2014

Don't panic, just start filling in details. Contact Kijiji to try to start tracking down this guy - they may have an IP address, or payment details, or something like that. Also call the police. Just one step at a time

Kijiji may not be able to release the details directly to you due to their privacy policies but will definitetly do so to a police officer investigating a theft, so get your documents together and go to the police station and report a theft.

Communications has already made it clear that I have to take this couple to court because "Catnapping is not a crime."

It is a crime, and they'll help you at the police station. In the event that they drop the ball there, then go to legal aid / city councilman (or equivalent) / MP's office of constituent services.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:07 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go to the police.
posted by Flood at 4:12 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you in contact with these people via thesite or your own mail etc? It sounds like you typoed the email or cell number and are now communicating with prankster/troll teens who are playing you along. Sure you have the right people?
posted by Iteki at 4:18 AM on November 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

My heart goes out to you. Please do update when you can.
posted by cooker girl at 6:47 AM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am so sorry, this sounds like a true nightmare!

I you haven't yet, please contact the police. Be calm and clear and make sure you have all the documentation you need.

Go with a close friend who will help you keep calm, and if they are dismissive insist until they give you the attention you need.

I really hope your kitties are okay. You have not done anything wrong and bullies count on people second-guessing themselves.

Please update asap!
posted by Tarumba at 7:26 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is crazy! Call 911 right this minute! Right this second!

Call the police but DO NOT call 911. This isn't an emergency situation.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:57 AM on November 4, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'm guessing that these guys pose as pet sitters in order to steal pets and sell them. In other words, they probably sold your cats and don't have them anymore. Put a lost pet notice on craigslist (or whatever the equivalent is in Ontario), the local newspapers, etc, post signs all over town as someone suggested above, and whatever else you can think of to get the word out.
posted by phoenix_rising at 8:16 AM on November 4, 2014

Now my emails and texts are being answered by a "Marg"

Are you sure you're writing to the right address?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:29 AM on November 4, 2014

Maybe it's just me, but I don't trust a person that steals cats to feed them. I would consider it an emergency and act accordingly.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:05 AM on November 4, 2014

nthing: print out every shred of documentation you have. Write out a timeline of events--as specific w/r/t dates and times as possible. And then go to the police. I'm tied up today and tomorrow unfortunately, but if you send out a Batsignal, I have zero doubt that there are other Toronto Mefites who would be happy to come with you to provide support if you need it. By the same token, I'm sure one of us would be happy to look after kitties gratis for a Mefite in need.

If you need help accessing legal resources, your ODSP worker might be able to help--but you probably won't need it. Catnapping is theft, and as such it's something investigated by police and prosecuted by the Crown. Have you got a non-ODSP caseworker/social worker? They may also be able to help you through this situation.

Calling 311 may also help; they can put you in touch with animal control services. Contacting the Toronto Humane Society and the Annex Cat Rescue will also help with finding the most efficient way to deal with these shitbags. In my experience, both of those orgs take a dim view of treating animals like this.

911 is for death, blood, or fire. Not--sorry--for stolen cats.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:31 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, I can't imagine there is any profitable market in abducted domestic cats, unless these are rare pedigreed cats perhaps. So I think that is needlessly alarmist. I seriously doubt anyone sets up a cat-sitting scam to steal random cats that they can then sell. You could only do it a couple of times, the law would be on you, and there is no market for the thing you're stealing. Domestic cats can be had for free by the dozens from any shelter or walking around on the streets.

There is a giant missing piece of this story. I just googled "cat sitter stole my cat" and can find no prior incidences of this being reported in the first few pages of hits, most of which deal with pet sitters who steal actual stuff from people's homes (and in one case a dog thief). It is not a known model of criminal enterprise because really, who would bother?

OP, all of us cat lovers here would love an update! I've been worried about your kitties all day.
posted by spitbull at 11:08 AM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

After you file a police report, another good recourse would be the Canadian equivalent of the Better Business Bureau. feckless fecal fear mongering's suggestion of the Toronto Humane Society is also on point.

I am sorry you have to go through this and I hope you get your kitties back.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 11:59 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Suddenly, my petsitter became taunting and antagonistic. I never, ever would have expected that turn of events. It's so out of character from the person I spoke to that it's almost as if his account had been hacked.

Are you sure their email hasn't been hacked, and you're being trolled?
posted by BrashTech at 2:07 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Save all the emails, including all the header information. I'm sorry you are going through this.
posted by SillyShepherd at 2:15 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any news on the cats? I've been worrying about them ever since I read your post a couple days ago.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:39 PM on November 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all of your responses. It really helps a lot, logistically and psychologically; I'm incredibly stressed out over the situation.

My cats were neutered and microchipped last summer. Yesterday I called 24 Petwatch, the microchip company, who told me that no shelter has taken in my cats yet.

Jim is one of the drivers employed by Bob's driving company. He's the one who picked up my cats and took them to Bob's house.

I've filed a police report as of Nov. 4th (I think). I looked up Bob's address online and gave them that along with a printout of the email exchanges and some of the harassing text messages from "Marg". In the words of the officer, regarding Marg, as he passed the notes to his colleagues: "Oh, boy, we've got a live one here!"

I know my original post sounds confusing. I'll try to clarify a bit.

Bob and his wife Marg started to harass me on November 2nd. They had agreed to keep the cats for one extra day (Nov. 1st) in exchange for an extra $15 because I didn't have the keys to my new apartment yet.

The following is their series of emails to me:

Nov. 1st: if these cats dont go in the next couple hours the hamilton spca will be called to come and pick them up. we have already spoken with them

(Even though a couple of hours later, they texted me to say that fine, they would keep the cats for an extra day.)


(I received this email five hours after it was sent. I was using public wifi because I had neither an internet connection of my own, nor a working laptop.)



(Which was in response to my polite email message asking them to PLEASE TEXT ME to arrange to meet up, because my voicemail wasn't working. They did text me, but only with similarly threatening messages; they never gave me their home address or a time or place when I could meet them to pick up the cats, and when I texted them to ask again and again where I could meet them, they never replied.)


My response to their last email on Nov. 3rd is as follows:
First of all, lame attempts at insults don't faze me. I don't do drugs. You are acting like a five year old throwing a tantrum.

Second, I do not live in Burlington. I left because of sexual harassment, as you should know, since you referenced it in one of your mocking text messages to me. You never asked for my new address. Nor did you ever give me your address where I could pick up my cats.

You're acting like a misbehaving child, not like an adult in my employ.

Third, the cats do not automatically go from Animal Control to the SPCA. I sure hope you delivered them to Animal Control on Nebo Road, because Animal Control will not pick them up for you.

My cats were microchipped at the SPCA with my information as owner. I really hope my cats are there and not with you. I trust them to take care of my pets. Whereas you have given me no reason to trust you. None whatsoever.
Ever since I filed the police report for theft on either Nov. 4th or 5th, I haven't heard anything. I'm told that the officer has been off duty for all of that time and hasn't investigated yet! I'm upset, because the longer a pet is missing, the less likely I am to ever see that pet again.

Tonight I emailed my local city councillor with details and a timeline, requesting his intervention. He has helped me in the past and I have faith in him.

I will also give LawHelp a call on Monday in case I have to file a lawsuit with the small claims court.

I'll see if I can get Kijiji to intervene. It might be harder because Bob responded to *my* ad asking for a petsitter. Bob has an ad on the site for his driving service.

I'm mostly worried that these people really did lose my cats, which is why they kept evading my questions about when and where I could meet them with the money in exchange for the cats. It's too painful to think about.

Thank you to all of you again. I'll keep you updated.
posted by quiet earth at 7:01 PM on November 8, 2014

Mod note: One comment deleted. Quick reminder: please don't publish info (such as location, etc.) from people's profile pages, which are not indexed and only viewable by members. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:43 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The story still has holes. If these were my cats I'd try to reach the folks with your cats on the phone or show up in person with a friend at their place with whatever money you owe them. All this text and email stuff is nonsense. It's adding drama over miscommunication and meanwhile you still don't have your cats.

It sounds entirely like they are disputing over payment. Or like someone's kid has the phone.

Why can't you just call and talk to Jim? Sort it out, or find out for sure where they sent your cats if they don't have them.

There is some element of this drama that is not self-evident to your readers here.
posted by spitbull at 6:24 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

They're nuts. Try to engage them less. They don't need to know your opinion of them, that you left because of sexual harassment.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:14 AM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is really scary and confusing. I really hope your kitties and you are reunited soon. I hope those people freak out and start collaborating now you are standing up for yourself.

Don't ever forget you are on the right. Keep polite and firm and PUSHY. Engage with them as little as possible but put pressure on them through the court/authorities.

I wish you luck! I have been thinking of you these last days.
posted by Tarumba at 6:40 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you call in a good friend to help you sort this out? Maybe the (understandable) panic could be helped by a friend helping to think through next steps with you, and help to follow through on them?

I'm concerned about your cats, and concerned about you. Please post an update!
posted by barnone at 9:17 AM on November 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is there an update? I keep coming back wondering how you and cats are. Hoping for the best!
posted by countrymod at 8:41 AM on November 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: My cats are home! The people who abducted them finally texted me to say that they heard I've been through hard times, and that I could pick up my cats at the end of the month. They insisted on sending someone to meet me in a police station. That person picked up the money, then called a third party to bring the van with the cats around to the front of the station. My friend said "It's like a hostage negotiation. They seemed to be really afraid of you."

What a bizarre situation. I was heartbroken without my kitties. I can't tell you how happy I am to have them back!

They both follow me around the house, sleep beside me, and generally adore me. Here they are, Red and Ninja:
posted by quiet earth at 5:31 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

That makes as little sense as the original explanation. It sounds simply like they believed you weren't going to pay them what they believed you owed them. So much drama.

But glad to hear they are home.
posted by spitbull at 6:00 PM on December 26, 2014

This is truly the most baffling askme I have ever seen. But I sure am glad you got your cats back!
posted by zug at 8:54 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am so happy for you and the kitties!

What a bunch of weirdos, those people. They kept them and fed them and took care of them for almost two months because they thought you might not pay for two weeks of service?

Anyway, I'm so glad you are reunited! Pet them for me.
posted by Tarumba at 6:30 AM on December 29, 2014

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