I have a nearly literal copycat to deal with
July 19, 2007 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Someone has made a variant of my "lost cat" poster for their own cat (I think). Can someone help me sort out what's going on here?

Our cat's been missing for a few weeks. We immediately saturated the surrounding area with posters. Our first poster is here. We have a couple of other versions up, offering a specific reward amount, color, changed design, all that. But there are still a lot of these up. They've been up for three weeks.

This week, someone put up these posters, which are some sort of parody or note-for-note copy of my posters, ostensibly looking for a similar (but younger) cat.

Does anyone have a guess what's going on here and what I should do about it? Do I call them and ask what's going on? If they're also looking for a cat, they're not doing either of us favors-- most of the locals have stopped reading my posters, so they're unlikely to notice the copy. And I don't want someone to find my cat and happen to be near one of the other posters and not notice anything except another person's number.

I'm so confused that someone would do this, I'm second guessing myself about what my plan of action should be.
posted by Mayor Curley to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Call them and politely ask if they really lost a cat or if this is some kind of joke.
posted by rancidchickn at 3:19 PM on July 19, 2007


They might think that your poster was a joke.
posted by The World Famous at 3:23 PM on July 19, 2007


Call them and politely ask if they really lost a cat or if this is some kind of joke.

Well, what happens if they're looking for a cat? Is there a way to get them to change their sign?

And what if it's a joke? What then?
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:24 PM on July 19, 2007


i would call them. finding out their info may give you some info about your cat. i mean, if two cats have disappeared in a close area in a short space of time, you might want to know that. if it is a joke, you want to know that too.

i would call, assuming their poster is for real. ask, is your cat now missing too? is something happening to the cats? can we help each other? it will give you a sense of who they are and what they are up to.

good luck. i hope you find your cat.
posted by Flood at 3:25 PM on July 19, 2007


My first thought upon looking at the second (copycat poster) is that the English in it, while an almost exact copy of yours, is strangely fractured.

This led me to think that it was possible that someone, perhaps without much of a command of the English language, or lacking some basic cultural knowledge, didn't know how to create their own poster for a missing cat, and used yours as a template.

I don't know why that was my gut instinct, but it was.

It is also possible that someone is fucking with you because they don't like you.
posted by dersins at 3:29 PM on July 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


What dersins said. Someone with very poor language skills (illiterate or not proficient in English) and a missing cat based their sign on yours.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:30 PM on July 19, 2007


I too thought that there was something really odd about the second poster, in a "This is not my first language" way. So I assumed that the person, not knowing how to construct a lost cat poster, thought that maybe this was some kind of generic template, or at least a good one to emulate?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:31 PM on July 19, 2007


Give them a call and let them know that you're a cat owner and put up the original posters a while back. If they're messing around, it should be pretty obvious from the reception—whether they come clean, get sheepish, or conspicuously refuse to talk about it to you.

If they do seem to be earnest after all, you could offer to put together a poster for them that differs signficantly from yours.
posted by cortex at 3:32 PM on July 19, 2007


Assuming they don't speak English, your inquiries about the poster could lead to a lot of confusion and disappointment when they realize you don't have their cat. Maybe have a Spanish speaker on hand just in case. (Spanish being the safest bet here.)
posted by hydrophonic at 3:36 PM on July 19, 2007


If this had happened to me I would have first laughed then figured it was an earnest mistake, as others have pointed out above.

Unless I happened to have some enemies list to instill paranoia in me, how could it be otherwise? A prank would have been much more clever than this. Call them
posted by vacapinta at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2007


It is also possible that someone is fucking with you because they don't like you.

It's unlikely. This is a proper New England neighborhood. I merely talk about the weather and Red Sox with my neighbors, keep my yard very neat and the loudest thing I do is garden on weekend afternoons. I don't have any bumper stickers on my car to piss anyone off and most of all I mind my own business. If I'm as crotchety in real life as I am here, my neighbors don't know it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2007


The only things they changed are :

- name of the cat
- left out the blue collar bit
- misspelled "curious"

Correct? It doesn't look fractured to me, not unless you think MC's original poster is.

"A prank would have been much more clever than this." Not really, lots of stupid people out there. The most suspicious part is changing the name from "Al" to "AT."

I hope you get your cat back, too, he looks very sweet.
posted by Liosliath at 3:45 PM on July 19, 2007


If you had reward amount up..
than my first thought would be .. that this person may also want to find your cat by putting up these posters first and claim your reward.
(well before i go on...is this person also putting up reward amount? or is it lower than your amount?)

If this is the case... I would not put any amount on your reward or if the other guy also has the amount, I would put equal or less amount on your poster...

there are some fast thinking scammers around and even something that is innocent as trying to find a cat can be a victim.
posted by curiousleo at 3:45 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is fucked up and sad and kind of funny all at once, MC. If it were me I'd have already dialed the number, done a reverse lookup, and/or printed a second, very different poster and re-canvassed the neighborhood.

I really hope you find your cat. :(

If you are too busy to do a different poster please email me those pictures of Al and I will send you a PDF by tonight.

:(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:53 PM on July 19, 2007


If you had reward amount up.. than my first thought would be .. that this person may also want to find your cat by putting up these posters first and claim your reward. (well before i go on...is this person also putting up reward amount? or is it lower than your amount?)

If this is the case... I would not put any amount on your reward or if the other guy also has the amount, I would put equal or less amount on your poster...


We have other posters up with a reward amount (500 bucks). Version two and three of the poster is color with the reward very prominent. I talked to a pet detective who said this was key to getting the poster noticed, so we're going with that. They're not offering a reward, as far as I can tell.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:54 PM on July 19, 2007


The most suspicious part is changing the name from "Al" to "AT."

To me, thats actually the least suspicious part because it means they didn't understand that Al was the name of the cat.
posted by vacapinta at 3:54 PM on July 19, 2007


If you are too busy to do a different poster please email me those pictures of Al and I will send you a PDF by tonight.

That's really kind. But as I mentioned (before I saw your comment) we do have a bunch of very different posters up. And fortunately, based on reliable-seeming sightings, he's in a different neighborhood from where the other folks' posters are appearing. But I don't want to minimize any chance of finding him if he's moved into the area with the counterfeits.

As of a week ago, we're certain that he's still alive and wearing his collar and he's microchipped as well. Since he started out as a homeless cat, everyone knowledgeable has said that he's on "walkabout" and has a good chance of coming home. He was a barn cat that had been hanging around the Fruitlands museum in Harvard, MA for about the first ten months of his life. He walked under our tent (out of the rain) at our wedding and my wife put him on her lap and fed him her dinner and told me we were keeping him. So we know he knows how to take care of himself, especially in a suburban neighborhood where people leave food out on the deck for their own cats.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:05 PM on July 19, 2007


It looks sincere to me. They've got a picture of a kid and everything. I actually feel really sorry for them, I mean having a missing cat and not knowing what to do about it...

What I would do: Either let it lie, or if you really can't stand to have posters that look alike make up a fourth poster and replace your old ones (they're probably in shreds now from weather anyway). Don't contact the other people because it sounds like they have enough troubles already.
posted by anaelith at 4:06 PM on July 19, 2007


Agreeing with Vacapinta on the AL to AT change; it's the most likely part of the sign to cause confusion to a non-english speaker, so much so that when I first read it I had to read it again to parse the name.
posted by davejay at 4:07 PM on July 19, 2007


If you contact them, and find out that it's not a joke, maybe you could ask them about their cat's name? If their cat is not actually named AT, and it's simply a language confusion, I would spend some time kindly telling them how they could make their poster better...they're missing their cat too and that sucks; with your help, you'll both have a better chance at locating your respective cats.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:16 PM on July 19, 2007


Without a doubt, the best way to find the answer is to call them.

That said, just for my own curiosity: How many posters did you have up in your neighbourhood? How long have you been putting them up for?

In general - I can't really imagine someone parodying a lost cat poster. But if you've really been blanketing the neighbourhood, I can begin to imagine how someone would, just for fun, think it was amusing to put up parodies (because pretty much anything ubiquitous becomes fun to parody, and because, not to belittle the seriousness of your lost cat, I can imagine how a million lost cat posters, of varying design, all over the neighbourhood, might begin seem like a target for parody to some people...)

Hope you find your cat!

And hope you let us know the resolution to this mystery.
posted by ManInSuit at 4:21 PM on July 19, 2007


I just called the number, and got a machine. Didn't leave a message. The person on the machine is a native speaker of Russian or a related East Slavic language (Russian is the most common first language in ths area for people who are not native english speakers). So it sounds like the non-native speaker theory is dead on.

I don't know enough Russian to be useful if their english is poor ("pisda" doesn't exactly mean "cat"), but fortunately one of my former college roommates lives in the area and is a native speaker.

I would spend some time kindly telling them how they could make their poster better...

I'm going to take cortex's suggestion and offer to make them a new, distinct poster. I'll even get their initial run printed if it seems like they're pinched. Anything to get those posters off the street.

Either let it lie, or if you really can't stand to have posters that look alike make up a fourth poster and replace your old ones (they're probably in shreds now from weather anyway).

Unfortunately, it's a (can't believing I'm using this term in this context) branding issue. Hundreds of people have seen the original poster and associate that format with Alcott. I can't take the risk that someone will find him and then call those other people because they went back to a poster they thought as mine and copy the wrong number. Because they're used to seeing that general layout and thinking "Al" and didn't look carefully.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:28 PM on July 19, 2007


nthing 'template for non-english speaker'
posted by desjardins at 4:31 PM on July 19, 2007


Update: I called the number again, and spoke with a Russian man. He told me that he copied my wording because his english is lacking and thought my posters were very good. Which would be flattering except for the (minor but it matters to me a lot) confusion.

Best of all, he said that he found his cat (hiding a few doors down) and his posters would be removed. If they're not gone by tomorrow morning, I'm taking them down myself.

So it's resolved, I guess. It was a language issue, which doesn't necessarily excuse the wholesale layout lift but makes it more understandable (and being angry about isn't going to bring my cat back). And the posters will be off the street by tomorrow's commute without me having to do anything except pull down any that I see without worrying that I'm impeding someone else's efforts.

Thanks very much everyone.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:58 PM on July 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sorry, MC, like an idiot I missed what you wrote in the [MI]. Glad to hear the resolution to this question and I hope you and Al are reuinted soon.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2007


Wow. I'm glad it got resolved, but I sure hope you get your cat back. Please keep us updated.
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on July 19, 2007


At first I agreed with the non-native English speakers who have actually lost their cat theory, but now I think there are just too many points of similarity.

Their cat was even lost on the same day of the week, except later (because people do stop looking and because lots of places tear down stale posters). The spelling, capitalization and punctuation are identical to yours, including the British "grey." They might have left off the blue collar because that would disqualify some candidate cats they might otherwise get. They do not specify the age of the cat; you are assuming younger because of the picture, but the child might be just a better hook, and they could explain any age discrepancy by saying it was an old picture.

'AT' instead of 'AL' is interesting, but I would tend to explain that as a typo of the anticipatory kind I often make (they had to type AT later in the sentence), especially since their native alphabet was probably Cyrillic.

A scam would not necessarily have to come up with your cat, but merely one you would take for yours, and $500 is incentive enough for the cold-blooded. If it is a scam, I think they intend for anyone who has seen one of your posters to assume theirs is just another one from you.

And if it is a scam, they probably used an image from some on-line source for their photo. I looked for it very briefly, but didn't find it on Google Images.

Good luck.

On preview, my suspicions are not entirely allayed, even after you talked to him. His response is what I would have been prepared to say if the person who had put up the original poster called me. If you had gotten your cat back wouldn't you immediately re-record your outgoing message to reflect the fact, broken English or not?
posted by jamjam at 5:59 PM on July 19, 2007


Oh, Mayor Curley, I hope you find your cat. I work near your posters and we've been keeping our eyes open for you. I am going to tear down the poster I drive by coming off of the nearby highway that someone wrote "who cares" on -- it's been bothering me and we were actually talking about your posters today.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 6:04 PM on July 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well, glad to see you got some resolution on the question.

Hope you find your cat...I'm glad the other guy found his but it's still very sad that you haven't found yours. Sorry to hear it, and good luck.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:12 PM on July 19, 2007


Unrelated to the flier but when we lost our (indoor) cat we got her right back by opening a window and getting rid of all the cat food. She came back in the middle of the night, saw there wasn't any food, and woke up my wife to feed her. If yours is able to feed herself outside it may not work as well, but here's to hoping this will help someone else reading this thread.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:21 PM on July 19, 2007


I am going to tear down the poster I drive by coming off of the nearby highway that someone wrote "who cares" on -- it's been bothering me and we were actually talking about your posters today.

Wow. What a small world! If you did that, it would be great. I haven't noticed it yet, but I have a lot of posters out. I'm in the process of replacing them anyway, but I would rather not come across that one while I'm doing it. I didn't for a minute think that anyone who's actually seen the signs would read this post, much less comment in it!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:32 PM on July 19, 2007


I was a student teacher at the elementary school a few streets down from you and I know the kid in the picture. Just thought I'd reinforce the not-a-scam-ness. I hope your cat finds his way home.
posted by Marit at 6:39 PM on July 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


I was a student teacher at the elementary school a few streets down from you and I know the kid in the picture. Just thought I'd reinforce the not-a-scam-ness. I hope your cat finds his way home.

Yeah, it's very clear to me what happened now. Innocuous, but it had me very creeped out for a bit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:44 PM on July 19, 2007


I talked to a pet detective who said this was key to getting the poster noticed, so we're going with that. They're not offering a reward, as far as I can tell.

First of all: pet detective? This is, like, a real profession? I owe some screenwriters an apology.

Second, even if this was innocent, what a great scam idea. I am saving this one for when I'm penniless on the street, equipped with nothing but my wits and a photocopier.

Third: One more voice hoping you find your cat.
posted by rokusan at 7:09 PM on July 19, 2007


Given the choice between the two, I wish you'd solved the mystery of your cat's whereabouts instead of the poster. Hope you find 'im.
posted by davejay at 10:46 PM on July 19, 2007


With all the multiple versions (4 of your own, plus this other one) and the amount of canvasing it sounds like you are participating in, I would assume this was not a real lost cat and actually some sort of public art piece.

I think the detective is right. $500 REWARD. Everything else is details.

I do hope you find your cat.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:58 PM on July 19, 2007


Sympathy, MC. I know how much it can hurt to loose one's cat. Mine was missing in Brooklyn awhile, and people thought I was crazy for looking for her, as there were many strays (this was before cats were so popular). I found mine hanging out with a bunch of alley cats a mere block from home. She was slightly (3) pregnant.

I don't know your area, but I'd look for where other cats are congregating. Might be difficult though!
posted by Goofyy at 4:31 AM on July 20, 2007


I don't know your area, but I'd look for where other cats are congregating. Might be difficult though!

I heard about a feral cat colony in the area. It's in a construction yard, and the owner has neutered and vaccinated about 30 feral cats out of his own pocket. He just lets these cats live in his yard, takes the ones that are approachable to the animal rescue league and lets the others live there to not reproduce because they're unadoptable and would be destroyed.

So I went to check it out, and this gruff construction guy gave me a suspicious "can I help you?" because I'm a pretty clean-cut suburban wiener type who was strolling into the yard. I pulled out a picture of Al and asked if anyone had seen him. Turns out the guy was the owner, and his demeanor instantly changed to friendly. The tough-looking contractor loves cats and doesn't hide it-- told me about his cats at home and the ones he's had that have gone missing and come home. He hadn't seen Alcott, but he said he would call if he did.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:24 AM on July 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


We had a very independent striper who would take off for a couple of weeks, then came home. Locutus was well known for hanging out with people he seemed to like better than us, or perhaps needed him more (like the little old lady across the street), but then he'd show up again. I hope Alcott comes home too.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:03 PM on July 20, 2007


I got married at Fruitlands too (and grew up in Harvard) and of course, Alcott is a perfect name for a "Transcendentalist" cat.

I hope you find him.
posted by nekton at 6:40 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Any luck, Mayor Curley?
posted by dersins at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2007


Any luck, Mayor Curley?

We had a possible sighting a few days ago. Nothing else yet.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:56 AM on July 28, 2007


A slight derail, but that is a fantastic story on how you found/adopted the cat. My best wishes go to you recovering him.
posted by Lizc at 1:13 PM on August 30, 2007


Just thought to wrap this up. Al never came home. We updated his microchip info when we moved. But a photo of one of my color posters (not the one linked above) on a telephone pole accompanied an article in the Sunday Globe about people going all out searching for lost pets. So Al's kind of famous! (I emailed the reporter and gave him my new contact info. No bites, but it had been nearly a year.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2008


« Older Vendors who supply voicemail as mp3's?   |   I, an idiot, have locked myself out of my Flickr... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.