I think we stole a cat - What would you do?

BakedSardine

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4 years ago we had an acquaintance in our neighborhood send out a note to see if anyone wanted to take in a cat. Apparently this cat had been hanging out at their house for the past several months, sleeping on their porch, etc. and because winter was coming, they didn't want to just leave it out to freeze. A house had recently been abandoned/foreclosed near them and they assumed that the cat was from that house and just left when the family left. They would have taken it in, but her husband was extremely allergic.

The cat was pretty young (2 at most) so we decided to take it in since our kids (oldest was 6 at the time) had been pestering us for a pet. So the cat is great and when we took it to get spayed, they let us know she had already been spayed, which wasn't unusual since we figured someone had owned her before.

Fast forward to yesterday and my wife and son are riding bikes over in the area where our friend lives and they notice a cat without a collar that looks EXACTLY like our cat. Someone at the house notices and my wife chats them up saying we have a cat that looks exactly the same - same size, etc. The man she's talking to says, that this cat was the kitten of another cat they had, but that cat ran away 2-3 years ago. At that point, it dawns on my wife that the cat we took in, unbeknownst to us, was owned by whoever lives at this house, was originally an outdoor cat, and probably just wandered over the 300 feet or so to our friend's house and hung around because they fed it, thinking it was abandoned.

Of course our kids are now super attached to the cat and I think we've come to decision that we're not going to say anything about it.Considering this was 4 years ago, it was an outdoor cat, and the 'owner" never even bothered to put up a LOST sign, we don't feel too bad about it.

What would you do?
 

Barbas

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The cat didn't have a collar, or any indication that it had anything to do with humans and wasn't simply a stray?

This is what happens. I say just accept it. Cats just wander around and now you've both got one. Everyone has won today.
 

Rabbitboy

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I would still see the cat as their property (assuming it really is their cat). I would simply tell them what happened and see what we can work out.
 

Flutterguy

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Seems like you've done more for the cat then they ever did, and are more emotionally invested. Strange question to ask on this board though.

So what did everybody think of the new season of Bojack Horseman?
 

TwistednMean

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It is a cat. You feed it, you care for it, the animal is happy. I doubt there is a strong attachment to old owners on the cat's side after three years. Same goes for folks who lost a cat three years ago and never bothered to put up a notice. Also a grown up cat has no real market value, so you don't owe them anything.
 

JoJo

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I say cut the cat in half and you and the original owner can each take your share.[footnote]Disclaimer, don't actually do this[/footnote]

Nah, I say keep it, you've clearly had the cat long enough that the bond between it and your family is far stronger than it's past. No sense upsetting your kids.
 

Asita

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While it's not impossible, you do realize that if all the estimates are correct then you'd have to assume that your cat carried and weaned a litter, was spayed and ran away before she was 2 years old, right? Again, not impossible, but it seems a bit unlikely. If nothing else, I'd have expected that the cat would have been spayed at between 8 weeks to 5 months of age, before it could have gotten pregnant.
 

Euryalus

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Spray paint the cat yellow, tell everyone it went super saiyan, and start a journey to become "that guy" in the neighborhood. Every neighborhood needs a "that guy."

Start a blog about it and post the results of your new found neighborhood role here so that we get some good entertainment from it all.
 

Zhukov

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Well, the right thing to do would be to go and talk to your neighbour and see if you do indeed have their cat.

But the question was what would I do.

I wouldn't do the right thing. I'd totally keep the cat.
 

MiskWisk

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I have to question whether they kept the cat indoors long enough for it to associate that house as home. You see, you are supposed to keep the cat indoors for a set amount of time so the cat identifies that house as "home." If you don't do it the cat goes ahead and does what this one has, namely find a place with good food.

That said, I'd just do what you've done. They've not bothered looking apparently, the cat has made it's choice and the whole thing is wrapped up. Additionally, if you have taken it to the vets and they didn't flag anything up it's probably not going to be a big deal. Here I'd say just let the sleeping dogs, or in this case cats, lie.
 

madwarper

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Did you steal the cat? No. Not according to your original statement. You found the cat with no identification (collar or microchip) and with the good faith information of your friend thought it was abandoned, so you 'rescued' it. You probably should have put up flyers in that neighborhood advertising that you found the cat in case its owner could reach out to reclaim it, but it's years too late for that.

As for what to do now, be honest. You might also look up your local statute of limitations laws, as that would be your best case scenario to lay claim to the cat... But, it would be best it you could come to a reasonable understanding with this other person, assuming they were the (former) owner of the cat, in that they might just be happy that the cat landed in a good home.

https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-legal-rights-and-duties-lost-pet-disputes
 

TheRightToArmBears

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Barbas said:
The cat didn't have a collar, or any indication that it had anything to do with humans and wasn't simply a stray?

This is what happens. I say just accept it. Cats just wander around and now you've both got one. Everyone has won today.
This, really. As you say, four years have passed- may as well let it lie. Besides, if you're dumb enough not to put a collar on your pet and let it wander around outside, then tough titties really.
 

Guffe

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After 4 years the cat would most likely come over to your place even if you "gave it back to the owners".
Just keep the thing, they got a new one, almost identical, you and your wife knows or have your assumptions about the origin of the cat.
I wouldn't say anything wrong has happened in your case.
 
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What do you know about the neighbours?

Because honestly, they might let you keep the cat anyways. It would probably be awkward, but they might be relieved to know that their cat isn't dead and is doing fine.

It's an difficult situation, but after four years have passed, I'd just be happy to be able to see the cat again, and I wouldn't want to make it change homes again
 

Redlin5_v1legacy

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I don't think you behaved unethically. It would be hard on the kids and the animal now if you removed it from the home, I'd leave things be. No need to feel bad about it, as long as the cat is being cared for well there is no need to disrupt life.
 

Silvanus

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The cat belongs to him/herself, and always did.


CAPTCHA: "Describe this brand with any word(s): CAT".

Damn spoopy Captcha...
 

FalloutJack

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Four years? The cat has adopted you. Keep it, feed it, make it happy.
 

Callate

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I'm guessing that when you took the cat into the vet, they checked to see if it had an ID chip implanted in the back of its neck?

I can't say that I think you've done anything particularly wrong. It sounds like the cat is bonded to you and your family at this point; even if it were to return to its original owners (assuming they are, in fact, the original owners), there's no saying it would necessarily get along with the new family and its own offspring.

And you've now been "boarding" the creature for four years, and as you say, the hypothetical original owners never bothered with a collar or a "lost cat" sign. Also, if it is their cat, apparently they never bothered to spay it until after it had kittens. So...

I'll grant there's a bit of "situational ethics" to the whole situation. In a perfect world, you would come clean about what you think may have happened, they would say, "Oh, that's all right, keep the cat", and everyone would come away with a warm feeling. But various experiences (including foster parent training) have instilled in me a certain grim sense that doing what's actually best for those involved (including, in this case, at least two cats) is more important than doing what sounds good on paper (unvarnished honesty and possibly having to return the cat to its "original" home.)

Sometimes one has to try to live up to ideals even when they don't work so well in reality; I don't think this is such a case.
 

Raggedstar

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This is why microchipping pets is so important. Unless your pet has something that sets them apart, it can be impossible to tell the difference of two cats on looks alone if they're the same colour and body type (and among moggy cats, that's definitely a thing that happens).

If you checked local listings for lost cats, scanned for microchips or looked for tattoos (collars aren't always on outdoor cats. Ideally they wear the snap-off ones that would break off so the cat can't get caught or strangled with it. Also nothing stopping someone from simply stealing the cat and tossing away the collar, if someone happens to be morally bankrupt), then I think you acted ethically. You could've called the local pound, vet clinics, or posted "Found" ads, but a bit late now. One of the problems with keeping cats outside is that you can't always tell the difference between a stray cat that needs a home, or an outdoor cat that has a happy home and just wants to hang out with you. I work at a vet clinic, and there was a family with an outdoor cat that visited another family for weeks, and then they fought about it. Regardless of what you do from now on with this cat, I don't think you're at fault. I understand if the family has a member with allergies, but the outdoors can be such a terrible place for cats (depending where you live). And if they allowed an unspayed female cat to run around (and I assume this also because they apparently have a kitten of the cat in question), that's something I don't find to be ethical or responsible pet ownership. Cats wander a lot when they're looking to breed, so there's their problem.