Rescue Cats, Contract Conditions, Houdini, Declawing, Pet Custody, It's All Here

I anticipate no contentious interaction in this thread, since it involves the topics of cats, law, and social media norms, upon which there is near-universal agreement as to norms.

This is the story of a Maine Coon named Reggie. Reggie is a rescue cat, and in the Chicago neighborhood in which the Illinois Centennial Monument stands proud, Reggie was rescued five years ago by Feline Friends, an all-volunteer, nonprofit, cat rescue outfit. Feline Friends permitted an artist in the neighborhood named Rachael Siciliano to adopt Reggie, subject to a long list of conditions. Siciliano (who goes by the name Rae Bees, because she is an artist) agreed, for example, to never declaw Reggie and to maintain him as an indoor cat.

Reggie still has his claws, but the latter condition has become contentious.

Reggie escaped. In an effort to find him, Bees posted a humorous Facebook picture of Reggie, with a caption saying, “I’m lost (again).”

Reggie was found, and his implanted chip was scanned. The chip was still registered to Feline Friends, so they were notified; they in turn found Bees’ Facebook post, and were alarmed to discover this wasn’t the first time Reggie was lost. In fact, combing through Bees’ social media postings, they found photographic evidence of multiple instances of Reggie hanging out in the backyard with Bees’ friends. Felines Friends decided that Bees was not honoring the condition that Reggie be an indoor cat, and refused to return him.

Bees, predictably, was upset with this decision. She averred that Reggie was not routinely permitted outside – that he was merely an accomplished escape artist. She says she offered several concessions: she obtained a GPS tracking cat collar and told Feline Friends they could have unlimited access to track Reggie day or night. She offered to post bail: $1500 to be forfeited to the agency if Reggie ever escaped again. She even offered to accept unscheduled Skype sessions any time Feline Friends wanted to confirm Reggie was in fact inside and safe.

Feline Friends declined all of these offers, according to Bees.

So she sued.

Felines Friends says that they had a contract which Bees breached, and so they are keeping Reggie. Bees (through her lawyers) says there was no enforceable contract; the conditions were simply a list of desired future events, and Feline Friends cannot exert that level of control over her pet, which is an animal she owns and has for the past five years, when she acquired him from Feline Friends.

Here is the Chicago Trib’s report.

I side with Bees. The cat is hers. Even if there was a contract, and it was breached, it’s unclear to me under what legal basis Feline Friends can engage in this kind of self-help. (If I were to learn that the contract explicitly contemplates this, my view might change). And of course civil law is not my cuppa, so take that conclusion with large heaps of salt.

When I was on the board of dog rescue organizations, we had adopters sign contracts like this. (Not quite as demanding.) I’ve always wondered how enforceable, they were, though. I doubt much at all. So this is interesting, thanks for posting!

Another fun question: does allowing a cat to hang around in the backyard with its owner and friends count as permitting a cat to live “outside”? I’m not sure it does. It is arguably being supervised. It’s unclear to me that they have grounds for the claim in the first place.

So Reggie’s basically just sitting in the backyard, with his owner, and that’s grounds for taking him away? He’s never been found roaming, or running down the streets? That’s insane.

What exactly does she mean by “lost”, or “escape”? I mean, how is the cat getting out? No, I don’t think the cat should be taken away, but I do find it puzzling that a cat could be that good of an escape artist.

It doesn’t sound like the issue was the cat sitting outside in the backyard. Bees “acknowledges Reggie escaped several times a week.” Either she’s stretching the truth, or she’s doing a spectacularly bad job keeping the cat inside. I can see the rescue outfit getting a bit frustrated by that.

I can’t comment on the force of the contract or what should happen legally. IMO, the rescue org is right to take some action, but they should have been more willing to work with Bees. That said, I don’t know what happened before the negotiations “broke down,” so maybe there’s more to it.

Well, he was “found” during one of of his walkabouts, which is how he ended up in the custody of Feline Friends.

The laws regarding lost pets seem to vary quite a bit. In the relevant venue, Illinois, Feline Friends appears in violation of 720 ILCS 5/16-2:

Unless there’s a contract or verbal understanding of some sort that the ownership was conditional and could be revoked, I don’t see that Feline Friends has a leg to stand on, though I can picture them spending a lot in legal fees trying to claim otherwise.

Well I had a Maine Coon cat that loved to escape and did not like being confined inside. I talked more than one landlord into letting her live in a no-pets apartment (although in one case the downstairs tenant was the landlady’s mother-in-law and she was a crazy cat lady who had like 37 cats, so I figured the landlady couldn’t possibly notice one more and she didn’t).

So this cat would tear open the screens on doors or windows so she had her own exit and entrance. And at one place, whenever the landlady saw the torn screen, she would replace it and charge me $25. In this manner the cat cost me at least $250. When that cat wanted out, she wanted out NOW. It would be safe to say she “escaped” several times a week. I lived on a busy street at the time and I really would have preferred if she’d stayed inside but she just didn’t like it.

On the other hand she was never lost and she would follow me on walks, for miles. Ranging away when something interested her, always coming back, including when I called her.

It doesn’t have to be a Maine Coon cat; there are other cats that prefer to go outside at times. But Maine Coons can be forceful about it, no question.

I have to side with the cat owner here. Some cats just don’t accept being or becoming indoor cats. Sitting outside on the patio with your human companions is not being an outdoor cat, either.

Yeah, screw Feline Friends.

Contracts like these cannot be given merit in any form because there is no clear place to draw the line. Can they also dictate what cat food she can eat? Or medication she can have? Give me a damn break.

And as a cat rescue agency, you’d think they’d know just how sneaky and quick cats can be when they want to escape their gilded cage.

Maybe they could sue for breach of contract. In that event, they would have to prove damages. I doubt they have the right to someone’s cat in the event of a breach.

So I might take a different tack than most people here, having worked for six years at an animal shelter and seeing hundreds of lost cats come to us and be euthanized because their owners didn’t find them after they got out.

I might, but I won’t, because screw Feline Friends. Pet ownership is never a perfect thing, and cats have personalities and wills, and it’s insane to think that reclaiming the cat and putting it with someone who successfully imprisons it is going to give it a better quality of life than leaving it with the person who loves it and whom it’s bonded with (“love” being a strong word for what a cat feels for a person) and who, yes, fails to imprison the cat that so desperately desires to go outside every so often.

I laughed my head off at this paragraph and then exited the thread. Have fun, y’all. :wink:

I was going to mention liquidated damages, but I thought that liquidated cat sounded gross.

Never watched “Hoarders”, have you?

MfM, Hater of cats and Protector of birds, chimes in.

  1. Look the article says that the owner is getting 1 hour visitation rights per week. What more does she want?

  2. Heh.

  3. Apparently, the legal paperwork devoted to this case numbers in the hundreds of pages.

  4. That’s awesome.

  5. Outdoor cats (and feral cats) are vicious predators of birds, lizards, and frogs. They need to be locked up. The cats, I mean.

  6. But this drama takes place in greater Chicago. I’m guessing that the kitty isn’t interacting with a lot of endangered species. Absent evidence to the contrary, I’m awarding custody to Bees.

  7. More seriously, I found a copy of the Feline Friends adoption contract online, for our reference:

It asks a number of questions about what the owner plans to do with the cat. At the bottom, in capital letters, it says that any misrepresentation gives Feline Friends the right to reclaim the cat without refund of the adoption fee.

I’m not quite convinced that Bees’ behavior rises to the level of misrepresentation. The questions could reasonably be interpreted as aspirational.

I have a Maine Coon rescue, he loves to be outdoors! I have a 5000 sq.ft. safety enclosure for the cats where he spends most of his time, but he escapes at will and is a champ at catching cotton rats. He’s the closest to a wild animal of any cat I’ve ever seen. We had a misunderstanding 2 years ago and he buried his teeth in my left calf. The boy weighs 25 pounds, the damage at Doc In The Box came to 250.00. Recently he was going off on my little 8 lb Russian Blue and I grabbed him up (it was 3 in the morning and I was naked and half awake) (ha! he just came to my window and invited me out to sit with him on the tree stump I split firewood on) but miscalculated and he managed to sink his teeth to the bone in my right wrist. I danced around with him a bit, finally had to bite him on the scruff of the neck as hard as I could with my human teeth to get him to let go. That bite didn’t infect, think I have a lot of antibodies for Pasteurella now. He sleeps with me most nights, all snuggled up to my side, we’re besties, love my Maine Coon rescue! His name is Beau.

Ms Siciliano should not have signed papers agreeing to things she did not intend to do.

Do you believe she intended to lose her cat?

On the other hand, it’s hard to have a good quality of life if you’re dead, which commonly happens to cats that “escape” frequently and especially to those that wander loose in an urban/semiurban environment.

An abandoned Maine coon that we adopted years ago had a fine time living outdoors in the country (he couldn’t live in the house because Mrs. J. has a severe cat allergy), up until the time that an animal found and killed him. Quality of life ended at that point.

Way too many cat owners think it’s “natural” for their cats to roam outdoors or that it’s “cruel” to keep them inside (or in an enclosed run outdoors. It’s a form of naturalistic fallacy in most instances.

#Notallcats subscribe to “Live Free or Die” as a personal motto, and that’s why it’s a naturalistic fallacy. However, some cats do indeed try to get outside any chance they get. They’re expressing their desires as completely and fully as they can.

The alternative fallacy, the anthropomorphic/ethnocentric fallacy, suggests that cats are like 21st century middle class Americans and value length of life over any other aspect of life. I see no reason to think that this particular cat, were he able to articulate his desires, would rather live a long life stuck inside all the time than have an adventurous shorter life where he goes outside, explores, and encounters danger.

In general, most cats are perfectly content to stay inside all the time. But most is not all.

She signed saying she’d keep the cat indoors. Pictures show that clearly wasn’t being done.