A woman who took in what she thought was a stray cat, fed it, and took it to the vet was upset when the owner knocked on her door and claimed it back.
The dispute over who the tabby belonged to escalated to the point the police were called and each ended up with a non-harassment order against the other.
The Disputes Tribunal said while it sympathised with the woman who took in the moggy, she wasn’t the rightful owner and it dismissed the claim.
It followed a similar case when in January last year NZME reported a distraught family lost their fight for the return of their beloved pet cat after taking their case to the Disputes Tribunal, despite winning the case.
The tribunal was once more asked to weigh in on a debate over a cat when the woman at the centre of the current case moved to a new address in February 2022 and formed a bond with a young white and ginger tom cat.
She named him, left a window open for him to come and go and allowed the cat to sleep on her bed.
She placed a notice on a community Facebook page asking if anyone owned the cat but got no response.
She decided the cat was a stray and in need of care so took him to the vet to be vaccinated and to treat a weeping eye, got him microchipped and registered in her name, and also obtained pet insurance for him.
The woman was upset when the cat’s real owner knocked on her door in July of this year and asked that she not feed his cat.
The tabby stopped his usual visits so the woman sought an order from the Disputes Tribunal that she take possession of the cat and be compensated for the expenses she incurred and for the emotional distress she had endured.
Tribunal referee Krysia Cowie said the woman didn’t dispute that the cat belonged to someone else, but felt she ought to be given ownership because she had cared for him when he needed it and had incurred some expense as a result.
Along with the vet bills and cost of microchipping the cat, she had also bought a formulated cat biscuit because she had noticed the cat was getting fat.
Cowie said the woman was clearly upset that the cat no longer visited or slept on her bed.
The cat’s owner told the tribunal he had owned the animal since he was a kitten and provided evidence from the breeder to prove this.
He agreed that the tabby was a friendly and adorable cat, but he did not know that the woman was letting him into her home, feeding him or taking him to the vet.
He had since been visited by both the police and SPCA who had found the animal in good condition.
Cowie agreed that it was the nature of a friendly cat to make neighbourhood visits and that the woman did not have a claim to him.
The tribunal said the cat’s owner was unaware the woman had incurred any expense during her care of the animal, and considered she had interfered in his caring for it.
Cowie said the expense incurred was based on the presumption the cat was a stray, and was always subject to the “very real risk” that he already had an owner and that the woman who’d taken him in was “not entitled to assert herself in his place”.
Cowie hoped the parties could now put the upsetting ordeal behind them.
Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.