Kitty killer: a true story

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday 28 November, 2019, after 5:00 pm.

My family had Thanksgiving dinner three days early because of relatives who traveled out of town and were unable to stay until the actual Thanksgiving day. So my husband, Sean, and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home the two of us. That afternoon, our neighbor Rose had family visiting from out of town: her brother Burt with his wife and children. Sean and I met him on the front lawn. He was holding his baby girl in his arms.  Our kitty Thanos walked up to us. Burt admired the dominant grey rosettes on his back. I picked him up and petted him. He squirmed in my arms and jumped down on the grass. That was the last time I saw him.

Thanos and his brother, Chaos, were a gift from my sister-in-law, a licensed breeder of Bengal cats. At ten weeks old, both Bengal kittens were as cute as a button. I had never seen such gorgeous cats before. Their fur was silky and soft to the touch like a luxurious cashmere sweater. This cat breed is considered an exotic animal and priced at over $950. Of the two kittens, Thanos was the most beautiful and lovable kitten which everyone wanted to pet. He would let the neighbors’ children cuddle him and play with him. He had grey fur with prominent darker grey rosettes. He had an athletic build, long, slim, and swift. His body temperature was higher than that of other cats. When he would cuddle next to me, he would feel like a hot water bottle, guaranteed to keep my feet warm at cold winter nights. I had nicknamed him “Sweet Pea” because of his sweet, friendly nature.

Chaos, on the other hand, has a muscular build with brown rosettes that cover his light golden fur. Ironically, he almost died when he was a kitten. He had a respiratory infection and he wouldn’t eat because he couldn’t smell the food. But after weeks of hand feeding him scrambled eggs and homemade meals, he miraculously recovered. Suddenly, he was growing at a fast rate into a “body builder” as I had nicknamed him. He is my sweet troublemaker, withdrawn, independent, feisty, and scared of his own shadow.

We had trained both Thanos and Chaos to use the pet door on the kitchen wall instead of the cat litter. Our kitties would love to go outside to chase squirrels and birds, and to explore the neighborhood. They would follow our older cat who would teach them how to hunt. They would always return home for catnaps and at nights.

The first week of December

Thanos hadn’t come home that Thanksgiving night, nor the next seven nights. Sean and I were worried. We suspected that a neighbor or a neighbor’s relatives visiting on Thanksgiving Day had lured our kitty with food, grabbed him, and kept him in their house. “As long as he is safe…” I thought. On Thursday, December 5, Sean and I called several vets in town, the Humane Society, and the Animal Shelter to notify them that Thanos was missing. The day before, Sean saw Miguel, our neighbor across our house, on the front home lawn.

“How you’re doing, Mr. Sean?” he asked. Sean was puzzled. Miguel and his family talk to us only when they want something from us: a handyman, an auto tool, or a sale from Avon’s catalog. Clearly that wasn’t an amicable and neighborly greeting.

“We’re missing our grey cat, Thanos,” Sean replied. “He’s been gone for a week. From Thanksgiving.”

“Ah, he ran away,” Miguel nosed about.

“That cat didn’t run away. He was stolen!”

“How do you know he was stolen?”

“That cat always comes back home at night. You and Rose had lots of relatives visiting on Thanksgiving.”

“Are you saying that one of my relatives got him?”

“I’m not saying anything. That cat is considered an exotic animal. He has a chip on his shoulders. Whoever has him, eventually will have to take him to the vet. The vet will scan his chip and notify his owner.  I may never find the cat, but if I find the bastard who stole him, he’ll pay for it. I’ll take him to the courts.” Sean was angry.

Miguel looked scared. “Ahhm, don’t you think that’s a bit harsh?”

“No, it’s not. The person who got him must be one sorry individual!”

A normal person would have said “I’m sorry. I hope you find your cat,” but Miguel was just nosing around.

On Thursday, I made and printed several fliers with Thanos’ picture on them and some contact info. I also posted an ad in The Valdosta Daily Times, the local newspaper, which run for three days. On Friday morning, December 6, Sean drove around the neighborhood and stapled the fliers on stop sign posts and wooden electric poles.

The weekend of 7—8 December

On Saturday, December 7, a neighbor called my cell phone and left a voice message:

“Hello. This is concerning your cat, Thanos. I think I found him, here on Guest Road, if you know where the pond is, and you got a sign up. He’s just a little bit up the road and he’s been dead. Sorry to have to tell you that.”

I called him back to thank him and I drove to the location he mentioned near the pond. The pond was a small draining hole next to his house and behind Miguel’s house. Tall weeds and grass surrounded the pond. My kitties probably go there to hunt for mice and other small rodents, which they bring in my house occasionally as “presents.” Sean arrived at the same location a couple minutes after. And there he was, my sweet kitty, dead on the wet grass by the pavement edge. His lower body was lain sideways; his upper body was in prone position as if twisted, and his head facing left. Maggots bursting out of his mouth, his right eye swollen, his tongue black-purple, the tip of his left ear missing, a small rectangular patch of bare skin exposed on his left hip. No scratches or bruises on his body, and not a drop a blood. His turquoise collar was off his neck and next to his head. Sean asked me to drive home, while he placed Thanos into a large trash bag and brought him home to bury. Before we buried him by the garden, we drove to the neighbor’s house to thank him in person for letting us know that he had found our kitty. It was Thursday evening when he had found Thanos while jogging with his dog. He said that he jogged the same route every day, and that he hadn’t seen our flier until Friday.

“At least you have closure,” he said.

Indeed, we had closure, but we also had questions: What had happened to Thanos? Who had taken him? Was his death an accident or intentional? Was he hit by a car? Very unlikely. Why was his collar off his neck? Perhaps, the neighbor who had found him, had removed the collar to search for an ID tag. Several scenarios and possible answers went through our mind.

We went home. Sean wore gloves, pulled Thanos’s dead body out of the trash bag, and examined it: broken neck bones, bloody red eyeballs, and black tongue color, a sign of blood stagnation. As a medical professional, Sean determined that Thanos had been strangled. What a horrible way to lose our pet!  We buried Thanos next to our garden in the back yard. We suspected that Miguel’s relatives had taken Thanos; that Miguel asked his relatives to bring the cat back when he found out that it had a chip; that his relatives tried to catch the cat, put a leash around its neck, pull it out of its hiding place, and strangled it in the process; and that they damped its body by the side of the road behind Miguel’s house to make it look like a car accident. This was just a scenario. We had no proof. Just our gut feeling.

On Sunday afternoon, December 8, a young man knocked on my door. He said that he had found our kitty on Thursday, December 5, when he was jogging. He showed me a picture of Thanos’s dead body which he forwarded to me by email. He mentioned that he hadn’t touched him and that his neck seemed broken. On this picture, Thanos’s body looked fresh still and not partially decomposed as we had found him on Saturday.  He was alive for seven days, and he must have been killed that Thursday.

Wednesday, December 24

On Christmas day, Miguel approached Sean while pulling a young yellow lab by its leash. He had found the dog wandering on his front lawn.

“This is your lab,” Miguel said to Sean.

“No, it’s not!” Sean answered, knowing that Miguel was hiding his intentions. Miguel knew very well that this dog wasn’t our yellow lab. Ours was an older female lab with more golden than yellow fur.

“Oh, I thought he was yours. He has an ID. I’ll call the owner,” Miguel replied.

“You can call the owner, but I’ll keep the dog in my back yard to stay safe,” Sean stated and led the dog in our fenced back yard. He didn’t want the dog to have a similar fate as Thanos. He knew that Miguel was pretending to be concerned about the dog’s well-being.

“Did you find your cat?” Miguel asked.

“Yes, we found him dead. Someone strangled him,” Sean responded.

“How do you know he was strangled?” Miguel probed. “Did you confirm that?”

“Yes, we confirmed it,” Sean lied.

“Did you find him behind our house?”

Miguel had just “let the cat out of the bag!” Sean was stunned. How could Miguel possibly know that we had found Thanos behind his house? Miguel had just confirmed indirectly our suspicions: he was involved in the disappearance of our cat.

Miguel asked again “So you found him behind our house?”

Aggravated and angry, Sean uttered “I don’t want to talk about it. The person who killed him must be one sorry individual. He strangled him and threw his poor little body at the side of the road to make it look like he was hit by a car. No pet deserves that.”

“I understand,” said Miguel. “Merry Christmas!” and he walked away. He did call the telephone number on the yellow lab’s ID tag. The lab belonged to the relative of another neighbor, who came to our house to claim it.

Now.

Now, we had a closure. We found our kitty, unfortunately, dead. Now, we are left with questions, anger, hatred… and memories. Why? Why could anyone be so cruel to an animal? Thanos was too young and too sweet to die in such horrible manner. In his short life, he had touched our hearts. We miss him terribly!

 

  • Copyright © Harikleia Georgiou Sirmans 2011-2020. All rights reserved.
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