How to confront neighbor who threw my stray cat’s body in the trash?

MissingTux

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I’m horrified. This nightmare is twofold.

I am beyond upset with myself (more than anyone else) for not getting this cat inside permanently sooner as his clearly miserable death was completely avoidable. I want to make that clear.

I am also now livid about my neighbor finding his body in his front yard (I have suspicions about whether or not he was truly dead) and 1) not telling me, not contacting anyone in the neighborhood immediately, not making any effort to see if anyone was missing him, not taking him to a vet to check for life signs or chips or to hold onto until someone claimed him and 2) taking it upon himself to “dispose” of a CAT..a beloved cat..a gentle fixture of the street..presumably in the TRASH. Of all places.

To be clear..I’m someone who doesn’t throw ANY animal in the trash. I’ve buried all types of creatures, it’s the right thing to do. At least get their bodies somewhere nature will take care of the rest. Humans cause enough trouble and interfere plenty already, we have no right to wrap a body that is not our own..presumably in plastic and dump it with our own piles of waste.

Cats cannot own property so it’s not this poor cat’s fault he died in the wrong yard, in freezing temperatures.

The neighbor who found him lives two doors down. (They own a dog, so they do have some sort of relationship with animals).
I have had to interact with them once or twice before when trying to find and capture missing kittens and their mother. I also mentioned to them then that I was working with the other two males and it was clear I cared about them. This person has my phone number. They texted me once in the past and they might still have my flyer from the kittens which also had my contact info.

Meanwhile, my next-door neighbor who lives between myself (and my family member) also has my phone number and a more extensive neighbor/friendly relationship with me.
My nextdoor neighbor worked closely with me previously when I was trying to rescue the kittens and mother, they were more than I could ask for in a neighbor at that time tbh. As far as the kitten situation went.
Unfortunately, after some indecision, they still decided to close off under their deck (the main shelter that the deceased cat used to survive..which was right next to his food/water source aka me) right before Winter.

Now, I did have two store bought summer shelters outside but the cats never liked them much and they were useless in the winter..I didn’t get a chance to alter them into better shelters.
There are also two insulated ‘kitty tube’ brand shelters on a slightly raised platform. They are the type with the plastic fringe on the opening. Unfortunately when you have two unneutered males, one is always going to be pushed away. So this poor cat probably didn’t feel comfortable to use them and he also never seemed to realize he could walk inside them in the first place (at least not that I saw). He just liked to sit on top.

The nextdoor neighbor who closed off their deck knew I was worried about this cat and about whether or not he would use the other shelters. They also knew I was in a bad place/incapacitated but I was still trying my best…and they knew I was looking for this specific cat these past two months because I had not seen him and my family member had not seen him,
I wasn’t at the house nearly as much because I had to be at another location, but I still came back many times to check on things
My family member was still putting food and water out, probably just as often as I was. Still every day though I believe.

There was a lot going on, I have been mentally and physically at my worst so I wasn’t being as vigilant or present for this poor cat. Even though I knew him the longest and he had already been through hell out there. The last time I saw him, I was able to get him fully into the house for the first time where I slowly closed the screen behind him to see what he would do. I knew I should have forced him to stay in..he was trying to communicate his confusion and frailty to me (this was about a month after his main deck shelter had been closed off) but I was leaving the house later that day and he eventually meowed at me to let him back out. I thought I would have another chance…and there is a lot more context as to why he wasn’t taken in sooner. A LOT. Including other cats already in the home. But regardless, I should have found a way. I know this and I will never forgive myself. If any cat deserved better..deserved to be warm and comfortable and safe in his remaining years..it was this cat.

Anyway, a few days ago is when I found out what happened to him. I lost it. I don’t know how much of this is truth because it’s already third hand at this point. I was told he was found frozen in the snow 3 weekends ago, by the neighbor two doors down. He then told this to my nextdoor neighbor a few days later when they were both outside. My nextdoor neighbor did not tell me until two weeks after they found out. Which was a few days ago.
I don’t know why. Unless they felt guilty about closing off their deck. Idk what the whole conversation was between them and idk if I will get it from my nextdoor neighbor..who is now very aware of just how upsetting this is to me and that I’m not willing to sit back without answers or saying something.

I love this cat, my reaction to his fate has been severe, and for good reason. There is nothing else I can do for him now besides to ask the neighbor exactly how they found him, all the details and then also say my piece about how unnecessary and callous their subsequent action was.
It’s what I need to do, and nobody will change my mind on that or my stance on the entire situation.
I don’t understand why a tragedy now has to have this added conflict just because doing the right thing was an inconvenience to this neighbor.
I would have had no reason to be upset with them for finding him dead (if that’s really what happened) but now they’ve given me a reason.

However, I am having difficulty figuring out how to approach this person. They seem far less personable than my nextdoor neighbor.
I’ve thought of knocking on their door..texting..writing a letter/note with emphasized contact info. I have never had to do anything like this before, I am highly avoidant but this is something I just cannot hold my tongue on.

I am also stuck wondering if there’s a chance this cat’s body is somewhere I could still retrieve it for burial or cremation. I need to stop dragging my feet. There is no “closure” but especially not in a situation like this where I have to hold back my horror to get info from neighbor who knew better. I know he has a wife too but I’ve never seen her, I would not be surprised if they both had a bad reaction to me inquiring. But that’s too damn bad.

Please..if anyone has any advice on how to talk to this person…let me know. I am aware that uncaring neighbors are somewhat common when it comes to being someone who looks out for stray/feral cats. So I figure some here might have experience with this.

I’m am really distraught and all I see is this poor boy’s sweet fluffy face and teary eyes and beaten up body..in the snow, crying for me..perhaps first at my back steps..wondering why I wasn’t coming. Then wandering looking for warmth or help. Suffering to death out there alone, and then being thrown out like trash! I can’t take it.
 

silent meowlook

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I am so sorry for all that has happened.I do empathize with you and feel horrible for the poor little cat. I understand your feelings of guilt and anger. I have been in similar situations and I can relate to what you are feeling. It is a gut wrenching way to feel. So, please do not take offense to my advice.


Don’t say anything. His body is gone. Such callous people would not have kept him. There is nothing you can do now. Confronting these neighbors won’t make you feel better. You are going to feel bad until you learn to live with this pain. But, you can’t change people like that. They just don’t understand and never will. Don’t say anything and come to terms with this tragic event on your own.

I am so sorry this happened.
 
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MissingTux

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I am so sorry for all that has happened.I do empathize with you and feel horrible for the poor little cat. I understand your feelings of guilt and anger. I have been in similar situations and I can relate to what you are feeling. It is a gut wrenching way to feel. So, please do not take offense to my advice.


Don’t say anything. His body is gone. Such callous people would not have kept him. There is nothing you can do now. Confronting these neighbors won’t make you feel better. You are going to feel bad until you learn to live with this pain. But, you can’t change people like that. They just don’t understand and never will. Don’t say anything and come to terms with this tragic event on your own.

I am so sorry this happened.
Thank you for your compassion and I’m sorry you have had to deal with anything similar.
But I don’t tend to come to terms with anything involving suffering and/or desecration of the dead.
I have to say something. And I need answers. I at least have to try and I also need to let this person know that this cat was loved and that this was wrong. They might do the same with another cat (although there are only a few cats left around here, after I already took in and spayed two mothers and two litters of babies).
And I cared about this cat so much, I’ve been through so much with him and outside he was my companion…even many nights staying up out there or walking the streets when some other kitties were in danger. He was always around.

I know I probably won’t change this neighbor’s mind and it may not end well..but I feel in my bones that I cannot sit and say or ask nothing. I just can’t do it. So now I’m just trying to figure out the best way to approach the situation. I need both answers and to say my piece, no guarantee I get either but I have to try. I think too many people in this world, me most of all, put down their heads for the convenience of selfish people…I’ve had enough.


I know of people who would have already knocked on his door by now or made a huge fuss on FB or something if this ever happened to a cat they cared for. I also know this neighbor would probably never want someone to do this to their dog if he ever got out and passed away in someone else’s yard. I am not normally one of those people who has no filter or is confident and bold enough to confront poor behavior. But I need to be this cat’s voice.
I need to know what happened to him. He was a loved one..to me this is similar to how any human would want to figure out the same and say the same if this happened to their loved one.
 

poolcat

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I'm sorry this poor cat that you were attached to died. You wrote that you hadn't seen him for months, so it may have been more than a few weeks ago that he died. Regardless of where his body is now, it's probably isn't in any condition to be handled. I understand that you feel a need to say something, but I suggest that you wait until all this isn't as fresh in your mind and emotions before you do. Write a letter saying what you need to say now, then put it aside. When you re-read it in another month or two, you may feel that you should say something different or differently.
 
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MissingTux

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I'm sorry this poor cat that you were attached to died. You wrote that you hadn't seen him for months, so it may have been more than a few weeks ago that he died. Regardless of where his body is now, it's probably isn't in any condition to be handled. I understand that you feel a need to say something, but I suggest that you wait until all this isn't as fresh in your mind and emotions before you do. Write a letter saying what you need to say now, then put it aside. When you re-read it in another month or two, you may feel that you should say something different or differently.
Thank you. It’s not death itself that bothers me, it’s the suffering, the circumstances, the inconsiderate and callous handling of the aftermath and then the expectation for me to keep my mouth shut.
Also not being told when I could have done something about it. The neighbor who found him never said a word to me. It was the other neighbor who told me two weeks later. Both are grown men.

He was found in the neighbor’s front yard and it’s a suburban neighborhood, not a rural area, so presumably he would have been seen if he had died there long before he was found. It seems he must’ve died the same weekend he was found. Which was about 3 weekends ago now. I last saw him at the end of Dec, then January I didn’t see him..then mid Feb he was found like that. Two doors down. So he must’ve been close and I missed him the times I was there and the times I walked the streets with a flashlight.

The problem with waiting is that if there’s any chance his body is retrievable, I need to know now. Also there are details, I want the details and this person may claim they “forgot” or use every day I wait against me.
I don’t care what condition the body is in.
I am not squeamish. I just need to know what exactly happened and how he was found.
If I can’t get his body, then I can’t. But not knowing hardly anything is killing me. The entire situation is haunting me every second, knowing he could be wilting in plastic in a dump is just excessive on top of the tragedy.

I don’t see cats any less than I see humans so this is a pretty huge deal for me.
Honestly I just want his body to be able to decompose in nature at the very least. And to know everything the neighbor knows. Then say my piece if able.

I was thinking of doing the letter, yea…but I can’t wait much longer. If I feel less fervor down the road, it will only be because it was exhausted out of me or hammered down involuntarily, not because my convictions will have changed. Problem with a letter is that it’s a one-way conversation and I need both answers and to say my piece..I probably cannot say everything I want to say in the letter or I’ll have to prioritize answers and if they refuse answers, then that will be when I’ll have nothing to lose and just tell them off. But I suppose a letter is less intimidating than a text, or a knock on their door.

I’m curious to know if anyone here has ever had to talk with a neighbor who mishandled any situation with their feral/stray cats. Even if it was a dispute, I’d like if anyone could share their experience. I also appreciate any understanding or compassion for this cat.
 

silent meowlook

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I saved a small cat once, decades ago, from 3 large dogs in a yard that were tossing her around. I climbed on top of a large high wooden plank fence and screamed at the growling dogs if they went near her. I was trying to figure out how to get her out and she managed to drag herself under the fence to me.

I took her to the ER vet and she had a pneumothorax, was in severe shock and I forget what other injuries, I had no money at the time and took her home and treated her with iv fluids and medications I got from the vet. She stayed in my bathroom for about a month, I think.

I put signs up and eventually found out she lived at the house next door where the dogs were. She belonged to three little girls who claimed to love her and just didn’t have any money to pay me for vet bills, that was why they hadn’t responded sooner. I told them I didn’t care about the money and was only interested in the cat.

Financially, I was in hell back then. Out of work, car impounded, late on rent and way more cats than I could care for.

I kept the cat another week to make sure she was ok.

The girls promised me she was an indoor cat and somehow got out. I went in their house and met their dad, a fireman. He was thankful and seemed concerned. The dogs lived outside. I reluctantly gave them their cat back. I checked on her often and everything seemed to be fine.

I wound up getting evicted from that apartment and moved away. I made sure the girls and dad had my number and had them promise to call if they needed anything.

I went back two months later to check on her. I was told gruffly by the dad and the girls that the cat had gotten pregnant, had kittens, but was peeing in the house so they “took her to the pound”. I pretty much lost it right there. They of course thought I was crazy and I didn’t care. I was so livid.

My telling them off didn’t change anything. The cat was still gone. Oh, but they kept one of her kittens. They told me that like it would stop me from being so mad. I am still furious.

I have far too many similar stories in my head that I try to forget.

Another neighbor about 20 years ago. I was at that time and am now, doing much better. They had kids also and had three kittens. One kitten was bit by a rattlesnake in the head. Of course they didn’t have money and wanted me to take the kitten to have him put to sleep. I took him to the ER and got meds to treat at home. I had just payed for the other neighbors cat who was bit in the leg by a rattlesnake the week prior. Antivenin is expensive and I couldn’t do it again.

The poor kittens head was the size of a softball. I stayed with him pretty much a week. He suffered but did eventually pull through.

I made those people promise me they wouldn’t let their cats out. Afterwards the kids gave me hand painted thank you cards and an angel figurine.

2 weeks later I find out from another neighbor that they found the kitten dead on their porch one morning. All the fighting that kitten did to live was just a waste. I never spoke to them again. I was to mad to even form words. I hated them. I hated that they let him out and that they couldn’t even tell me what had happened. They eventually moved away.

I am still angry about the above stories and so many more. I have gone off on people and I have been silent. None of it makes a difference once they are dead. If they are alive, then I will do whatever needs to be done to help. But if they have died then I can’t undo it and the people don’t deserve space in my head. The little cats of course remain in my head forever.

The anger and rage does eat away at you after a while. I wish I knew how to let it go. If I did, I would tell you.

Honestly, in my experiences, confronting or not confronting didn’t make a difference in how I felt or what happened.
 

catsknowme

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M MissingTux :alright: with great compassion and condolences, I welcome you to our TCS family. You are definitely among cat lovers who understand & share your grief, outrage and pain.
I concur with S silent meowlook and poolcat poolcat that writing a letter (and editing & rewriting at least 3-5 times) is your best approach. Aim to be as concise and brief as possible. Even better, prior to delivering it, ask someone else to edit it for you and consider carefully if and when to deliver it. I suggest trying to create an opportunity for dialogue, perhaps using their love for their dog as inspiration.
For the sake of FUTURE cats/kittens, your best bet is to be persuasive rather than confrontational. You want to gain allies. Speaking of allies, you could read suggestions for promoting community support for strays/ferals and try using similar strategy. Remember, we rescuers are up against a long term war, not just a one-time battle. Alley Cat Allies offers free resources and suggestions:
Organizing Your Community for Strategic Change for Cats
BUT... before you actually send this letter, please consider doing this first:
As for the now missing kitty, his spirit has flown its mortal remains but you can still do ceremony for him that thanks and honors our Creator for that precious kitty. Try to remember the pleasures of companionship that you shared, the little & great joys that he experienced (such as enjoying eating, fresh water, basking in the attention of your loving voice, scampering with littermates as a playful kitten, purring with pleasure nursing at his mama kitty's "snack bar" while she licked his little head, basking in the springtime sun, relaxing in the fresh air & summer shade on cool grass, enjoying the freedom and mental stimulation of being outside, chasing insects, etc.). With all those thoughts & love for and about him gathered foremost in your heart & mind, you can do your ceremony. My own personal way of ceremony is to go outside and behold the Heavens to offer my prayers; I invoke the Angels of the 4 Winds, one at a time, beginning with East, then North, then West and finally South, because my ancestors' traditions teach that the entrance to Heaven is southwest. Being a Christian, I then thank Creator and list the blessings that were given to the departed as well as the ways that the departed was a blessing to me. I conclude with singing "Doxology" and "Gloria Patri". If I am inspired to do so, I view the nighttime sky and look at the Night Sky Trail (aka Milky Way) and again remember those who are crossing Over.
As for the neighbors, do whatever brings only harmony and restoration to your community. My father's people believed that to kill or harm a feline (bobcat, ocelot, cougar included as well as the canids coyote or wolf) was to determine one's own final fate of suffering (or quick & easy passing) so your callous neighbors already have some troubling answers to give at the end of their days.lf you can somehow restart the compassion and generosity for your neighborhood's community cats, that would be the best way to honor the kitty.
Without ever seeing him myself, I honor the spirit of the little cat who generated so much love & respect in your family member and you - may the Angels of the East from where daylight begins light his path; may the Angels of the North who bring our winds carry his spirit swiftly; may the Angels of the West where life giving water becomes clouds to bring us rain accompany him on his journey; may the Angels of the South throw open wide the entrance to Heaven and welcome him Home 🙏💞
Please keep us updated on what you decide to do and how you're getting along!
 
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