Those who follow my Instagram will have seen pics since just after we moved to our home last year of Socks, or, as he was known on there #SocksTheSquatterCat.
One hot day in July last year, I was cooking dinner with the back door open, and the Brats were at the park with Elder. So when I saw, out the corner of my eye, something dart across the living room, I thought we were being burgled.
Luckily, after near on having a heart attack, a little meow confirmed that it wasn’t a burglar but a particularly skinny, hungry cat.
I asked some of neighbours if they knew the cat to be told it was a local cat who didn’t appear to have a home. It was often spotted roaming from home to home on the look out for a saucer of milk or a sly bit off the barbecue. It was very friendly though, and one neighbor said she thought that students had left it behind in a house a couple of doors down when they left, as the landlord had found cat food and bits when he came to clear out.
Each day, Socks- as Mini nicknamed the cat we thought at the time was a girl- would turn up, have a cuddle with the kids, pinch a bit of ham, and then go off, no doubt to the next house on the street.
Mini loves cats so we didn’t mind, but warned that Socks probably had a home somewhere so couldn’t stay.
We would, over time, get used to the little squatter, but she (now he) didn’t stay over night. We would see Socks near school, and on surrounding streets, just like most neighbourhood strays. I felt sure that it was very good as these cats are of being fed via a rub of a neighbour’s legs.
I did think she might be staying in our shed the odd time, as it doesn’t lock, but that didn’t bother me.
A few weeks ago, and Socks disappeared. It was very unlike her to not appear, and Mini was worried.
After asking other neighbours and builder’s near school who had got used to Socks turning up, and having no one see her, I started to worry too. It wasn’t our cat but I didn’t like to think of something bad happening.
So, I asked on a local neighbourhood group had anyone seen Socks, with a picture. I mentioned how Socks was a stray in the area who half the street had been feeding, but my daughter and the rest of us hadn’t seen her in three days so wanted to check everything was OK.
A few months back, Socks had fallen in a pond in a street round the corner, and that lady was concerned too, having seen her about since but not recently. She said she’d keep an eye out as did others, and someone shared my post on a lost animals site too.
Then, during my show on Radioactive, I happened to be scrolling through Facebook when I saw a lady advertise a cat had been hit by a car on our road, and to call a number. This wasn’t directed at me, but did say it was a black and white cat but male.
I couldn’t ring as I thought perhaps Socks had died- she would get scared of car noise but run under a car and into the road. Elder rang and was told the cat was OK, but had a suspected pelvis injury. She was also a he, and the next door neighbour- who we don’t speak to- had found him.
Elder said we weren’t the owners but, if the cat had no chip and would need to be rehomed once better, we would like to be considered.
The lady- who it turned out was from the local RSPCA- said she would get back to us.
This started a very strange set of events which really has put me off the RSPCA and made me question their behaviour towards animals in their care.
She rang back later, saying she had now seen the cat. She then said would Elder like to visit the local vet and check on Socks, and whilst there he could- and this was thrown in casually- “sign some papers regards his treatment being Okayed by us”.
Elder said that he felt we couldn’t do this as it wasn’t really up to us to OK anything, being that we weren’t the owners. He reiterated that the next door neighbour clearly didn’t think were were, and we thought he was a she. He did though say if the RSPCA wanted us to adopt the cat we would be interested to do so as adopted owners.
She ended the call but said we would be seen as owners as I had posted about the cat- yet she had seen this but not phoned me as I had said it was a girl cat. She also told us that the fees were already into the mid £200 area and that was just for two nights stay. This would rise after X-Rays, Anesthetic, and another nights board.
At this point, I rang the vet that Socks was at to be told they were expecting us as “owners” according to the lady from the RSPCA. I told her our situation, and she said she had not been told this.I was also told by others online who had had a cat in a similar situation that it would end up costing us well over £500, possibly up to a £1,000 if the cat had broken it’s pelvis.
Immediately after I ended the call, the RSPCA woman phoned again, and said either we agreed to pay and take “responsibility” for the cat’s injury, or they would offer him for adoption once he was better.
Elder was disgusted by this point, and said that 12 weeks of care, plus vets fees in this time would cost the RSPCA a bundle and would it not just be better to allow us to adopt him like other’s would with a stray, rather than keep telling us we were the owners.
If the cat had of been ours, I would have got Pet Insurance, I also would have had the cat chipped. BUT as I always felt Socks may have a home- it certainly had no issue being gone all night- it would have been theft to claim him as ours at the time.
Not every cat owner has Facebook or the means to advertise locally if a cat goes missing, so the fact he was never soaked through despite the horrendous weather, I felt sure he was someone’s, probably a little old ladies.
We then had to break the news to Mini, who cried herself to sleep, which was just devastating but we felt trapped. Other’s warned me that the RSPCA could very easily fine us in court for not having the cat chipped and not being careful with him hence him being run over if we went along with their request.
I was so angry, so when she phoned for the last time, again declining to acknowledge we were not the owners, we asked her to contact her boss so we could discuss her behaviour.
This call came the next day, and if I thought the first woman was bad I soon found out her boss was worse.
First up, she wouldn’t speak to me at all. I wanted to speak but she told me she wasn’t dealing with me but my partner. I add at this point I had never spoken to the other woman, Elder had, so no idea where this came from.
She was less help though, suggesting to Elder that we fed it so we owned it and was responsible. To which Elder, quite rightly said that if that was the case, the whole neighbourhood was the owner. She just ignored him.
She totally played on the fact she was aware how upset Mini was, saying if we didn’t pay up- with fees ever rising- they would rehome the cat with someone else.
To me, it was pure spite. We wouldn’t allow them to treat us as negligent, and we knew our rights, so they got nasty.
This is a charity, and it appears they would rather remove a cat from its stomping ground and get nasty than allow someone who knows of the cat to adopt it. I would question what they would do if a neighbour wanted to take in the cat of an elderly neighbour who was struggling to care for it, or if someone couldn’t afford vets bills?
I am absolutely livid that they were more interested in us paying them hundreds even a thousand pounds to them than what was in the best interests of the cat?
We all miss Socks now, as do other’s in the neighbourhood, and they have been shocked by the behaviour of people who are supposed to care for animals.
The RSPCA should be ashamed, they haven’t even acknowledged a formal complaint made by me over the situation.
All we and the neighbours did, in essence, was care for a cat they hadn’t bothered with.
If you are considering adopting from them, bear in mind you may be adopting a cat or dog who has a home it misses dreadfully.
And think twice before signing anything- including to pay them a charitable donation once a month.