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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Man admits to trapping and abandoning cat in NOTL
Zeus the cat was missing after a neighbour seized him and dumped him in rural Niagara-on-the-Lake six weeks ago. Owner Wendy Clout of St. Catharines is ecstatic that she now has her cat back. RICHARD WRIGHT

The mystery of a cat that’s been missing from St. Catharines since March 4 has gotten a lot clearer after a startling, but matter-of-fact admission.

Zeus, a big black and white cat and family pet, was trapped by a neighbour and dumped near Church and McNab roads Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Lake Report visited distraught owner Wendy Clout at her home on Bowstead Drive on Monday, April 16 to follow up on the story, which has been widely shared on social media channels since early April.

Sitting at the family kitchen table, Clout recounted the stress and pain the beloved pet’s absence has created for her family.

“He is a big part of our lives,” she said.

“He’s just a part of the family just like our other cats are — and we have two dogs. They are all part of the family. You can’t replace him,” she added.

“There are a lot of cats but, you know, he’s got his own personality. He’s a sweet cat.”

The day Zeus went missing, Clout was woken by him poking at her in bed at 4:30 a.m.

“He got me up early. I let him out, and he always comes back at 7 or 7:30 (a.m.) because I leave the house at 8:30 to go to work. And he didn’t come back and I knew something was unusual. I called him and called him before I left for work. He didn’t come.”

When she arrived home from work, he still wasn’t there.

The next day, when the family realized Zeus was wasn’t coming back, the search began by putting up posters around the neighbourhood and wandering about, calling his name.

The search continued for five weeks. And that’s when the mystery around Zeus’s disappearance became clearer.

On April 10, Clout and her husband Sean stepped out to do some yard work and overheard a conversation between neighbours.

“It was so nice, me and my husband were in the backyard doing clean up and my next door neighbour was in her backyard,” she said.

“I heard her speaking to the guy beside her, and all of a sudden I heard him say, ‘big black and white cat’ and then I heard him say, ‘got rid of’ — so right away my ears perked up. Me and my husband both heard it.”

Clout went to her neighbour, who confirmed what they were told — that the neighbour two doors down had trapped their cat.

Her husband then went to the trapper’s house to find out more.

According to Clout, the neighbour repeated what was overheard earlier and added that he had trapped the cat and attempted to call the humane society but eventually dumped it across the Welland Canal on the Niagara-on-the-Lake side.

The Clouts called the police, who referred them to PAWS (Provincial Animal Welfare Services) to investigate.

An investigator responded and following a conversation with the neighbour, informed the Clouts there was nothing that could be done. The cat in question could have been any cat. There was no way to prove it — even with photos and a confession.

Feeling defeated, Clout reached out to The Lake Report with hopes that a published story would jog the memory of someone in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

While the interview was taking place at Clout’s home, the neighbour’s blue new-model pick-up truck drove past the house and stopped at the end of the street. A reporter approached on foot and asked about Zeus.

After initially refusing to answer questions, he then quickly reversed his stance and opened up with a detailed confession. He refused to give his name.

“I went to the humane society and told them I have a cat problem,” he began.

“When you take a dog for a walk you have to carry a bag with you to carry your s—. They let cats run around. It makes a mess all over. They piss on my windows, on the cellar, they pissed on my wheels. And I have to put up with that.”

The man said he “told a bunch of cat owners here, ’If you don’t look after them, I am going to look after them.’ ”

Clout said she was never approached about her cat and had never met the man before the incident.

The man said after trapping Zeus, he went to the Humane Society of Greater Niagara on Fourth Avenue, adding he parked across the street so they wouldn’t see his licence plate.

He said he was told not to bring the cat there because they had too many cats and they would just “put them to sleep” after three days.

When contacted by The Lake Report, the humane society’s executive director Tania Firmage said that didn’t happen.

“We would take anything from that jurisdiction,” she said.

“We have room for strays and would not have turned anyone away.”

She added they do not euthanize animals.

The neighbour claims that after being told not to bring the cat in, he took matters into his own hands.

“I have live traps for skunks and stuff. I went down to the dollar store and put cat food in it. The next morning, I knew I was going to have him,” he said.

“I just backed into the driveway so the neighbours don’t see it, took him over to the other side of the canal. Because there is water between here and there. They won’t come across the water.”

Asked again if the cat he trapped was a big black and white cat, he said yes.

“I said if I would have known whose cat it was the first time, I would have brought it over to them in the trap and say, ‘Look it! Smarten up or I am going to take it.’ ”

After Clout heard the recorded confession, she again reached out to PAWS, hoping it would push the agency to do something more.

“I haven’t heard back,” she said on Wednesday, April 17.

“It doesn’t feel like they have the authority to do anything, so why is it even referred to them?”

The Lake Report contacted the Niagara Regional Police to ask why this file was referred and not considered a criminal matter. They did not respond by press time.

A PAWS investigator named Chelsea, who would not provide her last name, was also contacted and asked why the investigation wasn’t moving forward.

She referred all questions to that organization’s media relations department, which did not respond by deadline.

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