When up to 20 cats go missing in a small village it’s the fault of the cats’ owners?

NEWS AND COMMENT – THORNHILL, CUMBRIA, UK: This is one of those stories that comes to the surface occasionally. Up to 20 cats (believed 9 confirmed) have gone missing from a small village of just 915 residents. When that many cats go missing from a smallish area there has to be somebody who is taking the cats and probably killing them.

Occasionally cats do disappear of their own volition but with these sorts of numbers there has to be a different cause.

And one of those missing cats is a Twitter celebrity called ‘Gorgeous George’. His celebrity is spearheading this new story. He is a regular classic tabby and all the better for it. He was last seen by his owners on November 11.

Note: This is an embedded tweet. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

His owners have uploaded a series of Twitter posts which regularly update his followers and they are depressing because there is not a sign of him.

His owners, Steve and Vanessa Haywood, as expected said that they were gutted and very worried because “George has never been out for longer than a day before. There is a worrying trend in Thornhill of cats going missing and I have reported that George is also missing.”

Mr Haywood also said that “If one goes missing it is just a missing cat, but eight of them is a pattern.”

George was last seen by his owners on November 11 and fears are increasing over his safety
George was last seen by his owners on November 11 and fears are increasing over his safety
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment written by visitors. It is a way visitors can contribute to animal welfare without much effort and no financial cost. Please comment. It helps this website too which at heart is about cat welfare.

George’s Twitter followers are horrified, and he has an international following.

Fault of George’s owners?

But one tweet conversation highlights a discussion point. One contributor said that she was okay because she has a garden “with protections”. And she says that if you don’t have the proper protections in place by which I think she means a garden enclosure “don’t cry if they get lost, injured, or something worse”.

Mr Haywood responded by saying that the woman was arrogant and that not everybody can afford a proper cat enclosure surrounding their backyard.

Mr Haywood also criticised the woman for invading “someone else’s grief with their opinion”. All good points but there really is a major discussion point which is “Should people allow their cats to go outside and wander around freely?” The question is very pertinent when neighbour’s cats go missing over a relatively short time.

New law in UK to recognise emotional distress

That’s the habit in the UK but it is changing slightly. There has been an increase in pet deaths in the UK over the Covid pandemic which appears to be continuing.

The UK government is bringing into force a new law (Kept Animals Bill) which improves animal welfare in the UK, and which also allows judges to punish pet thieves more severely with a maximum five-year prison sentence. But at the moment it only applies to dogs with provision for cats in the future. I say that is speciesism.

The point is that the government is aware of the increase in pet thefts and that they are sentient beings. The new law recognises that cats and dogs are not inanimate objects and simply the property of their owner but family members. When they are stolen there is a lot of anguish both for the cat or dog and the owner. This emotional distress will now be recognised when the law is enacted.

Be prepared for problems

So, the background to this series of thefts from this village is meaningful. Perhaps it is time for British cat owners to change their opinion about allowing their cats to go outside.

And if they do go outside unsupervised owners should be prepared for some potential anguish and distress if and when their cat is killed by a car on the road, or they go missing. And when they go missing often the owner has no idea what has happened. There is no closure.

It is only when there is a series of missing cats up to about 20 in a relatively small community that you can probably guess that there is a criminal about abducting and perhaps killing the cats because they hate them.

Hard to catch catnappers

And that introduces another big problem because it is very, very hard to catch a cat napping criminal. It happens when they make mistakes and CCTV cameras can help but they operate at night when cats are about, and it can take years sometimes to catch these criminals if ever. And the police in the UK are busted.

Predators of cats in the USA and thefts and roadkill in the UK

In America far more cat owners keep their cats inside full-time and probably the primary reason for that attitude is not pet thefts but predators preying on domestic cats such as coyotes who are well known for feeding on domestic cats.

UK citizens don’t have the problem of predators treating domestic cats as prey animals so the primary reason for keeping a cat confined are thefts and road traffic. The latter is far more serious than the former and an estimated quarter of a million cats killed on roads in the UK annually.

When cats go missing because they have been killed on the road, the owner does not know about it normally. Their cat simply does not return. They will be lying under a bush beside a road about half a mile from their home. And they will never know about it. The foxes will eat the cat and that will be the end of it except for the continuing emotional distress suffered by the owner often for years afterwards.

Social context?

There may be a social context here because having read the newspapers daily from cover to cover for 30 years, I sense that there is a social breakdown in the UK and perhaps in the wider world. Services are breaking down and behaviour is getting worse. Children are more stressed than they were in the past. People are lazier. The police are dysfunctional. The NHS is broken. There’s a lot wrong and this I think it is feeding through to increased criminality which is undetected by the police, and which includes cat and dog thefts.

9 thoughts on “When up to 20 cats go missing in a small village it’s the fault of the cats’ owners?”

  1. It helps is you have your cats chipped. One cat was missing for 10 years, showed up in a shelter and was reunited with their owner. A chip is a god send. Mine are chipped including the dog I had. Some people also chip their horses. Lots of horse theft around. Sounds like cat killers at work in this small town. Be careful w/your cats.

  2. Hi, thank you for your non judgemental article highlighting not only George’s disappearance but the disturbing trend happening locally which has broken the hearts of many families.
    You have articulated the differences between UK and US cat ownership perfectly in that we, in the UK have different risks to assess when allowing a cat to go outside and this decision is assessed against very different criteria.
    To apply context, George lives in a small village, well away from major roads (highways) in an area with no previous instances of several cats going missing. We currently have 2 other cats and previously had several other cats who all lived full and happy lives, whilst being allowed to roam free.
    Before George went missing we were unaware of other disappearances and it is only through conversations locally that the apparent trend has been highlighted and reported.
    Had we been aware of the trend, we would have re-assessed our decision to allow George to live as a free spirit.
    Without the benefit of hindsight, all we can do is to reactively highlight the issue in the hope that a) the police may receive sufficient retrospective reports to conduct an investigation or b) other cat owners will re-assess their decisions based upon current information.
    If this situation can be a catalyst for a change in UK regulations relating to cat ownership/co-habitation, then i would encourage it.
    Steve Haywood
    Assistant 2 to Gorgeous George

    • Thanks a lot Steve for commenting. You’re right. I let my cat roam. Mind you I have to as he escaped from a very expensive and customized cat confinement fence which in the end I had to dismantle as it did not confine him. There is a risk involved in letting cats roam but as long as their caregiver accepts the risk and lives with it, it’s okay provided neighbours don’t kick up a fuss. And provided as you state that the risk is low and managed. This applies to you. I wish you the best for the future.


  3. There clearly seems to be a mad cat hater on the loose in Thornhill. My sympaties go to to all that have lost cats or had cats gone missing, but that said – it does not have to be expensive nor complicated to build a safe enclosure in the garden. There are plenty of ideas to be found on the internet – this is ours, which has now saved us from worries for more than 10 years. And considering how much we spend on premium cat food and vet bills, the 300 Euro for the enclosure was well spent… πŸ™‚

    • It is a nice enclosure. It looks handmade which I like. I had one but my cat escaped. That said he is particularly athletic and particularly unsuited to a captive life. I have taken the liberty of publishing it with this comment. Thanks for the link.

      Handcmade cat enclosure in Denmark

      I agree that where and when cats go missing the owners should try a little harder to confine them in a garden enclosure.

  4. About 30 years ago, my sister had three cats disappear within a couple of weeks. Then most people did not keep the cats indoors, and let them come and go as they pleased. It turned out that a neighbor was luring cats into his yard and then selling them for animal experimentation. From then on she only has had indoor cats.


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