A TOP cat exhibitor/breeder was left reeling after a brazen thief stole a Persian kitten from her own home.
Marlene Howes, of Honeymist Persians told police that the six-week-old kitten's mother, Queen of Sheba, has been pining for her offspring since she was snatched on Sunday, May. Mrs Howes, who has bred hundreds of award- winning Persian cats over 45 years, said that the kitten was extremely vulnerable and would be in desperate need of nourishment from her mother's milk.
She claims that despite providing Gloucestershire police with the address of the woman who took the kitten, they failed to act with anything approaching concern.
The con woman and her young son arrived at Mrs Howes's home in Whitecroft in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire on the Sunday afternoon to view the £475 kitten.
‘She came in and saw the kitten, said she liked her and offered to leave a deposit,’ said Marlene. ‘I told her that £50 would be sufficient, but she wrote me a cheque for £250. I stressed that the kitten wouldn’t be old enough to leave home for at least another six or seven weeks. All this time, her son was running around making a terrible noise and interfering with other cats and kittens and distracting me. Even though I told him to stop doing this, he carried on. I really wasn’t happy with the woman, because she was saying that the kitten was to replace a Shar Pei puppy she’d had but which she’d returned to the breeder because it was sickly.
When she’d phoned me initially there had been the sound of children screaming and shouting in the background and I wasn’t at all sure I wanted one of my kittens to go to an environment like that, because I am very fussy about where my kittens go.’
The woman then told Marlene she just wanted to show the kitten to her father who was waiting in their car outside the house. Marlene began to protest, but she was out of the door before she could stop her.
’By the time I got to the door all I heard was a screech and the car was gone,’ adds Marlene. ‘I jumped it no my car and tried to drive a different route to cut them off but couldn't find them, so came back and called the police.
‘My main worry was that the kitten needed her mother's milk and her life was at risk. She hadn’t eaten solids, she hadn’t been away from her mother and she would be very stressed because she would be in a different environment.
Not A Priority
She contacted the police who were initially sympathetic, but seemed reluctant to take immediate action. However, Marlene urged them to trace the woman via the cheque she had left, although she fully expected the cheque to be invalid. To everyone’s surprise, the cheque was valid and the woman’s address was found, although the police officer in charge said that their procedures meant that they could not progress the matter as a priority.
Marlene managed to find the woman’s address in Bristol via a third party. She advised the police of this, but was told that it was outside of their jurisdiction and would fall to Bristol police. It took a lot of effort on Marlene’s part to ensure that Bristol police were informed of the theft, and even-tually a sergeant from Bristol police contacted her to say that eh would attend the property.
‘I waited up all night with the lights on waiting for the kitten to be returned but the knock at the door never came,’ says Marlene. ‘It turned out that he didn’t even go to the house until the next day.’
Events then took a somewhat surreal twist. ‘The sergeant called me on his mobile and told me that he was at the woman’s house and that she had the kitten, but he said to me; ‘Mrs Howes, I beg and implore you not to press charges against this lady. She will let me bring the kitten to you, perhaps the matter could be dropped.’
‘I asked him why I should drop the charges, was this lady someone very important? Was she a friend of his? He didn’t answer me, but I could tell he was under pressure as once again there were children screaming and shouting in the background. I just wanted my kitten back, so I told him to bring her to me.’
The sergeant turned up a little later with the kitten, which thankfully was in good health and quickly settled down with her mother again and began to eat some solid food.
The police have since failed to contact Marlene about the theft and have not returned her calls. However, Marlene did receive a telephone call from a man who claimed to know of the family who had taken the kitten and said that they were ‘quite notorious and well known to the police’.
‘It seems that this ploy has been used before,’ said Marlene. ‘The woman goes to someone’s house with one of her kids, the child misbehaves and distracts the householder and then takes whatever it is they came for.’
The over-inflated deposit cheque left by the woman could have been used as an excuse to say that she paid for the kitten and thus head off any accusations of theft, in which case it would be the breeder’s word against hers.
‘This is the first time this has happened to me and it has been very traumatic. I’m quite disgusted with the police response to the theft. I keep being told about priorities and procedures, but I have to ask, what priorities? What procedures? What has to happen before theft is taken seriously?’
A spokesman for Gloucester-shire police told local media who reported on the kitten’s theft: ‘We can confirm that we are invest-igating the theft of a Persian kitten.
‘After speaking to local officers, it has been established that there have been a few incidents of stolen animals in the area, which is of concern.
‘We advise people to take precautions and ensure that their animal has identification around its neck and, ideally, to have them microchipped.’
Marlene’s experience is unusual for cat fanciers, but has happened on many occasions to dog breeders and exhibitors, as dog theft is a growth crime area. The police reaction in many such cases is very similar and prosecutions for dog theft are very rare.
Katherine Morris of the group Action for Missing Cats, which was featured by OUR CATS earlier this year commented on the case: ‘I'm really glad that Marlene got the kitten back unharmed.
One thing that it's important to note is that a six-week old kitten is too young to be microchipped - current RSPCA policy is a minimum of 12 weeks; a very tiny kitten can be injured by the chipping process. This makes it all the more important that owners and breeders be aware of the possibility of theft when they are showing people kittens younger than that, and that they be extremely vigilant.
‘Don't let the kitten out of your sight - ideally not out of your hands - unless you are absolutely sure that the viewer is a genuine and responsible potential pet owner. It is probably good sense to make sure that there is someone else there if you have someone coming to view a kitten. Given that people are often giving away or selling kittens at younger than 12 weeks, this is a window of opportunity for thieves.
Katherine added: ‘There is another angle, which is that in one way Marlene was lucky that the police took it as seriously as they did, though I gather this wasn't as seriously as she might have liked. It's only because a) the kitten was valuable in monetary terms I mean and b) because she knew exactly the circumstances in which it had disappeared.
‘Stolen moggies (i.e. non- pedigree cats) are unlikely to be taken seriously, and if there's ANY chance that the cat left under its own steam, even if a house was broken into and the cat was the only thing missing, the police are likely to argue that the cat was frightened and scooted out the door, they will turn a deaf ear. This is true even of dogs, I gather.
‘I think the bottom line is to be insistent with police to take the theft seriously and above all, be vigilant.’ * Action on Missing Cats: www.actiononmissingcats.org.uk
By NICK MAYS (Editor)