Man tries to drown a cat, convinced it was literally ‘from hell’

My wife, Tianna, recently rescued a very pregnant abandoned cat. This cat was extremely friendly with humans, indicating that this is yet another abandoned pet in a military town, in this case Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

All three of her kittens are now dead. Friday night we found out that a local man attempted to drown this cat earlier that day. He admitted this to a shocked staff of a local veterinarian’s office. He also slammed on her cage repeatedly as he screamed, “This cat is from hell! It’s evil!”

Back story

Tianna fed and sheltered this friendly ‘mama cat’ for several weeks. The cat was a total sweetheart, and almost never stopped purring. We were scheduled to move to a new city any day, so it was urgent to find a new home quickly. Tianna contacted local rescue, Thundering Paws. They quickly pledged their support even arranged for her to be spayed and vaccinated as soon as possible.

So I feel a little guilty about what happened next, because with our time running out, I urged them to expedite the process. We assumed most people interested in fostering a pregnant cat are good people, perhaps not perfect, but who is? It turns out we relied too heavily on this assumption.

Mama cat gave birth about two weeks ago to a litter of three. One of the kittens died within 24 hours. A week later mama cat apparently suffocated another one of her kittens. She continued to nurse the only surviving kitten. The last kitten was killed on Friday, as mama cat was reported to have physically attacked it. Feline infanticide is uncommon, especially by the mother, but not unheard of. More on that in a bit. Tianna was crushed, thinking she caused the stress that triggered this ancient instinct – perhaps simply by removing mama cat from her familiar territory.

Thundering Paws checked in on mama cat’s litter multiple times, in person. After speaking with founder, Katherine Gable, I’m absolutely convinced the rescue acted in a responsible and reasonable manner. The following is just so awful that you can’t expect to predict or prevent these things.

Nightmare scenario comes true

Tianna came to bed in tears Friday night. She had just gotten off the phone with Katherine from the Thundering Paws rescue. The news was sickening. The foster family’s young adult son (NAME WITHHELD) attempted to kill the mother cat yesterday. He perceived that this cat was ‘evil’ and deserved to die.

The suspect arrived at Highland Animal Hospital in Fayetteville on Friday, December 7th, for a scheduled round of vaccines for the mama cat. He was screaming about the cat being literally from hell. He was violently banging on the cat carrier, forcing mama cat to retreat to the corner. It was a futile attempt to escape the situation.

At one point he screamed something about how the cat was evil because “It wouldn’t die… I tried! I drowned it but it is evil and it survived!.. It’s from hell!” (paraphrased.) Clearly he assumed that the sizable audience he attracted were in total agreement. He was convinced of demonic influence, and sure that everyone else thought so too.

Thankfully, this cat’s nightmare is probably over now. The staff refused to release mama cat back into the man’s care. Instead, they called the police Thundering Paws. As soon as they found out, and they called the police. Soon after that, my wife received the call informing her about the heartbreaking story.

Police reports have been filed, and a sheriff assured Thundering Paws that an animal cruelty officer will be assigned to the case as early as Monday morning. The suspect’s mother has very recently become extremely ill, and bed-ridden. Sources indicate that this household does have other animals. Mama cat is currently safe in a new temporary foster home. I’ll update this section as I get more information.

Update: the ‘evil’ and ‘from hell’ language was definitely present in a Wednesday evening phone call between the man and Thundering Paws, when it was first learned that the final kitten had died. The rescue demanded he take mama cat to the vet immediately and leave her there. It is unknown why the man waited until late Friday afternoon. The staff at Highland Animal Hospital briefly relayed his Friday statements along these lines: “This cat killed all her babies and is a pretty good swimmer because I tried to drown her and it didn’t work.” It was a protracted ordeal, including making a disturbing scene in front of the staff and a crowded waiting room. He is described as having been in a rage, violently banging on the cat’s cage while screaming about her. More to come. [end update]

Was it really feline infanticide after all?

Here’s a scholarly reference to feline infanticide:

Of less common occurrence is the killing and eating of newborn domestic kittens by their mothers. When such cases do occur, it is noticeable that the offending queen cat may not have prepared a den for the birth or occupied some secluded place by herself when parturition started. With such abnormal prepartum behaviour, the affected queen tends to wander from place to place, giving birth in different locations, and may eat each kitten immediately [after] it is born. In this type of case, the obviously confused animal may keep one dead kitten in her mouth and continue to wander about, while holding it in her mouth. No kittens in the litter survive in these cases and the affected queen returns to normal behaviour by the following day. The cause may be some neurohormonal abnormality, but neutering is advised soon afterwards.

- Andrew F. Fraser | University of Cambridge Veterinary School (retired) | Feline Behaviour and Welfare (pp 127)

Due to the extreme nature of the suspect’s behavior, I’m dubious. I’d like to hear from more scholarly / scientific / medical sources (not stories from random people) before reaching a solid conclusion. Judging from the University of Cambridge Vet School expert, the facts of the case do not line up with a natural explanation. Apparently when this rare situation happens, it happens immediately after birth and all in the same day, and none of the kittens survive.

Additionally, the ‘suffocation’ explanation for the deaths of the first two kittens jumps out as suspect. Infanticide among mother cats seems to universally be carried out by tooth and claw. Suffocation sounds very similar to drowning. Potentially, a mother could sit on her kitten, but it really doesn’t add up. I really hope the investigating officers take a hard look into this angle too.

Save mama cat!

If you live in the Fayetteville / Fort Bragg area, please consider adopting this sweetheart of a cat. She’s been through so much. Her experience at the hands of young man’s violent religious outbursts is potentially scarring. She’s a little scared of other animals, but otherwise exceptionally friendly to humans (including ‘grabby’ toddlers like my daughter, Zoe). A home with no current pets is preferred, but not an absolute necessity.

She needs a name and a loving home.

Support Thundering Paws

If you aren’t local or can’t adopt, please consider making a donation. The rescue group is a local 501(c)3 non-profit, and have successfully placed hundreds of cats and dogs. They operate at a loss.

Donate to Thundering Paws (View 501(c)3 information)

 Here’s how the money gets spent:

They spend all of their donations on the actual cause, and have no overhead.

Hundreds of dollars have already been spent on this cat. This is an extreme case. This rescue operates with no overhead and have been going strong for over a decade.

Increased rates of animal abandonment are a sad side-effect of the transient and often intercontinental military lifestyle. Typically, families are moved every 2-3 years, with a whole new set of apartment standards, or perhaps even country-specific health codes to worry about. There are responsible ways to move with and keep pets, but they aren’t easy or obvious, especially to junior service members. Please help Thundering Paws, and other local rescues do what they can.

Thundering Paws founder, Katherine Gable, is my wife’s friend. She’s also a devout Christian who is completely shocked at the turn of events. I’d like my readers to take care not to color all Christians with this tragedy. Most people in America are Christian, but they don’t drown cats. I’d concede upfront that a ‘grenade with the pin still in‘ argument could be made regarding religion in general, but it’s not relevant to whether or not you should support this rescue. Keep such arguments to my comment section, and not in her email box.

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About Justin Griffith
  • Karl Wulff

    My cat knocked over my Christmas tree last night, therefore your argument is moot.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

      @Karl –

      I never made any arguments ‘proving they aren’t evil’. The people needing such arguments couldn’t spell ‘google’ to find them.

      FWIW, my wife is still pretty emotional about this. She blames herself for the deaths of the kittens and the attempted drowning of the mama cat.

  • kestrel

    How horrifying – the things people do in the name of religion… Yikes. And of course you have to wonder, how would that person treat a human being they thought was “posessed”?

    We support our local spay/neuter clinic and adopted a cat from them. Here is hoping your Mama Kitty finds a good home with kind people.

  • Makoto

    @Karl – if that was an attempt at a joke, it was in extremely poor taste.

    A terrible story, and one complicated by areas (like mine) which don’t have decent animal rescue groups. Don’t want your pet? Drive a few miles and dump it on the side of the road. Find out your pet is expecting and you don’t want to deal with it? Same. Actually find a pet that already had its litter? Well, there’s a parking lot of some type nearby, where you can display them in cardboard boxes, no matter the time of year (none of which are healthy situations).

    The fact that this guy is convinced the cat is from hell is extremely disturbing, and yet one more reason we need good animal rescue/shelter groups everywhere.

  • MJKelleher

    For Tianna:

    IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You cared for mama cat while you could, and turned her over to a trusted agency when you couldn’t. It’s not Thundering Paws’ fault. They cared for mama while they had her, and gave her to a household they had vetted as best they could. It’s the fault of the deluded young man, who seems to have acted after his mother became so very ill that she couldn’t protect herself or the cat. You did as much as you could, and as much as you could know to do.

    It’s to your credit, and that of Thundering Paws, that you continued to follow up, and continued to care, what happened. It’s very sad that the kittens were killed. Mama has another chance, and I hope they can find her a caring home where she can heal from this trauma.

    Hugs from MJ and Figaro

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rockbeyondbelief/ Justin Griffith

      @MJKelleher:

      I showed Tianna this comment, she really appreciated it. My wife has always been the type to responsibly rescue and place animals. We have 2 cats 1 dog +1. She’s placed animals in some quirky but charming homes before, but we’ve been together for a very long time and only positive results. Katherine from Thundering Paws, said that nothing like this has ever happened in her 10 years.

      It’s just one of those random disturbing incidents you can’t prepare for. Thanks for the messages (@everyone).

  • wilsim

    Please let Tianna know that it wasn’t her fault, at all. Nobody blames her. Nobody could have predicted what happened. She should not take personal responsibility for the crazed actions of a religious lunatic, or dwell on could’ve-would’ve-should’ve.

    It is obvious to me, just from a few typed words you wrote about her today, Justin, that Tianna is a very compassionate, caring, and loving person. I can tell she cares, tremendously, about life. She is a good person.

    I’m sending you guys electronic hugs as hard as I can.

    My wife, kids and I have 3 cats and 7 birds. This story made me cry, and enraged me at the same time.

  • Eclectic

    That’s an extraordinarily sad story.

    On something of a tangent… WTF are Thundering Paws paying $8/dose for dewormer for?

    I usually buy Safe-guard brand 10% fenbendazole solution (available over the counter in paste squeeze

    tubes to gallon jugs), costing $120/L or $0.12/ml. Dose in dogs and cats is 1 ml/kg (100 mg/kg of active ingredient). So $0.05/lb. There are 160 lb dogs but they’re rare. (And you generally down-dose per allometric scaling laws for large animals.) Another source with the same recommendation.

    Pyrantel pamoate, levamisole, sulfadimethoxine are similarly cheap. The only thing that comes close to $8/dose is praziquantel for liver flukes. (I presume they have a microscope and know how to do fecal exams in-house.)

    You can also often get large quantities of flea medicine and subdivide it. I get Advantage II in the “Extra Large Dog” size and measure out cat doses with a tuberculin syringe. (A luer tip fits the squeeze tubes perfectly.) But if I really needed bulk, I’d be getting imidacloprid and benzyl alcohol in bulk and mixing it up myself.

    Vaccines I’m less familiar with, but most dog & cat vaccines are $100-200 for 25 doses, or $4-8/dose, and that includes combination vaccines against several things.

    Rabies vaccine is $1.80/dose (plus a few cents for the syringe!), although you need a professional involved to certify the paperwork.

    I’ve done a lot of animal rescue, and vets are verykind to such people, but still I learned to do as much as I could myself and not bother the vet.

  • No Light

    This is heartbreaking. Mama cat looks so gorgeous and relaxed in that picture, and then that happened… Ugh.

    Tianna – you and your friend are wonderful women. You both understand that companion animals need human help, and offer it by the bucketful.

    This wasn’t your fault, none of. it. MC was cruelly let down by her original humans, then abused by her “carers”. You did your best for her, showed her love and care, and got help for her.

    Blaming yourself for this is like blaming yourself if you call an ambulance for a hurt friend, and it gets hit on they way to hospital. Your having done the right thing is absolutely not negated by someone else’s wicked behaviour.

    Don’t cry, big hugs. Better for MC to be alive without her kits, than the other way around. That would have meant four deaths.

    Thank you, on MC’s behalf, for showing her such love.

  • F [disappearing]

    The fault is not with yourself, dear Tianna, but in this disturbed man.

    Poor kitties.

  • Tianna

    First, many thanks to all of the support and thoughtful comments on this post. I have been following it and it truly means a lot to me that people care so much. I am in a much better place now in my mind. The good news is that the cat, named Dolly, has a new foster home where she is loved and spoiled. Thundering Paws has shown so much commitment to this cat, and I am grateful they made it possible for her to get help. Also, to those who have donated, thank you!! I know there were a few and Katherine made a comment to me about how nice it was to get some of those donations. She plans to send out personal thank you letters to each. I know how passionate she is, and that every donation goes directly to the animals.

    @ Eclectic- Thanks for the info on De-wormers, Flea treatments, and Vaccines. The tips are helpful, but I cannot really speak on behalf of Thundering Paws. I think they have their own reasons for choosing to use a vet for necessary services. They have a working relationship with some of the local vets here, and the vets are just as happy to help, but I think another reason is that they operate with many different foster homes, and it could likely cost them more to drive back and forth to each one and give treatments to each pet when necessary, since most individuals (foster families) may not feel comfortable with the idea of dosing the animals themselves. Thank you though, for your caring and support. It is much appreciated!

  • Tracey

    Tianna, I’m just coming on this post now, and I am so very, very sorry to read about what happened to Mama Cat. You did a wonderful thing in giving her a good home as long as you could, and Thunder Paws did a marvellous job in re-rescuing her and finding her a better home. Your caring has made all the difference to Mama Cat. Thank you.


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