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If Cats You Care for Have Been Harmed or Killed
Confronting animal cruelty can be overwhelming, but the cats need your help. As you may know, intentionally harming or killing a cat is illegal—whether they’re owned, stray, or unowned. If someone has harmed the cats you care for, there are steps you can take:
- Call the police immediately and file an official report. Whether you know who is responsible or not, it’s important to alert your local authorities that a crime has taken place. The local authorities are obligated to investigate. You should expect them to talk to you or your neighbors about the crime, and they should be able to give you an idea of their next steps and provide a copy of the paperwork. Investigations take time, but follow up if you feel like law enforcement is not taking your complaint seriously. Find more information on working with law enforcement to protect cats.
- Document the evidence. As difficult as it may be, it’s critical that you take photographs and document all the evidence that you find in order to provide proof to police for their report. This will go a long way in leading to the arrest of those involved.
- If a cat has been injured, immediately bring the cat to a veterinarian to receive appropriate medical attention. Our tips for successfully trapping hard to trap cats can help you safely trap an injured cat. Request a list of feral-friendly veterinarians in your area if you don’t have one already. Make sure the veterinarian documents the cat’s injuries so you can share that information with police.
- If a cat has been killed, get a necropsy. A necropsy is an autopsy for animals, performed in order to find the exact cause of death. Most states have a laboratory that performs post-mortem tests on animals, so try contacting your state government or searching online for a laboratory near you that will conduct a necropsy on a cat. Costs will vary. Note: It’s important to have a necropsy performed as soon as possible, so evidence will not be lost. If you can’t have the necropsy done immediately, consult with the laboratory or veterinarian performing the necropsy on the best way to preserve the body. Generally, a body can be preserved by placing it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Freezing should be avoided.
- Consider hiring a lawyer if a cat you care for has been injured. A lawyer will be able to give you advice on pursing any possible legal action. See our guide to getting legal help.
- Reach out to your community. Post signs or flyers to alert your community that cats have been harmed or killed, that these actions are a crime, and that someone is looking out for the cats’ welfare. You may also consider sharing our materials to help educate your neighbors about community cats.
- Protect the remaining cats by following our advice on addressing violent threats against cats, such as installing a video camera to document all activity and posting signs.
Dealing with violence and cruelty is a serious and frightening situation for you and the cats. Try to stay focused and calm. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network—family, friends, and fellow cat lovers—and seek professional help if you need help coping.