When an animal shelter posted pictures of an injured cat online, users instantly noticed the feline’s striking resemblance to a beloved Star Wars character. Almost overnight, the rescued cat, Joy – aka Baby Yoda Cat – was trending online, resulting in a spike of interest from would-be adopters and animal-lovers eager to help cover Joy’s veterinary bills.
Now the Internet’s latest feline celebrity has gone missing, and her new internet fame may have contributed to her disappearance.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that Joy is no longer in our care,” the Humane Society of Rowan County wrote on Facebook. “Joy was released without our knowledge or consent to a person claiming ownership.”
According to the shelter, a woman had called up, claiming to be Baby Yoda Cat’s owner, although rescuers doubted her story. “The HSRC president spoke by phone with the very distraught lady and explained that her photos presented a very close match to Joy but that the prominent feature, the ears, were not a match,” rescuers wrote.
But the woman insisted, asserting that the differing ears may have resulted from the cat’s recent neck injury, which was widely reported by media, even though veterinarians dismissed this idea outright.
In the coming days, this custody battle would take an even stranger turn.
When rescuers tried to transfer little Joy –– who had yet to fully recover from her injuries — to a different hospital for a second opinion, veterinary staff refused to approve the transfer, relinquishing custody to animal control. Joy’s “owner” threatened to sue. Then somehow, in the resulting confusion, somebody surrendered Joy her “owner” without even bothering to consult to shelter.
According to HSRC, this questionable decision was made by the veterinarian overseeing Joy’s care.
“He said the veterinarian was ‘tired of the publicity’ and wanted Joy out of his hospital,” rescuers wrote in a lengthy Facebook post, quoting an officer at animal control. “The sergeant said he returned Joy to the lady.”
Equally galling is that Joy’s “owner” is demanding the money raised by the shelter’s fundraising campaign to pay for Baby Yoda Cat’s veterinary bills.
“With permission of the kind donors who have contributed to Joy’s bill, we will pay as much as possible toward those expenses,” rescuers wrote. “The expenses for which HSRC is legally responsible and absolutely agrees to pay total $932.00. Thank you again to everyone who has expressed concern for Joy in any way. She is first and foremost a precious life deserving of love, care and protection.”
But not everybody is convinced that HSRC made the right decision by agreeing to fund Baby Yoda Cat’s veterinary care. “WOW…I wouldn’t fork over any of the money raised by kind donors…this woman sounds like an opportunist AND you should name the “veterinarian” who was sick of the publicity and couldn’t wait to hand over this poor cat to a charlatan,” one user commented on HRSC’s facebook page.
“Something is messed up. Whoever released her without permission and knowing the medical needs of joy should help pay the Vet bill,” another person wrote. “Strange the “owner” wasn’t concerned of her medical condition, to take her away.”
Others alluded to the “owner’s” possible motivation. “I think she is trying to profit from this precious sole,” another user guessed. “Famous cats can potentially make their owners millionaires,” somebody else agreed.
Stay safe, Baby Yoda Cat! It’s so disheartening to hear about people willing to take advantage of animals in need.
J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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