Jo Jo Yarjau is, in many ways, just your typical teenaged girl.
She has lived on a comfortable, centrally-located crescent in a homey residential neighbourhood in Campbell River for all of her 18 years, and works at a small restaurant nearby. She recently graduated from Timberline Secondary, just around the corner and up the street from that home, and is considering what her future holds – just as any recent graduate would be doing.
She loves cats. She and her family own two themselves, and their house on Kit Crescent is a haven for others in the neighbourhood, she says. She often calls her own cats in from outside and finds others coming through their patio door before it closes. A couple of months ago, however, Yarjau noticed that her family’s 12-year-old cat, Tabby, was acting a bit odd.
Tabby had never been exceptionally cuddly or affectionate, but when she suddenly went from merely ignoring other members of the family to actively hissing at them and refusing to eat, Yarjau grew concerned.
“I managed to pick her up and found a bare patch on her belly in almost a perfect square,” she says, lovingly looking down at Tabby, curled up in the corner under the kitchen table.
When Tabby came back a third time with what looked to be another shaven area on her belly – the second time her upper legs and base of her tail were shorn bare – an event which also saw her nipples cut, Yarjau put a call out on social media about the situation, and found others in her area had similar experiences.
Vance Assu, who lives around the corner on Beaver Lodge Road, says his four-year-old cat Twilight has also been through this.
Like the first time Yarjau noticed Tabby acting strange, Assu says it started earlier this year, “in February or March.”
Twilight suddenly came home one evening with “a strange mark on his abdomen on his right side,” Assu says. “It looked like a perfectly shaved box shape.”
The very next night, Twilight returned home with another shaved spot closer to his tail at the bottom of his back.
A third time, Assu says, “it looked as if someone grabbed his tail and tried to cut it clean off, and there were clear shaven marks at the base of his tail.”
Assu and his family have been trying to break Twilight of being “an outside cat” since the incidents started, but it’s just not working.
“He doesn’t want anything to do with being in here, other than to eat and have a nap,” he says, “but even that is very rare. We’ve tried keeping the litter box inside, but he simply won’t use it.”
Some of the responses Yarjau received to her concerned posts on social media suggested she attempt that for Tabby, as well.
“People have been saying to just keep her inside. Well, you can’t do that with an outside cat. She’ll go crazy. She’s 12. You can’t just do that all of a sudden.”
People have also suggested that it may be that Tabby is ripping her own hair out, or perhaps it’s pesticides being used on neighbouring lawns that cause her hair to shed, but Yarjau thinks those theories aren’t sound, based on the precision and meticulousness of the hair loss.
“It’s a pretty clean shave,” she said. “They did a pretty good job holding my cat down. It must’ve been, like, a two man job.”
Pesticide or self-grooming also wouldn’t explain the cut nipples discovered after this most recent experience.
Yarjau also feels whoever is doing it must get some kind of sick pleasure out of it.
“She won’t come up to people. She’s not one of those cats,” Yarjau says, and she thinks, “whoever it is must be luring her with food so they can do this to her.”
Whatever the reason for this disturbing trend, Yarjau says, she just wants the community to be aware that this is happening.
The Yarjau’s have changed their habits with Tabby, and she thinks other people might want to consider doing the same.
“We only let her out at night now,” she says, “because it’s never happened at night. She’s not allowed to wander during the day anymore, because one day she just might not come back.”