Homeless man allegedly abusing pet cat

Photo removed per request

“Dear PoPville,

I’m writing to see if anyone else has witnessed a twenty something Caucasian homeless man manhandling/abusing his pet cat. I’ve seen him twice on K Street, NW around 16th & 17th Streets. The first time he was walking with the cat strapped to his backpack and the 2nd time he was sitting on the sidewalk picking the cat up by its back skin and flinging it around. The cat had no food or water. He’s got a harness and leash on the cat so there’s no escaping. When I saw the man manhandling the cat I reported the incident to animal control, but am afraid that there’s nothing they can do without photo/video evidence. The cat just just seemed so helpless. Hoping to get the word out so people can be on the lookout.”

63 Comment

  • Reminder to all: If you don’t already have the 24-hour number for Animal Control in your phone, please add it. It’s 202-576-6664.

  • I work in the area and have seen him carting the cat around and screaming at people that he bumps in to.

  • I ran into him a few weekends ago around 18th and S. His speech is very violent. I gave him wide berth, to a degree pretty rare for me…. I think it’s time for an intervention. Mental Health Services? He is delusional.

    • Let’s care for the man AND the cat :^)

    • I was just looking up the numbers that someone had mentioned a while back in connection with mental health and homelessness — I didn’t enter them into my phone at the time.
      According to a post from Rayul in October 2012, the Mobile Crisis Team (MCS) is “part of the Dept of Mental Health’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program which operates 3 mental health programs:
      Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES): 202-673-9319 (24hrs, 7 days per week)
      Mobile Crisis Services (MCS): 202-673-9300 (9am -1am, 7 days per week)
      Homeless Outreach Program (HOP): 202-673-9124 (9am -8pm , M-F)
      Also you can call 311, 911 or 1(888)7WE-HELP (1-888-793-4357).”

  • The description of the behavior with the cat is a tad vague, to be honest. Picking cats up by the scruff on their back is not harmful at all and is actually a natural way cats are carried around by their mothers. Not sure what is meant by flinging it around. Obviously if he’s throwing it down on the ground or violently shaking it, that’s a problem. Hopefully someone will actually call animal control if they see that. I wouldn’t assume he isn’t feeding the cat either. He’s probably feeding it when he eats.

    • This man has started using the services of Martha’s Table for food in the evenings. Last week he provided water and food for the cat from what he received. He did have the harness of the cat clicked to his backpack but there was no evidence of the cat being abused or mistreated. Folks thought it was odd to “wear” the cat around his neck but the cat was not distressed.

      • I thought I saw this guy awhile ago near Martha’s Table but I never noticed the cat. I wonder if the cat is a new addition.

      • I’ve seen this cat on 14th a couple of times. Last Friday we saw him in front of Black Cat (after The Julie Ruin – awesome). It is his pet. He is “rough” with it, but not abusing it. The cat is on a leash and he lets it walk around and was even letting others pet it. He also picks the cat up (by the neck, yes) and heaves the cat onto his shoulder/backpack, where it’ll ride until it wants to jump down. There are def mental health issues here but not animal abuse. Not from what I’ve seen.

    • Probably the only friend and companion that he has. I too was wondering about the complaint of picking the cat up by the scruff on their back. It could simply be the way that they interact and play with one another similar to how some individuals roll around and “rough” play with their dogs that is really sorta harmless and more bonding than anything.

      • Yeah, I’m inclined to agree – I adore kitty cats but it sounds like this cat is looked after, and likely interacts with his human differently. Cats are very different than dogs, I’m about 99% sure that if this cat was being abused, he would do everything in his power to get away and hide. The fact that he doesn’t completely freak out and try to run even when this man raises his voice and yells at other people would seem to indicate that this cat is simply accustomed to this type of living situation/human. While I certainly hope this man is able to access some mental health (because it sounds like he needs it), I would hate to see his only friend taken away because someone misinterpreted the situation.

      • That is possible and there have been many articles on people who are homeless and their pets, as people often mistakenly think it is harmful for pets to continue living with people who are homeless. Here is an article (there are many): https://www.good.is/articles/homeless-people-pets-bias

        Also, there is a website with more information on this issue and a non-profit that helps: http://www.petsofthehomeless.org. WARL in DC also helps provide services through donations.

        • +1 It’s harmful for people to be homeless, but I’m pretty sure animals can handle it.

          • Yep, this. I don’t buy the whole “the cat is helpless” argument, particularly when a homeless man isn’t likely to be catching mice to eat for dinner. And, for all we know that cat could be an a**hole.

    • I’m guessing it’s isn’t practical for him to walk around with a food and water dish on his shoulder too. What a weird assumption.

    • While that may be how their mothers carry them around as kittens, it is NOT appropriate to handle an adult cat in that manner. They are too heavy by this point and their skin is not as elastic as it was as kittens. It can actually be very painful/harmful. You can “scruff” a cat briefly in order to administer medicine or for other reasons (as vets often do), but I just want to make sure everyone here understands that it is NOT normal, okay, or harmless to handle and fling an adult cat around by its skin.

      • You can absolutely scruff an adult cat. You just should not do it for long, preferably while applying some support to the back end, but not necessary. There is a right way to do it that isn’t painful. My vet does it every single time I take my cat in and has shown me how to do it. Obviously no one should be flinging the cat by its skin. As I noted, the description of what was happening is a bit vague here. My guess is if the cat was in pain, you’d know it without question. And that the description seemed to lack any indication the cat was reacting as if it was in pain, it made me question what exactly was happening.

        • Ya I agree I have picked up my cats this way to quickly get them when they were about to run outside . My vet also handles them this way while supporting their lower half

  • I saw this guy last night at the movies at Storey Park in NoMA. The cat was on his shoulder as in the picture. It was dark and he was a tad bit away, but I didn’t notice any interaction with the cat.

  • I’ve seen this guy a number of times in the Farragut North area. As a cat lover, I noticed the cat and did not think it appeared to be in any distress.

  • I saw this guy for the first time last week in McPherson Square, and he was sharing food with the cat. Not saying it isn’t a problem but I think that it’s not perhaps as dire as it might appear. I have seen homeless folks with dogs before but never a cat! Next time I see him I’ll ask if he needs help with vet care and see how that goes. Sadly there are so many stray and feral cats and so few homes that I don’t know that, absent any proof of abuse, WHS or any other regulatory agency can do anything about it.

    • justinbc

      Just based on the size in the photo it looks like an older cat, so it’s probably been with him for a while, especially if it’s not making attempts to flee. It might even be more harmful to the cat (and potential adopters) to be removed from a situation it’s grown accustomed to, even if we might not view it as the perfect living condition. In my opinion OP is better off directing goodwill elsewhere.

      • I agree where is he going to go ? A cage at the humane society. They do a great job of placing animals ( I got both my kitties there) but some pets (especially older ones) can wait months to find homes. It depresses animals to be there. Unless the cat is being harmed or distressed leave him where he is

      • Agreed, though I understand the concern and it’s certainly not good if the dude is overly rough with the cat, even sporadically. When I saw the cat it was not tethered and seemed perfectly fine but I will ask the guy if he needs any help next time I see him. As many of your generous Popville folks may recall, I was part of the group that helped relocate the “Marriott Cats” (and am still working on getting homes for two that have medical issues). It truly opened my eyes to how many stray animals we have fending for themselves in DC, facing the dangers of the streets and vulnerable to weather, etc. I’d rather have 20 people be too concerned with this cat and its owner than nobody caring at all.

  • Lol….feel bad for the cat. This guy’s street name is Spider, he has been in DC for over 20 years. Drug addict, failed rock star. U street, Dupont, and Chinatown are his stomping grounds.

    • Same guy who used to have the board+cat toy on his pack for the cat to play with? Used to see him in Adams Morgan all the time.

  • I saw him last Thursday at 16 & K. He introduced me to the cat and encouraged me to pet him/her.

  • Andie302

    I had to take a call yesterday in the park at McPherson Square while I was out grabbing food. I ended up on the bench next to the one this guy was on. He was having a civil conversation with an adult women and three younger (maybe early teen?) girls. I was interested in their conversation to the point that I didn’t notice the cat peacefully sleeping under the bench untethered for several minutes. I THINK the woman and girls were doing some kind of homeless outreach. The cat was in a sunny spot and seemed fine. He didn’t have food or water at the time, but appeared to be resting. I was intrigued because I could NEVER get my dog to stick that close to me and act that calmly.

  • Doubt this guy did anything wrong to that cat, as the comments are here have already said. The tipster is just one of those pet obsessives that think homeless people don’t deserve to have one and shows more compassion for the animal than the homeless human.

    • +1
      Pet Obsessives is a great name, too bad it’s not in the DSM. And, frankly, it’s disturbing to see them show way more compassion for an animal than a fellow human.

      • +1. That’s all I can really bring myself to say, here.

        • justinbc

          Agreed, I thought that too, but didn’t want to extrapolate without further context.

          • Ehh, I think SWChris is being a little hard on the OP. The OP _could_ fit that description, but perhaps he/she is just an ordinary pet lover who errs on the side of caution/worry.

          • Honestly though very little good comes from people “worrying/judging” when they haven’t a clue what they are looking at and what the results will be when they attempt to help. In this case possibly euthanasia and a possibly mentally unstable person losing their companion. Way to help out!
            The OP sounds like someone who would write one of those articles about a “hero” kid who tells their teacher about their parents’ weed plant ending with their arrests (won’t happen here, horay!) and the child being placed in foster care or someone who calls the cops when they see an 8-year-old alone at the park or walking home from school.
            I understand that culture tells some people that cats are indoor creatures (they aren’t) and poor helpless creatures (actually ruthless killing machines with claws and fangs to prove it) and children require adult supervision and car seats until they are 65 but you Mrs. Lovejoys of the world really need to stop, and then “think of the children (cats)” because just acting on your cultural moralism leads to more harm than good.

      • Yes, people who say things like “I get so mad whenever I see a homeless person with a dog/cat. I just want to take it away from them, a dog/cat shouldn’t be living outdoors” are so suspect to me. And a LOT of people say things like that.

    • I’m probably a pet obsessive, and proud to be one. I’m perfectly mentally healthy. I just happen to love animals. I do not love animals exclusively. I also feel love for my fellow humans. I have compassion for this man AND his cat. I simply don’t think living on the street is likely good/safe for either of them. It makes sense to me to seek to have both the man and his cat evaluated to see if any health issues and/or abuse issues should be addressed, among other things. It may be that the cat is a beloved companion, but the cat deserves readily accessible food and water, and not to be handled roughly, at the very least. The man, of course, also deserves food and water, and to be protected from physical abuse, and shelter and a decent job, etc., if he wants it. The concern with the cat, I think, stems from the fact that the cat can’t ask for help in the same the way the man could, and so the cat is vulnerable in a different way.

      • Cats, probably more than any other domesticated pet, are able to survive on their own. They’re perfectly capable of finding food and water themselves in both rural and urban environments. You vastly overrate how much your cat needs your human assistance.

      • My question, do you love people as you love animals? No one should abuse any animal. However, when a child or an adult have been gun down or hurt on District streets, I don’t see many comments made.

    • Or they saw the guy on a bad day. I love my dog (and humans too, by the way) but there are days when I’ve lost my patience and a casual observer might not know that the dog is deaf and can’t hear me calling him a slow mofo…let’s not shame someone for caring, even if their concern is perhaps not warranted. Better to have somebody who gives a damn than nobody who does.

      • Sending someone’s picture into a blog and telling everyone to “be on the lookout” is not what I would call “caring”. Actually sounds much more like “shaming” to me.

        • I could be wrong, but my sense is that this particular guy probably doesn’t give a s*** if he’s being “shamed” on PoPville.
          I didn’t think the OP was trying to “shame” the guy… just hoping that anyone else who saw possible abuse occurring would call it in. Maybe he/she was overreacting, but I agree with Elvis’s Mom.

  • Speaking generally, unless there is clear evidence of abuse or neglect apparent to officers in the condition of the animal, you aren’t going to get anything done about animal abuse without video. If you see someone abusing an animal, get a video.

  • He was at Wunder garden last night.

  • I saw this guy and his cat yesterday and the cat seemed to be pretty relaxed and happy.

  • This looks like the guy that sits near independence on 12th with a small dog. He just started coming there recently, I think and I always feel so bad for the dog.

    • How do you feel for the man?

    • I don’t think it’s as simple as you are trying to make it.
      For me, when I see a homeless adult person, of course it’s sad. But it’s also more complicated. There are often (not always, but often) very apparent mental health and/or substance abuse issues. The person is ill, which is not their fault, but they are not getting the treatment they need. Or, treatment to date is unsuccessful. Even with people who have money and resources, mental health and substance abuse can be difficult to treat and the road to recovery is often long and bumpy.
      A homeless animal or a homeless child. It just seems simpler. Saying it’s not their “fault” isn’t the right way to put it, bc again, I think the adult is likely ill and not “at fault.” Maybe better phrased as the child/animal is living someone else’s hell, baring someone else’s cross, whatever. I get that it may not be so simple – my dog probably wouldn’t mind if I quit my job and we spent 24/7 together under a bridge, instead of this whole 9-5 alone thing he’s got now. But let’s not act like someone is ridiculous for seeing a homeless pet and worrying if it’s being taken care of, since it is cared for by someone who is struggling to take care of his/herself.

  • Monday evening I saw this guy and his cat sitting at the corner of 16th and K. We talked for a couple of minutes, and he told me that he was trying to get to NYC. I asked about his cat, and he told me that it’s an Egyptian Mau. The cat seemed very relaxed and didn’t seem to be in any distress. There was also a cup of water beside him, and extra cat food in the guy’s backpack. I don’t think the public has too much to worry about right now regarding the cat or the guy. The cat may be his only friend, and it might be detrimental to separate them.

    • Thank you, Joy. I’ll offer to help him with cat food (and people food!) if needed next time I see him. Thanks for getting the details and letting us know.

  • Homeless people and pets:
    PSA: I cried so hard watching this. Don’t judge the source. Just watch the video if you can. I was bawling.

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