Riley the fluffy black cat is back with his Nelson owners Stu and Nicky Reid this week after he was inadvertently ‘catnapped’ in a bizarre case of mistaken identity.
Stu says Riley is a cat that “likes sticking to his routines” and so they were very concerned when he wasn’t waiting for them on the veranda when they arrived home from work last Friday.
When Riley still hadn’t shown up by Sunday, Nicky and Stu were so worried they started putting fliers in letterboxes around their neighbourhood, asking if anyone had seen their beloved cat.
But what Stu and Nicky didn’t know was that Riley had been inadvertently catnapped by Ben Douglas and Gemma Thawley who had just moved out of their house down the street.
Riley is identical to Ben and Gemma’s cat Billy, and they took Riley with them by mistake when they moved to their new home near Panorama Heights.
“Riley was in their house when they moved so they took him by mistake,” Stu says. “I suppose they would have been rushing around and a bit distracted with moving house and they would have just thrown him in a cat cage and gone.
“It’s easy to see how it happened because they are pretty much identical, although Riley is just a bit fluffier. Billy wasn’t there at the time so they just grabbed Riley instead.”
Although Ben and Gemma initially didn’t realise their mistake, they did notice that Billy was acting strangely and was not his usual friendly self.
Ben says they thought their cat was upset by the move and so locked him a room with a dirt box and hoped he’d settle down.
“Bill is a bit of a skittish cat anyway and we thought he was just hating the move,” Ben says. “The vet said to lock him in a room for 10 days to help him get used to the place, so we didn’t pay too much attention to him.
“It seems like a silly thing to do, but he looks identical to Bill and he was in our house when we moved so we just grabbed him and put him in the cat cage and left.
I think Gemma was starting to have her doubts but she wasn’t sure – we would have realised eventually but at the time we just thought Bill was upset.”
And as Stu explains, that’s how the catnapping saga may have ended if Nicky hadn’t gone walking with a friend around Tahuna last Tuesday night.
“Nicky was walking with her friend and she saw an empty house for rent, and so they went and had a look around the property for Riley. They didn’t find the cat, but Nicky did see an outdoor chess set and that interested her because she had a friend who was looking for one.
“So we found out that Ben owned the house and I phoned him to ask about the chess set. I explained that Nicky had gone onto the property because she was looking for our cat and hoped he didn’t mind.
“Ben said the chess set had been there when they brought the place and he was leaving it there for the new owners, so he couldn’t help. But then he phoned back on Wednesday and asked me what our cat looked like and I told him.
“Ben said ‘that sounds just like our cat Billy’ and asked if I could send a photo, so I did. He called back and said ‘I think we have your cat” and a few hours later Gemma turned up at our place with Riley.
“I hadn’t told Nicky about it yet so she was really surprised. She was so happy to have Riley back, but it’s sad for Ben and Gemma because now they have a missing cat.”
However, Ben says Billy is a bit of a wanderer and had gone off for two or three weeks before, so they are optimistic he will show up at their old house.
He says they plan to keep looking and, with new tenants are moving into their old house, hopefully Bill might come around looking for food.
If anyone has seen a large, fluffy, black cat around the Tamaki St area, please contact Ben on 021 249 1195.