A stolen cat from Littlehampton has been reunited with its owners ten days after being taken.
On Tuesday, August 13, Victoria Howlett said her 10-year-old tabby Maxie was picked up by a man and put into the boot of his car, parked by garages near her home in Timberleys, Littlehampton.
A Facebook appeal to find the family pet went viral on social media, but as the days passed, the 25-year-old became more convinced that her beloved Maxie had become a victim of dog-baiting: an illegal bloodsport where dogs are set on a chained or confined animal.
It was a message from a stranger on Facebook that changed everything. At 9.30pm on Friday (August 23), Victoria was contacted by someone who lived a five-minute walk away that said they had found Maxie meowing outside their house and had sent photos.
Victoria said: "I was in tears, crying my eyes out. I couldn't believe it. At first I thought it must just look like him, but when I saw the pictures I was in so much shock. I left straight away and got him."
When Victoria arrived, she said Maxie had lost a lot of weight so she took him to the vets, where they said he had bruising to his leg, conjunctivitis in his eye and had gone into starvation mode.
Now on the mend, Maxie's owner wanted to thank everyone for raising awareness . She said: "It has literally restored my faith in humanity. People have offered to help in all sorts of ways; it has been fantastic, amazing."
She believed that the man dumped her cat after seeing the social media and press coverage, making Maxie 'too hot to handle'. She said: "I wish cats could talk - think how vital the information he has could be.
"I just want to know why he would put my family through something like this."
She said she was scared to let Maxie and her other cats out of the house following the ordeal.
Police officers had the car's details and were continuing to investigate what happened, Victoria claimed.
Her advice to other cat owners was to 'be vigilant' and report suspicious behaviour immediately to the police, and make sure their pets were microchipped.