Woman Dies, Leaves $50,000 to Be Divided Amongst Her Cats


A woman died and left her five cats $10,000 each. You will probably not be surprised to learn that legal trouble quickly followed. Picture a Bleak House remake featuring feuding Brooklyn cat ladies.

DNA Info reports that it all started when Carroll Gardens’ Laura James died and bequeathed each of her cats—Cookie, Tuptim, Joey, Ash and Chance—$10,000, to ensure they were well cared for. Now, this gesture will surely touch the hearts of cat ladies everywhere. The idea of dying is bad enough; the thought of dying and your cat going to some horrible pound is enough to destroy you emotionally for the rest of the day. (Sorry.)

But it’s not particularly surprising that caterwauling ensued.

The trouble started with elderly Joey’s incontinence problem, which wasn’t good for James. So Claire Angelica, a friend, took him temporarily. But Angelica’s house got hit by Hurricane Sandy, so Angelica asked another woman, Josephine Gassner, to take him in, also temporarily. After James passed, the trustee of the cats’ inheritance, Joy Cytryn, also asked Gassner to care (still temporarily) for Ash and Chance. (Cookie and Tuptim were quickly adopted and are clear of this mess.)

But now Cytryn and Gassner are at odds, and the battle has spilled into the Brooklyn Surrogates Court. For starters, Gassner wants $6,930 for vet expenses. She’s also got a lot of opinions about the proper placement of the cats. DNA Info says:

Gassner said that, while she had only met James a few times and was not named in the fundraiser’s will, she and Angelica had “about four decades of volunteer work rescuing, caring for and placing pets in responsible loves homes,” so they suggested appropriate new owners to Cytryn.
“Yet our leads and suggestions for new homes were essentially summarily rejected by [Cytryn],” Gassner said in her legal filing in Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court.

According to filings by Gassner, she and Angelica decided Chance and Ash needed to be adopted together. Cytryn, on the other hand, wanted a pet psychologist to confirm that. Gassner claims Cytryn also wanted to send Ash to live with a woman in Florida she’d never met and elderly Joey to a barn. So Gassner wouldn’t give up the cats, which she says pissed off Cytryn:

“One particular day, [Cytryn] was outside my home with two other people for over an hour, trying to get in, hindering myself and others from entering and leaving, yelling to whoever would listen that I stole her cats,” Gassner said in her filing.
“She called the police who, apparently after assessing the situation, left.”

At which point Gassner took all three cats and handed them over to someone willing to permanently adopt all three, supposedly without asking for the thirty grand. Cytryn’s only comment to DNA Info: “I did the best I could for my dying friend…. I tried to find good homes for the cats. I don’t know where they are.”

Meanwhile, God only knows how many pets of dead owners end up at Animal Care and Control (the actual saddest place in New York City) every year, so consider this your biweekly reminder that you should probably adopt some more cats.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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