Things have gotten downright catty in June Thomson's old neighborhood.
The former KSAZ-TV, Channel 10, news anchor left her home in the Encanto neighborhood late last year to become a morning anchor at KGO, the ABC affiliate in San Francisco.
She took her husband (former game-show host David Sparks) and two children along. But she left Aggie, her 14-year-old Siamese cat, behind.
Now the fur is flying amid allegations that Thomson abandoned Aggie. Thomson insists that's not so, and says her former neighbor, Tom Noga, has humiliated her by spreading the word that she is guilty of cat neglect.
Reached at her new home in San Rafael, a community in Marin County outside San Francisco, Thomson says she had a perfectly logical excuse for leaving Aggie: The homeowner association in her new neighborhood prohibits cats.
Why? Because of an endangered species of mouse that lives in the area.
Furthermore, Thomson says, she had made arrangements for Aggie to be cared for. She says she asked her next-door neighbor, Carol Migray, to feed the cat for six months or a year, until Thomson could sneak her into her new home.
"We didn't think that my cat would miss me, because she's simply very independent--an outdoor cat, a Siamese cat--and didn't seem to know that we were alive, anyhow," Thomson says.
Apparently, Thomson was mistaken. Tom Noga, who lives across the street from Thomson's Phoenix house, heard Aggie crying on Christmas morning.
"I went out and I saw their [Thomsons'] cat at the [Thomsons'] front door, just kind of real scared and pacing back and forth and crying and scratching at the door," Noga says. "So I went over to check it out and there was nobody there."
He adds, "We started feeding the cat, and taking care of her. We cleaned her up a little bit. She was kind of a mess, and very hungry and thirsty, so we gave her food and water."
Carol Migray says she left a bowl of food for Aggie. The cat had often eaten at Migray's house over the years. But Migray believes the cat--in cat years, a geriatric at least--was suffering separation anxiety.
"She [Aggie] still felt like the house next door was her home, and she'd sit there waiting for somebody to come home," Migray says.
Then Aggie disappeared.
Migray searched for Aggie for days. She finally discovered that another neighbor (not Noga) had adopted the cat. (Through Noga, the neighbor declined to be interviewed for this story, or to allow Aggie to be photographed.)
Thomson says she shopped for months for affordable housing in the Bay Area. She finally found it, but there was just one catch: no cats.
"To us, it was so totally bizarre. And it forced us to do something that was uncomfortable, but you have to be in my shoes," Thomson says. "The most important thing to me was getting my family out here."
Don't misunderstand. Cats are not considered chopped liver in the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco. In fact, they compose a political constituency. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals publishes a list of "Cat Rights," including "The Right to be recognized as a unique and important species."
But in some parts of neighboring Marin County, certain mice and birds apparently have more pull than the household cat.
Thomson produces page 33 of her homeowner association manual, which includes a cat clause:
". . . In order to protect the endangered salt marsh habitat, particularly the salt marsh harvest mice and white clapper rail birds, no cats shall be permitted anywhere within the Project.
"There shall be cat traps regularly set within the non-access marshland area(s). Cats found or captured shall be taken to the Marin County Humane Society . . ."
Tom Noga spoke with at least one Phoenix television station, complaining about what he perceived to be Thomson's abandonment of her cat.
"The thing that just generated my outrage over this whole thing was that these people didn't even make an attempt to make arrangements to have the cat taken care of. They just moved out and left it there," says Noga, a self-professed animal lover.
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Thomson, Migray and Bev Harmon--the listing agent for Thomson's Phoenix house--say that's not true, and Thomson says she's furious with Noga for making Aggie an issue. Thomson says she has decided to allow the neighbor who adopted Aggie to keep the cat, and says she has offered to pay for the cat's vaccinations.
"I went through a lot to find a place for Aggie," Thomson says. "And now, with this neighbor going nuts--I mean, my husband's going to town in two weeks and you better believe he's going to be knocking on this guy's door, and probably punching him out."