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Court: Return Nubbins the stolen cat to Sonoma

Judge recommends the cat taken by a vacationing couple from Southern California should be returned while case continues.|

Nubbins, the cat taken from a Sonoma Valley Airbnb by a Southern California couple, should be returned to owners Troy and Virginia Farrell while her fate is decided in court, Sonoma County Judge Rene Chouteau ruled Friday.

The Farrells said they’re “hopeful” they will get Nubbins back permanently after Chouteau said there was a “strong probability of success” for the couple during Friday’s hearing.

At the heart of arguments was the validity of Farrells’ ownership of Nubbins, which the defendant Jim Wakefield has disputed over the course of months. Wakefield has argued that returning the cat to the Farrells would subject the cat to harm because it was left outdoors and “neglected.” He said his family, who were vacationing in Sonoma, decided he would take the cat home to Irvine.

Farrell has sought to validate his ownership through veterinarian records and affidavits from neighbors attesting to his care for Nubbins.

“I was in tears because (the cat’s disappearance) was so unexpected,” Virginia Farrell said during her testimony Friday.

She learned Nubbins was taken to Long Beach after receiving a call from a veterinarian who had detected the cat’s microchip.

“My cat was six hours away from her home,” she said.

Chouteau heard statements from both parties in the case of Farrell v. Wakefield, with each claiming the cat belonged with them. The Farrells were both questioned under oath about their care of Nubbins and their understanding of events following the cat’s disappearance during Thanksgiving weekend.

Wakefield has argued in letters to Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick and with court affidavits from his children and Matthew Knudsen, the AirBnb owner, that Nubbins was unsafe as an outdoor cat on Railroad Avenue. They say they have nurtured her and call her Kitty.

But Wakefield’s argument was not convincing enough for Chouteau, who said it was not unusual for cats to live outside or eat mice, as cats are known “mousers.”

Chouteau ruled that the emotional damage done to the Farrells through their continued separation from Nubbins was grounds for a writ of possession, an order by the court to help a property owner regain the possession of their property.

“In both these cases,” Chouteau said referring to case law brought by the parties’ lawyers, “it’s not really the economic values of the corpus, it’s the emotional value to the parties that is significant. And it’s very hard to put a monetary amount on that.”

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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