CUDJOE KEY -- Toby the cat didn't quite make it to North Key Largo's Ocean Reef Club, a virtual kitty paradise for his free-roaming brethren. Instead, he ended up in Marathon, much to the surprise of his owner.
At Cudjoe Key's Venture Out Resort, feral and free-roaming cats are routinely trapped on the property and taken to an animal shelter in Marathon, according to resort manager Kevin Grube.
"We have rules in our neighborhood and owners must keep their pets to themselves," Grube said. "They cannot be roaming the property."
The mile marker 23 resort's policy has angered resident Lance Gates, who says Grube and the community had a vendetta against his cat and took it out of the area.
The cat was found weeks later at a campground in Marathon, according to Gates.
Gates wants answers, though it appears he may not be getting any. The situation has led the resident to start looking to live in another neighborhood.
Grube said the disappearance of Gates' Bengal tiger-colored cat had nothing to do with resort staff.
"They have accused me of trying to kill their cat," Grube said. "We trap cats whenever they are roaming."
Marathon and Cudjoe Key are separated by several bridges, including the Seven Mile Bridge, which Gates says rules out the possibility that Toby made it that far north on his own.
Grube described the cat as "beautiful," and a target for others who might want the pet for themselves.
According to Monroe County Sheriff's Office documents, a maintenance employee at the resort has taken about 20 cats out of the resort over the last three years.
He told deputies, though, that the last cat he removed from the community was prior to when Gates' cat went missing.
In North Key Largo, free-roaming cats at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club are treated much differently, with annual veterinarian visits as well as feed stations throughout the gated community.
"In this community we have a lot of people who don't want pets walking around the park," Grube said.
According to Grube, the park's legal counsel has been contacted to determine if Gates has harassed park staff and residents.
Free-roaming cats have long been a thorny issue in the Keys, where they are known to prey on native wildlife.