Lyft driver takes off with cat, global search ensues

Ride-share app originally told man they’d charge him $20 for Tux’s return

Updated One man’s hunt for his cat captivated an entire town, and the internet, after a Lyft driver allegedly sped off with the kitty still inside on Saturday afternoon.

According to Palash Pandey, who recounted his tale on both Twitter/X and Reddit, he was taking his cat Tux to the vet using ridesharing platform Lyft. On reaching Banfield Pet Hospital, he exited the vehicle and began to walk around to the other side of the car to grab his cat, which was contained in a blue carrier inside the vehicle, when the driver took off.

After two hours of attempting to contact the driver using the Lyft app, the driver responded to say he did not have the cat.

A three messages and three calls per ride allowance on the app meant Pandey had no further way to contact the driver.

“Dude, contact local news. Raise an utter shitstorm and force Lyft to make this right,” suggested one Reddit user, which is exactly the journey Pandey then embarked upon.

After a subpar response from Lyft, in which the company allegedly told him they would contact the driver and he would need to pay $20 as a standard fee for returning lost property, Pandey filed a police report regarding his microchipped cat.

He also began to whip up the aforementioned shitstorm.

But he wasn’t alone; one stranger claimed they contacted the Austin Humane Society, others shared flyers at physical locations and on social media, and more still joined full-on search parties.

Some attempted to track down the driver himself, although Pandey asked the public to not dox or harass the driver. Meanwhile, the search for Tux began to attract global attention online.

The police contacted the driver, who eventually called Pandey and told him he did not know anything of the cat’s whereabouts, was allergic to cats, and had picked up other riders after he had dropped off Pandey.

The day started to wear on, and according to Pandey, he searched the dumpsters of gas stations between the hospital and a major freeway. The case was then upgraded from being assigned a single investigator, with the animal cruelty department called in to help.

Pandey soon took a break from searching for the cat online and offline to film a local news segment. At this point he finally got Lyft’s attention. An exec called to say they had formed a search party for Tux.

The company tweeted Pandey’s flyer and according to both CEO David Rishner and a company blog post, every Lyft rider and driver in Austin was sent an alert with the picture of Tux.

Rishner tweeted/X’ed that he recognized the first response from his company was awful, but that the team was indeed involved in the search.

“We realize we could have done better in communicating regular updates to the rider and the community,” Lyft told The Register via email.

Eventually, in the wee hours of Monday morning, good news came in. Lyft operatives found the cat, sans carrier, on a set of stairs near a realtor's office.

“She looks very tired, is covered in fleas, and dehydrated. She started eating wet food again, which is a good sign, but I'll monitor her and take her to the vet as soon as she calms down and stabilizes a bit,” Pandey reported upon Tux’s return.

He promises to update again once he hears from the vet. ®

Updated to add at 2145 UTC on October 2

Lyft has been in touch and told The Register: "We’re so happy to report that Tux has been reunited with her owner and are focused on ensuring Tux has everything she needs right now, including covering all of her veterinary bills."

The ridehsare oufit added: "We’ll continue to work directly with Palash to provide the support that they both need. We know we must do better in how we support our community. We are actively working with all involved to fully understand the situation - to help prevent it from happening again. We’re evaluating our policies to improve support for our community, including in cases like this."

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