A first-of-its kind court case in Illinois has proved that sometimes curiosity doesn't always kill the cat.
In working with the estate of a now-deceased woman, trust officers at Fifth Third Bank noted the will of Georgia Lee Dvorak included the instruction to euthanize any cats she possessed when she died.
As it turned out, that included a black cat named Boots who, despite her 11 years, remains in good health.
"We read the will, we took a look at it, and we were a bit shocked, said Jeff Schmidt, the Director of Personal Trust for the bank. "We're speculating as to why she would have that in her will. It's kind of ironic given the ultimate disposition of her estate."
That disposition included donations to numerous charities, many of them involving the care of animals, records reviewed by NBC Chicago show.
The bank and attorneys from Spain, Spain & Varnet felt uncomfortable putting down a perfectly healthy cat and this week convinced a Cook County judge to spare Boots' life. The case is unprecedented in Illinois, but attorneys cited similar cases in other states where provisions of a last will and testament were invalidated.
In a 1964 Pennsylvania case, a woman directed that her Irish setter dogs be destroyed in a humane manner upon her death. A 1999 Vermont case involved the euthanasia of four horses and a mule.
Dvorak died on Christmas Eve of sepsis and pneumonia at the age of 76. She was never married and had no next of kin.
"She had a big heart and was a very intelligent lady," said neighbor Sandra Buturusis, who spends 90 minutes each day with Boots.
In an affidavit, Buturusis' husband, Wayne, said Boots was a stray cat with a troubled past which been taken in by Dvorak just 18 months before she died. Adopted from a shelter in Michigan City, Ind., Boots and Dvorak quickly developed a close bond, he said.
"Boots' prior owners reportedly threw her down stairs and kept her in a locked closet for days at a time with no food, water or litter box," Buturusis wrote.
Buturusis speculated that Dvorak would want Boots put down rather than be adopted by another abusive owner. But, he added, she would also have wanted the animal placed in a "suitable home" rather than euthanized. He said severe allergies prevented him and his wife from taking in the cat.
"Given this woman's history over the last 20 years, it seems that if we could demonstrate to her that a good home could be found for this animal, that's probably what she wanted. This document is very old. It's a 1988 will, and we think we did the right thing, and the judge did the right thing, definitely," said Schmidt.
Boots continues to get daily care and will soon be taken in by Cats-Are-Purrsons-Too, a no-kill shelter in Chicago.