Lost Cat

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Little Kitty, a couple of weeks ago

Little Kitty first found us when she was still a kitten. She took up residence in a giant jasmine vine that took over a pole in front of our place.  It took us a couple weeks before we could get her inside to join our family. Since then she was a daily joy in our lives. That is until she went missing on April 14.

I’m filled with sadness and grief now.

Phin and I have gone around our neighborhood, checking under raised houses and inside sheds and garages. We posted ‘missing cat’ signs on telephone poles and asked everyone around if they have seen her. But no one has seen our girl.

Little Kitty and her sister Big Kitty, who Phin adopted before Little Kitty found us, like rolling around on the driveway and lounging on the deck in our backyard. Early evening, they play with a couple of the cats that live on our block.

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Big Kitty and Little Kitty in my office on Civic Street in Metairie, Louisiana

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Big Kitty and Little Kitty in 2014 on Hickory Street in New Orleans

They are outdoor access cats, a term I learned while searching the web for how to find a lost cat. When an outdoor access cat goes missing, something out of the ordinary happened that drove them away. Another animal chased them, bad weather or some other loud disturbance like construction or fireworks spooked them. Or they met an untimely end — eaten by another animal or hit by a car or transported out of the area, either accidentally, by getting inside a vehicle or removed by someone who doesn’t like cats.

Often outdoor access cats are found in a five-house radius from where they live. Shy cats, like Little Kitty, can hide for up to 12 days before they come out of hiding and start making their way home. But we are way past 12 days so it is hard to hang on to hope that we will ever see her again.

On the second night of her disappearance, a cat came out of hiding from under bushes a couple of blocks away, answering Phin’s calls for Little Kitty. He had the same coloring as Little Kitty, but in retrospect, the cat that answered his calls clearly wasn’t her.  Not only is it a male cat, the cat is also double her size.  Two things we managed not to notice.

He was in bad shape. His hind quarters were red, he was missing fur and had scratches and bite marks all over and his tail had its tip cut off.  I carried him a couple of block to our place and he didn’t resist. When I put him down to open the door, he walked inside as if he had been here before.

Big Kitty checked him out and briefly met noses with him before he ate a can of cat food. She kept her distance but she didn’t growl or run away.

I noticed his paws were bigger than Little Kitty’s and his face didn’t seem quite right, but since the he was scratched up and had bites all over we attributed the difference to the fact the cat was beaten up and swollen.

I made an appointment to bring ‘her’ in the next morning to the vet who spayed Little Kitty. That night he slept with us as if he knew us forever.

The next day, after a vet checked out the cat’s wounds, I was told she was a he. My fantasy that Little Kitty was found was gone and panic set in. There I was in a vet’s office with a male cat I had mistaken for Little Kitty and I wasn’t looking for her as I should have been. I hadn’t even checked our backyard before leaving to visit the vet.

I assured the vet, Little Kitty was a she, that the vet who owns the office spayed her, gave her shots and microchipped her in return for photos I shot at their various locations.

The vet checked Little Kitty’s records and revealed devastating news: that, in fact, Little Kitty hadn’t been microchipped. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. If someone were to find Little Kitty and bring her to a vet, as I had Outlaw, I wouldn’t get a call.

The vet discovered the cat I brought in was microchipped and called the company his chip matched. The chip reveled the cat’s name was Outlaw.

I grew desperate to get out of the vet’s office to resume my search for Little Kitty, but the vet left me with Outlaw and asked me to wait until she could find out what his owners wanted to do. But she made it clear Outlaw might not be claimed since she sensed some of his wounds were self-inflicted and that he was a neglected cat. Outlaw had been gnawing at his own skin and was probably allergic to fleas.

A half an hour later I was told the Outlaw’s owners denied any connection to him. I told the vet to give Outlaw whatever he needed, that I would pay the bill but I needed to leave him there over night to figure out what we wanted to do with him. As I drove away, I knew I’d be taking him home but still hoped to find Little Kitty first.

That night we searched from dusk till dawn. Phin used sound equipment to hear any movement or meows that might come from anywhere she could be stuck, something he continues to do.

I picked up Outlaw the next morning. The antibiotics and cortisone shot were already having a positive effect on him. That day Phin realized Outlaw was declawed. How could someone abandoned such a declawed cat?

I was afraid taking him in would be like replacing Little Kitty and that having him around would be a constant reminder of her being gone. But Phin pointed out that I was wrong. Outlaw choose us, that was that.

And he was right. Outlaw is in no way a replacement cat.  We both feel Little Kitty’s absence all the time even with Outlaw around. Outlaw does offer us some comfort and we still hope someday the two of them will meet.

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Outlaw Kitty

With each day that passes, each step that I take around the same blocks looking for her, my heart feels like it is being ripped open even more. The pain of her loss gets worse, not better, having no clue what happened to her.

We keep checking the shelters, too. Hard not to walk in hopeful, and impossible not to leave feeling devastated when she is not among those in the small cages.

There have been a couple of sightings of Little Kitty that have turned out to be other grey tabbies that live in the area. It turns out there are a several cats that resemble her. We are now familiar with all of the cats in the area it seems.

While some say she is probably dead, we have been told cats come back months later. Yet that is of little comfort as we are moving one week from today.

Phin often says, “I love all kitties, some kitties more than others.” And there is no doubt, Little Kitty is the cat we love most of all. I love that cat fiercely.

I’m hoping for a ‘the cat came home’ story, like others I have heard. In the meantime, if you haven’t heard much from me, this is why. Not knowing where Little Kitty is awful.

Here is a video clip of Little Kitty and Big Kitty on back deck.

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    Little Kitty on my desk

    Little Kitty on my desk

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    Little Kitty in backyard

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