Editor’s Note: Louise Hung is a writer for Catster’s sister SAY Media site, xojane.com. This article first ran on xoJane, but we’re rerunning it (with permission!) so you readers can comment on it. Please note that the opinions expressed below are just the author’s and not necessarily Catster’s.
I’ve always been a sucker for The Incredible Journey, the children’s book about three pets who travel hundreds of miles to find their owners. I can reduce myself to tears simply by imagining any combination of my pets past or present bravely traversing the wilderness searching for me out of loyalty, love, and devotion.
I picture my pets, Misty the Dog, Brighty the Rabbit, Sammy the Cat, and Turty the Turtle, journeying across the western United States fording rivers, running from poachers and thwarting cholera (sometimes my wires get crossed with Oregon Trail, but that was tragic too!), determinedly searching for me, dreaming (as the music swells) of the day when we will be reunited.
So you can imagine how I almost peed myself when Tailsy the Cat, my adopted cat who disappeared more than a year ago reappeared on New Year’s Day. It was a New Year’s miracle! Thank the great kitten in the sky.
The Guy I Married and I were just getting back from getting some New Year’s provisions when I saw a little black cat skulking around our building’s parking lot. Because we are both crazy animal people, whenever we see the random cat in our parking lot (this happens a lot, O’ahu is overrun with feral cats), we go into Doolittle Mode and slowly approach said cat, attempteing to converse with and befriend it.
I was asking the little black kitty how it was doing and wishing it a Happy New Year, when I stopped short. This kitty had an exceptionally long tail and was chatting up a storm, completely unafraid of me. She ran right up to me ÔÇª could it be? I inspected her — the tiniest bit of white on her little kitty chin, the little scar just above it from when she developed an ulcer on her mouth from a reaction to her plastic water dish, and of course her extra long tail that earned her name.
I asked my husband, “Wait a second. Is that … Tailsy?”
Before he could answer, the music swelled, the camera panned, and I scooped up my long lost kitty. Tailsy the Cat had come back to me! She had “Incredible Journeyed” across the wilds of Honolulu!
My head and heart almost exploded. She looked relatively healthy and happy, so I imagine she’d been suckering people into taking care of her, in much the same way she first did me.
Tailsy came into my life literally the first day I moved to O’ahu. When I arrived at my apartment building, I noticed her meowing, begging for food and attention. My building manager told me that she and her brother (who disappeared) used to belong to the person who lived in my apartment before me, and when she moved she didn’t want the cats, so she put them outside and left them behind.
I almost died. I wanted the Bureau of Ironic Punishments to find that lady, take all her stuff to an undisclosed location, then lock her outside of her new home. Naked. With worms. And a bacterial infection.
Tailsy became my mission. We were both lost, both searching for a new home and more than a little discombobulated. Little by little, we became friends.
It killed me to see her spending the wet Hawai’i nights outside, hiding under a car, but try as I might I could not get her to come inside. The turning point came one winter day (Hawai’i doesn’t exactly get cold, but it gets torrential rains and scary winds) when the weather was exceptionally nasty. It was the kind of frightening wind that makes you fear that the gusts might move your car across the freeway into oncoming traffic. The rain was unrelenting, and the streets were flooded.
I spent the better part of the day going in and out of my apartment every 15 minutes or so calling for Tailsy. She was nowhere to be found. I was terrified that she had gotten blown away or washed away or stuck somewhere. Finally, as it started to get seriously dark and descend into night, I heard an insistent, “Meow meow meow meow meow,” at my door.
I opened my door, and there was Tailsy, wild-eyed, soaked, and talking loudly at me. She had come home!
After that, Tailsy and I reached an understanding. She was free to come and go as she pleased. She would come to my door in the morning and remind me to feed her, then she’d go adventuring while I was at work and greet me in the parking lot when I came home at night. She was my talkative little black shadow.
Then she disappeared. After almost a year of meowing around my apartment, Tailsy didn’t ask for breakfast one day, nor was she there when I came home. I spent those first few days calling for her all night and day, but no little black shadow came running.
I feared the worst when I found her collar and tags on the sidewalk. She had always been an escape artist; she hated her collar and was excellent at removing it. Now here was her collar, but where was Tailsy?
Almost 10 days after Tailsy disappeared, my building manager finally volunteered some information. She told me that someone had complained about Tailsy and another cat, a feral cat, that had been killing birds in the neighborhood. Apparently, someone contacted Tailsy’s old owner who, unbeknownst to me, lived three blocks away, and she came and caught both cats and took them to the Humane Society.
My stomach sank. The Humane Society of Hawai’i could be a death sentence to kitties. When we called, someone told us there wasn’t a single black cat in residence.
We never did find Tailsy. I cried for days, convinced that Tailsy had been destroyed. I never thought I’d see her again. Until a year later — when I found my little black shadow waiting for me, telling how her day went. I am so lucky.
The best I can suppose is that my little escape artist was adopted by another family and after a year she finally figured out how to get out of her new home. After tasting freedom again, I’m guessing she decided to come back to me. I’m going to take her to the vet to see whether she has a microchip, and if she does, I’ll contact her new family to see if we can work something out. If they love her like I do, they’ll be missing her.
I know you’re asking, as I would, “Why the hell wasn’t she microchipped, Louise?!”
Ugh. I know. I never microchipped Tailsy because putting her in a carrier and taking her to the vet was so traumatic for her the one time I took her for her bacterial infection and worms that the thought of tormenting her again made me put it off. I will always regret that.
At the pet store where I work, we deal with families of lost pets all the time. Catster recently ran a list of tips on what to do if your cat goes missing. Here are some of my tips to add to that list.
If you lose a pet, here are some tactics that may help you find your lost furry friend. By doing a few simple things, I’ve seen lost dogs and cats be found after weeks or months of being lost.
Include the right info
When you make flier or social media posting for your lost pet, be sure to describe what your pet looks like. Unusual markings, scars, size, breed, and gender. Be specific. Include whether your pet has any illnesses or special needs. Put as much contact information as you feel comfortable putting — phone numbers, email addresses, and so on. It helps to note that your pet is friendly, especially if you have a large dog or “bully breed,” as some are less likely to approach a seemingly scary dog. Also, mention where your pet was last seen or the various places your pet has been spotted since getting lost. This will help people look in specific areas. Finally, this might sound like a no-brainer, but put your pet’s name on any posting.
I reiterate: Microchip your pet
Don’t be like me. Please don’t be like me. No matter what you have to do, take your pet to your vet or local rescue group to have a microchip implanted. The chip will contain all your information, so if your pet is brought into a shelter after being lost, a shelter or rescue group will know that your pet is your pet.
I hope nobody ever has to go through what I did with Tailsy the Cat, but if your pet goes missing, I hope against hope that your story will have an Incredible Journey ending, too.