In 1998, I was residing in the Mid-Atlantic. I had a roommate who decided to move back home to the West Coast. Moving day started early that morning, and after a few hours of loading up the truck with the help of a small army of mutual friends, she was on her way. But by four o’clock that afternoon, I noticed that my fluffy gray cat, Jasper, hadn’t been about the house in quite some time. This was not all that unusual since there had been a considerable amount of noise and strangers moving boxes and furniture. I figured that she was simply sleeping in a closet avoiding the bedlam.
I adopted Jasper in 1997. She was barely 8 weeks old, and the only kitten left at the shelter. She was malnourished and very sickly, but two months and several vet visits, inoculations, and rounds of pet meds later, she was flourishing. As it turns out, she would need at least half of her nine lives to survive her own kitty curiosity.
When nighttime rolled in, there was still no sign of Jasper. At this point, I was becoming concerned because it wasn’t like her to not remind me to feed her dinner by six or seven at the latest. Nonplussed, I then began looking around the house calling her name. My voice echoed hollowly in the now sparsely furnished rooms as I opened closet doors and peered under bureaus. Wherever Jasper was hiding, she certainly did an outstanding job of choosing it.
Although it did not seem likely, my immediate thought was that she had run out the front door during the commotion. I lived in the countryside and was surrounded by farmland, so there were a lot of places she could have theoretically run off to hide — assuming that she had run outside, that is. I wasn’t convinced this had happened, however. My biggest fear was that if she had slipped outside then she might wander onto the two-lane highway in front of the house and get hit.
Dusk had since fallen and I had been walking around in the crisp September air for a few hours looking under cars with a flashlight, as well as knocking on doors, to no avail. The daylight was fading fast, and so I reluctantly resolved that I’d continue investigating the next morning. I was loath to leave Jasper outside to fend for herself, but it was unlikely that I would find her in the dark. Besides, she had probably found shelter somewhere to pass the cold night. At least that is what I told myself.
That evening, I called my roommate on the road and told her Jasper was missing. Thinking perhaps the cat had somehow wandered into the truck, I asked her to check inside to see if she had stowed away. However, my roommate and her male companion brushed aside the idea; they were both adamant that if the cat had managed to sneak inside, then they would have noticed. I wasn’t convinced.
A few days passed and still there was no sign of Jasper. Each day after work, it became my routine to put up missing-cat posters. Then I walked the countryside armed with a Polaroid, knocking on doors. But no one had seen Jasper.
That same night, I came upon the last farm on my itinerary. The woman who answered my knock was dressed in traditional Mennonite fashion. When I showed her my photo of Jasper, she said that she thought she may have seen the cat on her property. We walked across the yard to the barn, and when she opened the door, there was a small population of cats lounging in the hay. I scanned the group, but didn’t see Jasper. Having sensed my despondency, the woman told me that I was welcome to take home as many of her own cats as I liked. I thanked her, but declined the offer.
That night, in a last-ditch attempt at locating my cat, I emailed a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, asking to be contacted if anyone in my area had seen a cat matching Jasper’s description. I knew it was a long shot, but the longer she went missing, the less likely she would ever be found.
By day four into Jasper’s disappearance, I was beginning to lose hope. I went to work that morning and a few hours before quitting time I received a call from the roommate. She told me that they had found Jasper when they moved the sofa out of the truck! She had apparently climbed up into the couch from the underside and stowed away in the stuffing before it was put into the truck.
Suffering from dehydration and malnutrition, Jasper was immediately rushed to the vet. Upon hearing the news, relief flooded over me. I shared the bulletin with my department, and they were stupefied to hear that my cat had survived a four-day, 3,000-mile cross-country odyssey in hundred degree heat to San Diego from inside of a sofa.
I went home that night assuaged to know that Jasper had been found, and emailed another letter to the newspaper so that anyone who had bothered to look for my cat would stop. The next morning, I received a phone call from a reporter from the same newspaper. She said that she wanted to write about Jasper’s journey because she thought people might like to read about the happy ending. Suffice it to say, Jasper’s 15 minutes of feline fame happened on the East Coast, while she was enjoying her recuperation in sunny Southern California.
A few months later, when Jasper was well enough to travel, my roommate put Jasper on a flight and sent her home to me. I was the only person at the airport that snowy evening retrieving a live animal from the cargo bay. A full year later, we both moved to San Diego and have been together ever since.
Jasper is now a spry 15-year-old enjoying her golden years.
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