Escaped Cat Reunited With Family After Two-Month Search

 |  Sep 27th 2010  |   2 Contributions


Nib takes a treat from owner Debra Merskin after returning home from an odyssey that lasted two months. Photo by Chris Pietsch

A two-month search and a series of fortunate events has led to a joyous reunion between Debra Merskin and her beloved Devon rex cat, Nib.

The quest involved Facebook, posters, queries to shelters and veterinarians, newspaper ads, and even the assistance of an animal communicator.

From the time he disappeared until the day she saw him again, it was nothing but Project Find Nib, Merskin said. Theres the Nib story, but theres also the process of how to go about finding a missing cat -- I learned so much -- and there are times that I look back and think, If only Id done this one thing a couple days sooner.

But how did the 11-year-old feline escape in the first place?

Merskin took a trip to Michigan in July to attend a memorial service for an aunt. I usually use a professional pet sitter or a live-in house sitter, she said, but this time her dogs stayed with a friend and someone else came by to look in on the Nib and and her other cat, 4-year-old Sweetpea.

My cats are indoor-only because there are all kinds of risks for them outside, especially in this part of town where its all woods and raccoons and other critters, Merskin said. Not only that, but Nib has always been pretty fearful out of his normal environment.

The cat sitter opened a window on a hot afternoon and apparently didn't notice that the window didn't have a screen. Nib either jumped or fell out.

When Merskin called to check in, the cat sitter told Merskin that Nib had escaped.

Merskin couldnt get an early flight back, so she posted about Nib's plight on Facebook, e-mailed friends, and made phone calls. People looked everywhere and starting putting up posters, Merskin said. Two days later I got back, and I started looking for him myself. I knew he wouldnt be able to find his own food, and hes too shy to go up to anyone. I was beside myself.

She called area shelters and the company that markets the microchip that Nib had embedded between his shoulder blades. She put ads in the newspaper and hung posters all around her southwest Eugene neighborhood.

Merskin's yoga teacher, having heard about Nib's escape, told her about an animal communicator in Portland who might be able to help. Skeptical but desperate to try anything that might bring her cat home, she contacted Jewels Edwards. I set up a time to talk to her, and then I canceled it. I just went back and forth, Merskin said. Finally, she said we could use e-mail, so I sent her his picture and the date he had disappeared. She responded that she was picking up his energy, that he was still out there . It wasnt specific, but it gave me what I needed to keep on looking for him and putting up posters.

Merskin changed the posters from Nib is missing to Nib is still missing, with a new photo, a tactic she recommends to anyone searching for a lost animal. It gets peoples attention all over again, she said. It lets them know that the animal is still lost, and that someone is still looking.

Meanwhile, the frightened feline apparently was making his way southeast through trees and underbrush, toward the home of Sheryle Dinger and her husband, Andrew.

One morning, the Dingers' neighbors started power-washing their deck, and they saw a scrawny, weak creature crawl out from underneath.

He was so skinny and hairless, he didnt look like a cat. He was nothing but bones covered with skin. He was so precious, but so scary-looking," Sheryle Dinger said.

Somewhere along the way to the Dingers' neighborhood, Nib had lost his breakaway collar and name tag.

After Nib was rousted from his hiding place, he took refuge under the Dingers car, and they slid some food underneath. We would come out and check it, and we could see that he had eaten some, Dinger said. After a day or two, they were able to move the food into the garage, and they shut the cat in when he went inside to eat.

They kept Nib in the garage for the first two or three weeks because they didn't know how he'd react to their other cats, Dinger said. "All he did was eat and sleep, eat and sleep. He started getting a little hair back, and he started to gain a little weight.

The Dingers knew about microchips, but not how tiny they are or where they are embedded, so we felt him all over and checked his ears and couldnt find anything. They called area veterinarians in the to report the cat they had found, and some library research enabled Sheryle to identify Nib as a Devon rex. We kept looking for signs and things, but we didnt see any, she said.

The reason the Dingers didn't see Merskin's signs was that she had put them up to the south and east of her house, which was not in the area where the Dingers usually travel.

By the end, I had put posters up within a half-block of their house, but they were always on the side of the pole toward my house," Merskin said. "Now I know to put posters on both sides of a pole, so that people who travel in the other direction will see them, too.

About two months after Nib's disappearance, Merskin began to accept that she wouldn't see the cat again. She told herself, As long as hes OK and someone is loving him and taking care of him, I should be all right.

But then an amazing series of coincidences started happening.

At the beginning of September, Merskin e-mailed the animal communicator again, and I said, Nib is still missing; is there anything else you can tell me? The psychic told her that the next five days would be crucial, that Nib is fed and well cared-for but he wants to go home.

Merskin asked, "Can you give me any sense of direction, where to look?" And the animal communicator said southeast. "And she said she was seeing numbers -- 4, 7, and 1 or 9 -- and a neutral-colored building, a gray or tan house. So I went out driving and looking and putting up more posters, and I decided I should put in one more ad, in the Sunday paper.

On Sept. 5, Sheryle Dinger was reading the Sunday paper, and I suddenly thought maybe I should check the lost-and-found ads one more time, she said. I figured no one would be putting an ad in this long after losing their cat, but I just felt I needed to do it. And there it was -- an ad about a missing Devon rex. I had about one second that... well, you know... but right away, I knew I had to call.

When Merskin's phone rang, she didnt recognize the name or number, so she let it ring through to her answering machine. A womans voice said, I saw your ad in the paper. I think we may have your cat.

Merskin immediately returned the call. I knew it was Nib. It was clear it was Nib," she said. "I asked for their address, grabbed his carrier and got in the car.

The street number was 4-7-7-1, and the house was gray.

I knocked at the door, and I could see a man sitting inside, and there was Nib. He was looking great. He was just staring at me, Merskin said.

"After two months of agonizing and searching every day, it was an incredible feeling to have him back," she said.

Sheryle Dinger says, I think its great -- I think it was kind of a God thing that I looked in the paper that day, she said.

Its funny that everything has gotten so sophisticated, but sometimes it comes down to the simplest things, like a classified ad in the paper.

(For a list of tips on finding a lost cat, read the original article.)

[Source: The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon]

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