Zoey the so-called #WhoDatCat seen at an NFL game earlier this month is back after having escaped from her carrier last week. Research from news reports, social media sites, reader-comments sections, and one interview point to a sad and somewhat complex situation for the 2-year-old cat as well as the people around her. Randall James Pumilia, who brought Zoey to a New Orleans Saints game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Oct. 15, had offered an unspecified cash reward for her return. Tuesday morning Pumilia posted on Facebook, “Zoey’s back in my arms!!! There is a God,” although he gave no details about her return. A message to Pumilia on Monday afternoon has gone unanswered.
This image was posted on Twitter by New Orleans grocer Breaux Mart. It appears to be a text exchange between Pumilia and the proprietor:
KSLA-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, reports that a man named Hank Byers spotted Zoey after seeing her on TV and that led to her return. KSLA also quotes Pumilia as saying he is scheduled to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, although that could not be independently confirmed.
On Monday, NOLA.com reported that Zoey had been missing since Thursday, Oct. 22. Catster contributing writer Lisa Richman interviewed Pumilia over the weekend — before Zoey’s disappearance had been reported — but Pumilia did not mention that Zoey was gone. Online research suggests Zoey had recently moved out of Pumilia’s house along with an ex, who also offered a reward, but that the cat was staying with Pumilia while the woman completes an offshore work assignment in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to Monday’s report from NOLA.com, Pumilia was at a storage facility Thursday called Uncle Bob’s in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans when Zoey escaped her cat carrier and “wandered off.” A surveillance camera showed the cat walking around Pumilia’s vehicle before leaving, he said, but the cat did not respond to Pumilia’s calls later. Pumilia told NOLA.com he distributed flyers and set out sardines at the storage business in an attempt to lure Zoey.
In the weekend Catster interview, Pumilia said Zoey is a certified service/companion animal. He said this certification allowed him to bring her into the Superdome. Pumilia would not specify the reason for needing a companion animal, although it might involve the aftermath of a 2012 motorcycle crash. Photographs on Pumilia’s Facebook page show images of severe physical injuries as well as descriptions of reconstructive surgery on his left hand; in one description he writes that a physician told him he also suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash.
In a separate interview, Pumilia told NOLA.com that he intended to bring Zoey to every Saints game. However, questions arose Monday whether Zoey still lives permanently with Pumilia.
Pumilia’s ex, Melissa Saint James, posted on her Facebook page Sunday the photo of Pumilia and Zoey at the football game with the following words: “Please help me! My dad lost me and I am confused. Will pay $$$$ to someone for my return & to let my mom know I am safe & sound. Love, Zoey.”
In a comment, Pumilia replies, “I messed up, no sleep here. Lost everything. And my poor cat is out there scared. If anyone could help I would be forever in your debt.” In the same Facebook thread he speculates that Zoey was kidnapped, writing that, “For 2 years in different locations she has never done this. I’m in panic mode.”
A message to Saint James requesting her input in the matter has thus far gone unanswered. In the comments section of Monday’s NOLA.com article about Zoey’s disappearance, a user who appears to be Saint James (username MelissaSJ) wrote the following on Monday afternoon:
This is for all of the speculation. Here is the truth. I am Zoey’s mom. Randy is her dad. He and I recently split up, moving out of the only house Zoey has ever known. Due to the move and the fact that I work offshore, as well as in Zoey’s best interest for familiarity, I left her with Randy … under one condition, he keep her safe. I figured with everything she has been through recently, it was better for her to be with her dad than a pet sitter for 3 weeks. A breakup is not only hard on humans and children, but on innocent animals. This furbaby is loved by our whole family and is used to traveling, as she normally tags along to visit her grandparents in Florida, loves to visit the pet store, grocery store, play with the kids at the park, etc.
Randy brought her to the Saints game against my wishes, what came of it was unexpected. Yes, he does have anxiety. Yes, he does have a Companion Animal letter. Whether or not he should have brought her to the game, well, that’s up for personal opinion. Whether right, wrong, or indifferent, he has toted Zoey around and I believe her anxiety, confusion, and instability had finally caught up with her that day and she is missing. I am hoping that whatever your opinion may be, you can find it in your heart to hope for the safety of my baby girl. I am so mad, so sad, and feel so helpless out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico that I turned to social media, where this all started. If she is around, I am hoping she is found. If someone has her, I will gladly pay. Whatever it is, she is an innocent kitty who has done nothing but show unconditional love and she deserves the same in return.
She should not suffer because of Randy’s irresponsibility. Like most of you, I don’t feel comfortable with him having her anymore, but that shouldn’t lead to hostility towards a cat. I just want her back and safe. I can assure you she is well taken care of, better than most children. Please just find it in your hearts to forgo the negativity and have faith that Zoey is found.
Apparently, she has been.
By Tuesday morning, a couple of readers had posted comments on the NOLA.com story deriding Pumilia and Saint James. Regardless of who’s to blame or the complexities of the situation, we at Catster hope all works out for the best for Zoey and her humans.
Catster writer Lisa Richman contributed to this report.
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster.