Sunday, January 12, 2014

Big Cat Lost, Little Cat Found

On October 25, my tabby cat went missing from his foster home. We had moved a month or two prior to this, into an apartment that doesn’t allow pets. My mom and sister agreed to take care of the cats until we got settled into a home. Otis had other ideas. He broke his leash and ran away on a balmy autumn evening.

We spent six hours searching the neighborhood for him the next day. It was likely he was still wearing his collar and dragging part of his leash, so we thought he might have gotten tangled in some bushes. Every inch of that neighborhood was searched, with no luck.

We made posters to hang, talked to neighbors. I contacted the police department, visited the shelters frequently, and I posted a picture on Craigslist.

At first, I got many calls. I checked out a lot of lost gray and white cats. None of them were Otis. One was close, so close I had to look twice to make sure.

Fall turned to winter, the calls became more infrequent. Our visits to the shelter became further apart. We were losing hope of ever finding him, but prayed he found a family to care for him. Otis is very friendly, especially with small children. If he couldn’t charm his way into someone’s life, he didn’t have much of a chance. He is 12 years old, declawed and has some health problems.

Then, on the coldest day of the year, my sister calls. Check your Craigslist email, she says. Otis has been found.

Sure enough, there are pictures of a cute little girl snuggling our Otis! He is skinny, but the same cat.

A few hours later, we arrive to take him home during a big sendoff for a missing cat. There were two families involved with Otis. One started feeding him when they noticed him taking shelter in the dog house in their backyard. The smallest member of the family, and Otis’s best friend, was a little boy of about three or four. I know well the bond Otis has with young boys. He was a house fixture while we raised three little boys and isn’t fearful of their huge gestures and loud voices, always in the midst of sword fights and knocking trains off their wooden tracks. I often said Otis prefers the company of kids to adults, the smaller the better. That little boy and Otis had a bond I could see, although neither of them had the words to express it.

The family who cared for Otis thought he was a stray. His collar was long gone, who knows where, and Otis hung around. They tried to bring him inside, but cat allergies made it impossible.

When the weather got dangerously cold, with wind chills near 50 below, they asked a friend to take the cat, renamed Leo, in her heated garage. The homeowner with a comfy garage room for the cat recognized this was probably a pet and did a search on Craigslist. She typed in missing cat and the city, and up popped a picture and post of our missing Otis.

It seems like a miracle, but really, it isn’t. It is the kindness of strangers and the capacity to love that saved Otis. It reminds me to do the same. Look around. Help others. If you see a skinny cat hanging around, give him some shelter and a meal. When Otis was missing, my dearest wish was not to find him, but that he was warm and safe and maybe even loved by someone. Having a little boy love him was the best possible scenario for him.

Frankly, I’m not sure Otis is that pleased to be found. The first time he meowed, it was because he wanted to go outside. He is refusing his prescription cat food he used to eat just fine, and raided the garbage looking for something else.

He may think life on the lam is pretty nice, with little kids to play with and better food.

This video on You Tube confirms my suspicions.

We are glad to have him back, and count each day forward as a gift. Otis lost four pounds while he was missing. The vet wants him to gain back some weight, but I like a trimmer Otis. He now fits on my lap. His sense of play is also high, which makes me think he really liked hunting for food for those months on the lam.

Otis the survivalist, coming home with astonishingly clean white paws! He definitely used one of his nine lives in this adventure. 

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