Today is Thanksgiving in the year 2020. Despite the crazy year, I have so much to be thankful for. But the fact that my cat Sushi is safe, healthy, and at home is perhaps the thing I am most thankful for this year. Because for 47 days that wasn’t the case. For 47 days my cat was lost, roaming the streets, starving, and (I am assuming) terrified for his life. And then he came home (with a lot of help).
Why I decided to share our story
I know this is a travel blog (and sometimes an adventure in motherhood blog). I’ve also tried to limit stories on here to things that I think will help other people. Therefore, I debated about posting my story on here. I ultimately decided to do so because I am hoping it can help other people. For those 47 days, I clung to stories about other cats that went missing and were eventually found. I can’t tell you how many times I googled “lost cat found” just to be inspired.
Most of the stories with happy endings took place only one or two days after the cat went missing. I found miracle stories about cats being found after 2 weeks, but they were rare. While I’m sure they are out there, I couldn’t find any stories of lost cats found after being missing for longer than 2 weeks. So I thought I would put my story out there, to provide a little trinket of hope to others. And to prove that miracles can happen.
The worst weekend
My husband called me one Friday morning in the middle of June. His grandmother had just passed away. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. She was 94-years-old when she passed away but I thought she would live forever. Needless to say, it was a rough weekend for our family. A weekend spent mourning a wonderful lady, worrying about our inconsolable daughter, and not monitoring how long we left the front door open when we entered and exited our house. We still don’t know when Sushi escaped or how. But by Sunday morning, it had become obvious. Sushi was gone.
Since we never saw Sushi leave the house, I actually thought he had hidden in a corner of the house and passed away. We spent the next week moving furniture and belongings into and out of every room of our house. We literally ripped open our couch when we felt something hard inside (it turned out to be extra parts of the couch). Our search turned up nothing. After two weeks we finally gave up. By this point, I had reached the unsettling conclusion that we would be able to smell him if he had passed away in the house. It was summer in Hawaii, after all. This meant our indoor-only house cat must have escaped into the outside world.
A word on microchipping your cat
All of my cats have been microchipped as it was a requirement to move them to Hawaii. There are several options out there but we used Home Again. While microchipping Sushi didn’t lead to him being found, I highly recommend that you do this with any of your pets. I was so thankful Sushi was microchipped because it gave me hope. Once I realized that our cat was lost outside of our house, I clung to the hope that someone would turn him into the Humane Society.
While we had immediately let the Honolulu Humane Society know that our cat was missing, I was banking on the fact that they would scan him, find a microchip, and call us for a happy family reunion. You need to pay an annual fee to keep the microchip activated. This seemed like a needless expense to use so we canceled our membership once the cats were safely in Hawaii. However, once Sushi was lost, it only took a couple of clicks on the keyboard and our cat’s microchip was back in action.
Steps to take when looking for a lost cat
Despite initially believing that Sushi was somewhere inside our home, we simultaneously searched for him outside as well. Between Google, social media, and friends we learned the following things that one should do:
- Leave cat food outside. They may be so terrified about being outside that they are too fearful to come out of their hiding spot. This could entice them home, and nourish them.
- Leave your cat’s own excrements outside for them to smell.
- Get as many eyes as you can on the lookout for them, knock on neighbors’ doors, hang up fliers.
We did item #1. I stand by our decision not to do item #2. I wish we had done item #3. If only I had printed up fliers and put one in every mailbox in our neighborhood. How much sooner might I have found him if I did this? How much healthier would I have found him? That’s the question that will haunt me forever.
I had many reasons for not distributing fliers, but the main reason was that I didn’t think it would be helpful. Sushi hates strangers, with a passion. I didn’t see any way that he would allow any of our neighbors to get close enough to him, even if they spotted him. I didn’t consider one important fact, that did end up happening. The fact that he would be so emaciated that he would barely be able to move, let alone run away.
The use of social media saved the day
I’ve always felt the benefits of social media have outweighed the negative. This was certainly true in helping us find our missing cat. I posted a request for help in tracking Sushi down on Facebook, Instagram, and Next Door. It was a long shot but I didn’t know what else to do. While my post was reshared multiple times by compassionate strangers across multiple cat Facebook groups, it turned out to be an old friend that saved the day.
I love the fact that social media has kept me in contact with friends that I would have fallen out of touch with. In this case, it was an old neighbor turned friend during our tween years. As with many of my friends, we lost touch as we got older and moved away. However, thanks to social media, we were back in each other’s lives, at least to the extent that we would like and comment on each other’s posts. I enjoyed living vicariously through her many sojourns back to Boston or delicious restaurant meal postings.
When I posted my plea for help over my lost cat, she reached out to express condolences and told me she would let her extended family know, as some of them were my neighbors. It was a very nice gesture, but I thought it was just as unlikely at producing results as anything else that friends had offered. Boy was I wrong. 47 days later, my lost cat made such a commotion in that friend’s uncle’s garage that he went to investigate. Upon taking a look at the cat that caused the ruckus, our neighbor knew just whose doorbell to ring.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes it also takes a village to find a cat.
Lost cat found!
There was a deadline approaching at work, so I was busy typing away on my computer when the doorbell rang. It was after 10 PM during the pandemic. Who the heck was trying to get ahold of us? I heard my husband’s footsteps walk towards the door and figured he would deal with whatever complaint or sales pitch that a neighbor might have for us. I went back to typing. My husband’s choked up voice several minutes later uttered the words I had been waiting for over a month to hear. “They found Sushi.” The intonation in his voice was clear, this was not going to be a happy reunion. Our cat had been lost for 47 days. I assumed what my husband really meant, and just wasn’t able to mutter, was, “they found Sushi’s body.”
I told myself it was good to finally get closure. In my mind, I fast-forwarded through what was to come. We would say our goodbyes and then my husband and I would discuss plans for cremation and how to tell the kids. However, when I finally got up to the kitchen no one was there. Confused, I popped my head into the garage. My husband had just loaded something into the passenger seat of his car and was racing to the driver’s side to get in. He looked more frightened than I’d ever seen him as he yelled out, “he’s alive… I’ll call you from the ER.”
The long road back
By “ER” my husband meant the Veterinary Emergency and Referral Center of Hawaii, or the VERC. As he drove off into the night, I was so happy. We found Sushi and everything would be fine. Nothing could dampen my mood. Until his call finally came, from the VERC parking lot as my husband wasn’t allowed inside due to the pandemic. Chances of survival were not good. Sushi could barely lift his head, every organ in his body was failing and blood work was so bad that the veterinary staff couldn’t tell if it was from malnutrition, cancer, or ingesting rat poison. They needed to get liquids into him fast, monitor him throughout the night, draw a ton more blood, and run X-ray scans, and then they would know more. We decided not to tell the kids until we knew what the outcome would be. My husband signed a DNR.
In my mind, I hoped for good news but started planning for the worst. I slept for an hour that night. My husband slept with the cell phone in his hand waiting for a call from the VERC. When the call finally came, there was a glimmer of hope. The term the vet used was that they were “cautiously optimistic”.
In what seemed like a lifetime to us, but, in reality, was less than a week, the news became better and better. The doctors slowly took off the word “cautiously” and started discussing releasing Sushi into our care.
Lost Cat Found Homecoming, Part I
I was frantic when it was time for him to come home. Mom-guilt set in. What if he became completely feral from his time away? (In all honesty, he wasn’t always a very nice cat to begin with.) What if he hated me? He was found at 6 weeks old under a port-a-potty with no mother in sight. I was the only mother he knew. And I didn’t keep him safe. What if he was mean (read: tried to attack) the kids?
He came home nicer than ever but alarmingly still sick. Petting him meant feeling every bone in his spine. We wiped his feces off of him twice on the first night because he was so unsteady on his feet that he fell sideways into his excrements. Yes, it was as gross as you think it might be.
He slept nonstop. Not the catnaps we were used to. Full-on sleeping. Makeshift stairs were brought over to help him climb into bed. But I started to see glimpses of the happier days ahead. He would start tangling himself around my feet like he used to. It would cause me to trip and I’d get back up laughing, so thankful that he was back to his old ways. His spine started to seem a little less defined. It was a long road to recovery, but he seemed to be meeting it with leaps and bounds.
And then one day, about a week later, his recovery process stopped.
Lost Cat Found Homecoming, Part II
Sushi was readmitted into the VERC about a week after he was released. He had stopped eating, drinking, and staying awake. I hoped we were just overly cautious and sensitive. But the news we got back was not good. His red blood cell count was 1% away from “not being compatible with life”. Captain Obvious PSA of the day => starvation is REALLY bad for you.
Ironically, it was the one trait of his that we had always disliked that most that saved his life. As I mentioned, Sushi wasn’t always the nicest cat. He could be downright mean at times. It all stemmed from his self-preservation and survival skills. Sushi was born a fighter and he wasn’t about to stop fighting now. After two nights back in the hospital and one blood transfusion later (who knew that that was even a thing for pets), Sushi was out of the woods and back home. This time it was for good.
The world may be ridiculous right now but this guy has made me believe in modern-day miracles… and that a cat can actually have more than nine lives.
Stay safe and keep the hope everyone!