My cat Sharky was missing for up to 18 hours.
He strolls around the neighbourhood, gets himself shut in the cubby hole and sleeps in various different spots in the house, so It wasn’t till teatime that we really started to fret. Mum even went to ask one neighbour if he was shut in her garage, but he wasn’t.
Eventually she came upstairs and said “he’s just come in.”
“Oh,” I said lightly, “did he just stroll in as though nothing had happened and nobody was worried about him?”
“Actually, I think he WAS shut in somewhere,” said Mum. “He went straight to the water bowl and is drinking a lot.”
I went down to where he was still gulping water and patted him. He felt cool and slightly damp to the touch, just as though he had been lightly rained on. He kept drinking.
“Fancy that,” said Mum, in a mock-scolding voice. “He goes straight to the water bowl instead of coming upstairs to tell you he’s home and you needn’t worry any more.”
Finally he came upstairs, drank more water from his own bowl, and demanded food, which he got.
When I picked him up, I thought he smelled strange and sniffed at his fur. Maybe it was tobacco smoke, or a rather musky old perfume. Mum said no, it smelled more like oil to her.
Though I’m not convinced about the tobacco or the perfume, I’m not convinced about the oil either. It’s definitely an alien odour of some sort – he’s been shut in somewhere, possibly sleeping on a heap of sacks – or maybe there aren’t any sack heaps any more and I’ve been reading too many books from an earlier era.
Now that Sharky’s eaten and drunk his fill, and sat on me for a long time, he’s gone over to the sofa (my old sofa from our old home) and has been sleeping there for hours. Mum came up and gave him a hug. I said “he’s definitely quite upset about it, isn’t he?” and Mum said “yes – I don’t think he’ll go off like that again for a while.”
Well, that worked out alright, and I don’t think anybody meant to imprison him.
What worries me the most about cats who go missing is that a large number of the rest of the population don’t seem to know how to return cats to their owners. If a stray cat comes to your door, you don’t just take him in and feel good about it – that’s not the right thing to do.
I recently received the winter edition of a cat club newsletter. There was a story about someone who took a pedigree cat to the vet, saying he wasn’t being accepted by her other cats and she wanted him put down. The vet decided that would be a waste of a nice, not-too-old cat, and pulled strings to get him rehomed by various people she knew were interested in that breed. So far, so good. The person who left him at the vet’s rang up and said she hoped he hadn’t been put down yet, as she had changed her mind, and could she have him back? The answer was no – once the cat had gone to a new home, that was it. He couldn’t be returned. They knew she had taken the cat in as a stray – she hadn’t reported him, hadn’t advertised, hadn’t made any attempt whatsoever to find out who he belonged to.
The pedigree people had details of various missing cats of similar description, and set about tracking down the true owner… and they found her! She had nearly given up all hope of seeing her cat again.
I’m delighted that story had a happy ending, but all the time I read that passage I was fuming. How dare someone just take him in and not try looking for the owner? The ‘rescuer’ even tried to have him put down without raising one little finger in that regard. Some people make the excuse that if a cat is wandering around, the owner can’t have been looking after it properly. If they don’t even know what happened, they’ll never be in a position to judge correctly – and even then their opinion will be subjective.
Very recently a stray kitten turned up here. Sharky brought him in, allowed him to eat his supper, and protected him from the indignation of Cheeky (Mum’s cat). First thing the next morning, Mum whisked the kitten away to the vet’s so that they could scan his microchip. That same day they found the owner and returned the kitten to her. She phoned up to say she was so relieved and glad Mum had taken the cat to be scanned. She has two little girls who were very upset about the kitten’s disappearance, and the kitten’s sibling was missing him! (Gosh, I know, potential for a real mushy sobfest – but I know from bitter experience that it’s really not funny when your pet goes missing). The story was that they had been outside playing with the kittens and called them to go back indoors with them, but Sharky’s fuzzy friend waltzed off to explore the big bad world.
Well, that was another happy ending. It would have been less happy if we’d been the type to keep him when he turned up at our door – those two wee girls could still have been thinking their kitten was dead.