Thursday, August 26, 2010


Haven't blogged much lately but not for lack of material to write about. Last July, for instance, my worst nightmare came true when my oldest cat Vita disappeared from the Bliss garden.
Since I moved here I was in the habit of letting some of the cats play in the garden while I was working outside so I could keep an eye on them. My old garden had been cat proof; no cat could escape from it and no cat could enter it from outside. Making the Bliss garden 100% cat proof turned out to be impossible and as all my cats were so well behaved and would come running when I called them, I let it be. And then, one awful day last July, Vita was gone.
I searched for her everywhere; the garden, the house, the garden cottage, the garage and then further afield: my neighbours gardens, sheds, garages etc. but all to no avail. We even searched with an infra red
camera to see if Vita was hiding in the shrubbery but no, not a sign of her.

I made hundreds posters and put them up everywhere in the village, even in a nearby city where many fellow villagers go to shop. Posters were put up in and near supermarkets, parking spaces, daycare centres, at the vet's, the petshop, a flowershop, places where many people walked their dogs etc. I also designed & printed about 1200 flyers and put them in people's letterboxes. You had to be living in deep dark hole in my village not to be aware that Vita had gone AWOL.

I would search for Vita every morning between 5 and 7 AM and every evening between 10.30 and 1 PM as the chance of finding her would be bigger when it was quiet outside. I also searched for her via the phone and the internet. But however hard I searched, no Vita. 1 Week passed, then another but no sign of Vita at all. I was getting pretty desperate when suddenly one day I finally received a phone call from an old lady who said she'd seen her.  Went over to talk with her and to show her some pictures of Vita. She was adamant that that was the cat she'd seen. Vita is a Maine Coon and looks very different from your average moggy as she has long hair and her coat colour is also not that common; blue tortie and white/blue calico & white. After that initial phone call I got more phone calls from other people in that same area so I concentrated the search for Vita in that neighbourhood. But again no Vita. She'd been gone for almost 3 weeks and as Vita was not a young cat (almost 15yrs) she would not be able to stick it out for much longer. And then, at long last another phone call this time from a man who said he was actually looking at her while we were on the phone. He asked me to come straight away.
 So we did. Brought a flashlight as it was late in the evening and already dark. Much to my relief it turned out to be my darling girl. For the first time in almost three weeks I was able to see her with my very eyes. My relief was utter, I was so glad to see her and know for certain that she was alive and reasonably well. But how to catch her?
Because you'll never guess where she'd been hiding; in a kitchen garden next door to one of the local pubs. When we got there, Vita was running around in a poppy field, trying to get away from the flashlights that were pointed at her. The chap who'd found her had also brought a flashlight and he and his wife had been keeping an eye on Vita till we got there. So we had a party of 4  but however hard we tried, we couldn't catch her and in the end Vita hid in a pile of wood and we couldn't get at her.
Judging by the amount of fur that stuck to the wood, this had been Vita's hide-out for at least a week. As we could not get her out of there, I decided to let her stay there and come back the next morning. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do; leaving Vita and return home empty handed. I had brought some catfood along so I left food for her near the pile of wood and went home with a heavy heart.
After a mostly sleepless night we returned the next morning around 5 AM. The catfood near the woodpile was gone, the plate licked clean but I had put another plate of food next to a gate bordering on the poppy field and that wasn't empty. So where was she? To eat the food she had to leave her hidey-hole. As the other plate of food was untouched she had not gone into the field so she had to be close to the houses next to the kitchen garden and poppy field.
Off we went to comb the whole area with a fine tooth-comb. We had searched for about an hour when I suddenly heard a noise coming from under a shed I was quite close too. I went to have a butcher's and this is where I found my Vita.

She was right on top of that pile of rubble, her head almost touching the ceiling and with her back against the wall. How to get hold of her without her running off again into the back of beyond?

There were some plastic chairs there so I sat down and surveyed the situation. I'd sent the under-gardener off for a thermosflask of tea and some sandwiches as we hadn't eaten a thing since we'd left home.
I knew the minute that either one of us would come too close to Vita she'd be off like the proverbial bat out off hel. What to do? I could wait until the next day, Monday, and try to either beg, borrow, buy or steal a trap so we could catch her.  But frankly the thought alone made my heart sink. I wasn't going to wait for a whole day, or worse maybe even several days before I could finally hold Vita in my arms again.
So I came up with a cunning plan. After the under-gardener had returned with the tea and sandwiches I went home to get some netting & other stuff that we needed to close off the three gaps between the pillars (see pic above). It took us about 1 1/2 hours to close off all the gaps so that not even a mouse could escape. We checked and double checked that we had indeed sprung the trap. We had. Within 5 minutes Vita was safe in her carrier and after we had removed all the netting we returned home triumphantly.
As soon as we got home I popped Vita in the utility room and gave her a thorough check-up. Apart from being as thin as a rake (went from 3.8 to 2.6 kilo), ever so slightly dirty and sans her last 3 canines, Vita was fine, remarkably so. She had no ticks, fleas, earmites or other nasty beasties. Cleaned her up a bit and fed her. Then I stumbled into bed and slept for 4 solid hours, I was exhausted. At long last my darling Vita was safely home.

A lot of missing pets are never recovered simply because their owners gave up searching for them too soon. My Vita was found after 19 days. Another cat in my village, that went missing on the same day as Vita, was found after 30 days. If your pet is missing, DO NOT GIVE UP. Keep searching, your pet has NOT disappeared into thin air, it must be somewhere and somebody must have seen your pet. I got my Vita back because I'd put a flyer in the right letterbox, Dido (the other missing cat) was found because of an add in the local rag. Whatever you do when your pet has gone missing: do not give up!

I mentioned earlier that I searched via the internet as well for my Vita and here are some links to sites that I found that have been invaluable to me. If you have pets please bookmark this page so you can always find the info here if, Valen forbids, one of your pets goes missing.  cat profiler Jenne Mundy  pet detective Kat Albrecht Cat's In the Bag - providing a huge amount of useful information  The Cat's In the Bag Forum where you'll find a lot of support and helpful suggestions

copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen


Sue Swift said...

Hooray for the happy ending :))

But I think I know how she feels. There comes a point when you get older when you wonder if your "safe" existencehasn't meant that you missed out on a lot. And you start to wonder whether now might be your last chance to find out ...

Kylee Baumle said...

Thank you for this very informative post, Yolanda. I'm so glad you got Vita back!!

You'd sent me this information before and though I asked everywhere within 2 miles of our house, no one has seen our Jilly. It's a bit of a wilderness (for a cat) where we live, so I'm fairly certain that Jilly met with a dangerous opponent. She was a smallish cat and likely fell prey to possibly the resident Great Horned Owl. Jilly never ventured any further away than the neighbors right next to us. I still hope that she shows up someday, but it's been several months now... :-(

Cat with a Garden said...

Oh my Cod, we are very relieved that you found Vita and that she's unharmed. The poor old gal, it must have been so hard fending for herself out there. The happy ending makes us purr.
Siena & Chilli

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Poor ole Vita must have been scared half silly. She is a lucky lady to have a most caring family to look after her.

Alex aus dem Gwundergarten said...

Wow, what a story! I still got chicken skin, because that is my greatest nightmare too. You must know, that our cat Noah is a cat we've found. He simply came one day in our garden an decided to stay. But don't worry, I wrote him out in the internet and at the animal shelter, I asked in the neighbourhood, if somebody knows this cat, but they didn't. After two month, it was our cat. However, because I think he has walked away from his former place, I'm worried that he might walk away again. But I would as you never give up looking for him. Well done!
Take care and give Vita a big hug.

Arabella Sock said...

I am glad to find out the full story of Vita's adventure. Luckily I already knew it had a happy ending.
It just shows that all that searching and leafleting is worth while.

Jenny said...

Hooray for the happy ending for both of you. My best friend's cat disappeared once and showed up a year later. Don't give up hope.

Anonymous said...

Yolanda pleased to hear you have your cat home , you are right about not giving up our cat has been missing since the day we moved house 15 months ago, then out of the blue he was sitting opposite our house a couple of months ago I tried to entice him in but he took off again, since then we have seen him around our neighbourhood several times but never been able to get him to come home , he looks well fed so we assume he is either fending for himself (we live in a rural area) or has been adopted by someone , I am just relieved he is still alive .

VP said...

So glad you found Vita and have found the time to tell us the whole story.

stadtgarten said...

Dear Yolanda, nice to have yu back here in blogland und so good to hear that you finally found your Vita after such a long time. This gives hope, because our neighbors cat is also missing, but now for over 6 weeks. She is only a little bit more tha a year old and a very lovely cat. I hope she will also return!
Groetjes, Monika

Denise said...

So glad Vita is home but wondering what could possibly have induced her to go on such a walkabout. Perhaps something frightened her and she bolted? It's so sad to see the lost pet fliers around our town, but I always keep an eye out for the featured lost pet, so the fliers are definitely worthwhile. Look at all the sightings of Vita! What a nice village to cooperate to get her back.

Gemel said...

Bless your heart, I know how you feel. So glad that all turned out so well.

Unknown said...

I am really happy for you!!
Cat Vita is home again and the Bliss team is reunited.
If our Maximus would disappear I would do what you did.

Gail said...

I am so glad Vita is home and thank you dear YE, for sharing the story~gail

Helen/patientgardener said...

It was such a relief when Vita returned. I remember a cat disappearing for weeks when I was young and then one day there she was on the door step

chamomilla said...

Dear Yolanda, what a lovely blog you have. I was so nervous reading this detective story, and sooo relieved at the happy ending... I am happy that your enormous effort was so sweetly rewarded.

Ms B said...

Your persistance & possibly stubborness were well rewarded. Congratulations.

Loyce said...

Oh my Yolanda, Vita is my Gabby exactly even to age and coloring. Gabby is long haired dilute calico, 15 years old and I don't ever let her out since she was found at 8 weeks in a box with a handful of dry food thrown in, my vet called me and the love affair began. I'm so happy that you found your wonderful kitty and she's back home again.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I followed this on twitter but am glad to read the whole story, with photos. So glad you found Vita and that she made it safely home. (James went missing for three days, finally found him up a neighbor's tree.) I'm not actually surprised she hid out in a garden, it was probably the closest thing to home she could find. :) How far was it from your house?

55 gallon water barrel said...

Glad Vita is home safe. I never understand why cats have a hard time returning to their home after a run-off. My cats did the same thing. We had one cat get away and we gave her up after about 1 month of sleepless nights (I was about 8 years old). Then we heard this horrible meowing from across the street one night and it was our "Smokey". She had been hit by an auto and was dragging herself home on her two front paws. Very tragic and heroic all at the same time.

So like I said, glad Vita is home safely, not any worse for wear.

A wildlife gardener said...

My heart is full of joy that you found Vita...each of your cats is individual and special, each loved :)

Pam/Digging said...

What a story. Thank goodness you found her. Not being a cat owner, though, I'm mystified as to why a beloved pet wouldn't come to you when you found it and called to it. But the same thing happened with my sister-in-law's cat. She disappeared one day, and after a long search they'd given up on finding her again. Then one day, nearly a YEAR later, her husband spotted their cat sauntering down a sidewalk in their neighborhood. They had to catch her, but now she's safely at home again. Still, I have to wonder: do cats have deep feelings of attachment to their owners?

Matron said...

Phew! we can all breathe a sigh of relief now. BTW I would love you to send in a photo of Tara for my forthcoming Dogblog, if you would like?

Charuka | Katriona said...

Hi there!
I'm so glad you found her!! Wow, what a frightening experience that must have been.

I'm so happy to see that after 2 years of being "offline" I come back to find your blog (and garden) as beautiful as ever! :)

helen at summerhouse said...

What a story, love the happy ending. She must have been so hungry, confused and scared. Poor girl.

Unknown said...

Such good advice, Yolanda, and even though we knew via Twitter that you'd found her, it was still a stressful time for everyone, especially you and Vita.
Cats do odd things, that's for sure. We had one that would NOT stay here when we moved here, and kept returning to our former home ten miles or so away. The people downstairs in that farmhouse eventually said they'd keep Opus, as they had several cats plus tended a feral one.

hmmm said...

Hooray for a happy ending!

I must say, you really busted your butt to find her - I wish all pet owners (including myself) were as diligent and dedicated as you are.

We found a little black dog once. It turned out that her owner had died, and the dog had been in the house for about a week before anyone realized that the old man was dead. The dog got out sometime after that, during all the hubbub with people coming and going for all the arrangements.

The man's son ABSOLUTELY did not want this little dog, even though they had two dogs of their own already - judging by his reaction, I can only think that the dog may have... um... shall we say, resorted to eating what she could? after her owner died. The son's wife, though, had been adamant about putting up fliers, if only to take the dog to the adoption society.

When we contacted them to say we had the dog, they were pleased to allow us to keep her, and gave us all her vet records. She was two years old at that time. Unfortunately, after about two years with us, on the day we were moving, someone opened the door to the room she was in, and she took off.

I searched for her as best I could, put up fliers, etc, but given that I had just moved several miles away (along with other details of my situation), it was difficult to do much more.

We never did find her, but everyone who knew her insisted that she'd simply decided her two-year tour was up, and it was time for her to find a new family, just like last time. We all agreed that she must be sitting on a pillow in her new home, acting like a princess - I was just glad she wasn't leaving a body behind her this time!

healingmagichands said...

I am so glad you found Vita! I was wondering where you had been and what you had been doing, but I had no idea you went through such a harrowing experience.

Reading this post took me right back to 1984 when my darling cat Black Eyed Susan disappeared during the afternoon one day. Both she and her sister were out exploring together and Cio Cio San returned sans Susan. I did all the fliers, called the pound every day, walked all around the neighborhood and rang doors of strangers. I had great fears because this happened in San Francisco at a period of time when there were a whole lot of South East Asian refugees that had moved into the Bay Area and they were innocently picking up any fat kitty they could find and doing what they did with cats up in the mountains of their country: eating them. You have no idea what went through my mind in the two weeks my girl was gone. I called and called every morning, and one day she called back. She had gone into the house next door through their garage door and been exploring that exciting area and wound up going to sleep in an open cabinet that subsequently got closed with her inside. The owners really didn't go down there that much, but eventually they heard her crying and released her from her prison.

My search was complicated by the number of people who lived in our neighborhood who did not speak English well.

So glad that you were able to find and catch Vita, although when I found susan there was no such protracted ending. As soon as she heard my voice and saw me she came running and basically leaped into my arms. I don't know what I would have done if she had been so traumatized that she ran away and hid.

Your advice is excellent! NEver give up. Again, so glad Vita is home safe.

*Ulrike* said...

What a great ending!! We had a German Shepherd show up on our carport 3 weeks ago today. Have called every vet around, dog boarding kennels where one of the ladies runs a adoption/lost animal, and still nothing. We think that she was dropped off as she is young, and quite a handful. Not sure yet if we can keep her, but for now she is happy, and hopefully the owner will be found too.
Have a great weekend now that your family is back together!

Curmudgeon said...

The Wenches, Sierra, Mugsy, Charlie and Dakota are all most relieved to learn this story had a happy ending!

Richtsje said...

Dat't zo'n strijd was om Vita weer thuis te krijgen wist ik niet. Tjongejonge... Een kat in het nauw maakt rare sprongen, en op vreemd terrein laten ze zich niet zomaar vangen blijkt wel!

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

That was an amazing tale. I'm so glad you found her, but I wonder why some of her canines were missing. I also wonder why she didn't come home? Did she become disoriented? It's clear you love her very much.~~Dee

Ewa said...

I am so happy you found her! what a relief...