Monday, February 15, 2010
What to do when your pet is missing
Nona Nelson, The Happy Wag
Read Nona's blog, The Happy Wag:
It's been two years since my daughter's cat went missing for 36 hours -- surely the worst hours of the little kitty's life -- and the memory remains vivid to my family.
I had just come home from work about 10 p.m. on a brutally cold Friday night, and when my husband said India was gone, my heart sank. All I wanted to do was look for her.
My husband, Phil, and my daughter Laura, then 21, had already done that for several hours. Laura noticed India was missing at dusk. She searched the entire house. India usually comes running when Laura whistles or calls.
She never came.
When Laura was certain India was not inside, she enlisted the help of neighbors for an outdoor search.
We were having our master bathroom remodeled that week. Phil guessed that while the contractor propped the door open to bring in supplies, India slipped out.
It was too dark to see a 6-pound, tortoise shell-colored cat. We would have to wait until morning.
The overnight temperature hovered just above freezing; we worried all night.
At dawn we started searching for her again. We plastered our neighborhood with color fliers, including the cat's picture and our phone numbers. We offered a reward.
We walked the woods and drove the neighborhood calling her name.
Phil called our contractor, who came to our house and unlocked his trailer to see if she was hiding inside. No luck.
Then Laura went to the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection on Baldwin Avenue.
Resources for lost pets
In writing this column, I learned that there a few more resources now available to people who have lost their pets. The center's Web site, www.rcacp.org, didn't exist two years ago. It contains helpful hints (most of which we followed) on what to do when your pet is missing, and photos of found pets.
If our wayward cat had disappeared now, we could also have submitted an online lost pet report on the center's Web site.
We also could have left a picture of India at the shelter and followed its recommendation to post our fliers at veterinary clinics and pet-related businesses near our home.
That day, Laura did a walk-through of all the kitties being housed at the center, where stray animals from Roanoke, Vinton and Botetourt and Roanoke counties are taken by animal control officers and people who find lost pets.
India was not there. The shelter workers recommend that she check back every day and not to give up.
By late Saturday afternoon, we feared the worst. There are woods near or home, and India, a declawed house cat, would be an easy target for a predator.
Then we heard a faint meow while we were in our dining room.
A happy ending
Laura opened the door to our deck, but India was not outside. She heard the cry again, coming from the ceiling. The remodeled bathroom is directly above the dining room.
She went upstairs to the under-construction bathroom and called India's name. Below the newly laid shower floor, we heard another meow.
Phil called the contractor, who came to the rescue on a Saturday night.
We speculated that while the contractor had the bathroom floor open to relocate the drain on Friday, India must have wandered into the hole. He had unknowingly sealed her in right after lunch.
After he cut open the floor, it took three hours of coaxing and a bowl of water to entice the frightened kitty out from her hiding spot deep in the floor joist.
Cats are natural explorers, and they can fit into any space that can accommodate their heads. I have heard other tales of cats trapped in walls during construction.
Pets should be secured while workers are in the house, while doors are open, or while any access to walls, floors and vents is exposed.
Had India slipped outside, the tag on her collar and her microchip, an identification embedded under her skin that can be scanned at any shelter or vet's office, would be her best bet to find her way home.
When work resumed the following week, Laura locked India and my cat, Thai, in her room, where they remained safe from their own curiosity.