After all the posting and sharing and looking it was all by chance that we found him that day, but I really think Jaspurr wanted to be found and directed Sherry and me to end up in places we hadn’t intended to be but where we’d see him. He is thin and a little tattered, but after almost four months he’s home and happy, and so is his person.
In the past stories of lost cats rarely had a happy ending, but it’s been happening more and more often lately with cat-specific information on lost pets and understanding cat behavior when they become lost. When we began “TNRing” our way around my neighborhood two years ago I looked for ways to spread the word about TNR and low-cost spay and neuter, and just keep track of cat things around my neighborhood. I’d been seeing invitations to NextDoor, and so I joined, and it’s proved to be a good way to find who needs what, but far more to help find cats who are lost or reunite found cats with their owners.
In May I was following several threads for both lost and found cats in the neighborhood and around town. Among them was a poster for a missing orange and white cat named Jaspurr who had just moved to the area and was a senior cat at 13 years old. He had been an indoor-outdoor cat where he’d lived before but had gotten out the door accidentally two weeks after moving to his new place, then ran down into the neighbors’ yards below and disappeared.
At that point there were two orange and white cats missing and two found. Suddenly it seemed that every cat was orange and white and it made the searches and messages very confusing on Nextdoor and Facebook.
An orange and white cat from our street was picked up and taken to the shelter by someone who was visiting and everyone thought that cat was Jaspurr. It was clear that his markings and coloring were much like Jaspurr’s but he was not Jaspurr. After some determination it actually turned out to be a neighbor’s 10-year-old cat, Lucky, who was left outdoors most of the time, thin and flea-infested and it turned out he was FIV+, but the move to the shelter was the best thing to happen to him as his “owner” didn’t really want him. I helped with a reclaim status on him so that I would get a call if his adoptable status was ever in question, and now this super-friendly cat is free to find a loving home.
A buff and white female cat named Beans was also missing from our hill, and between her and Jaspurr anyone who saw any orange cat at all outdoors shared the photos, even if the cats looked nothing like them and ended up belonging to a neighbor. People also quit looking for Jaspurr still thinking Lucky had been Jaspurr and Jaspurr was back home. We kept clarifying this and reposting.
Other cats were lost and found in the meantime and I was constantly posting the same to-do list for lost cats whenever I saw another post about a lost cat, so I used the research I’d done to write my article about finding a lost cat and began posting the link to the article whenever I saw a lost or found cat.
I had also messaged Mary, Jaspurr’s person, on her Nextdoor post and asked if she needed a trap or had flyers made with the tips on finding a lost cat. Another Nextdoor member had asked me to call Mary and given me her number, so I did and we talked some more. Since Mary was new to the area I’d be glad to help her find her way around the area surrounding her neighborhood, tree-covered hillsides and a ravine leading down to the creek that I know well. She was using the Pawboost service that helped subscribers set up a flyer and shared it in Facebook and also to local veterinarians, pet stores and other animal services.
Jaspurr was 13 and with her since she’d adopted him as a kitten. A tall and long-legged cat he weighed about 16 pounds and was full of mischief and very friendly. In the neighborhood she’d moved from it was safe enough to let him wander in her back yard and to visit the neighbors, who all knew him. She’d had him microchipped because he did go outdoors.
She had flyers printed, posted them and printed more, and then followed up on every report of an orange and white cat anywhere around our area, even if it was nowhere near her home—you never know—meeting the cats who were not Jaspurr and a lot of cat rescuers and everyday people who cared about animals, and posting even more flyers. Through the end of May and into June she remarked that it was a wonderful way to get to know her new neighborhood and all the wonderful people and to be a part of the cat rescue community who were such friendly and welcoming people. Many of the cats had feeders outdoors, a few belonged to someone and at least one was taken into a rescue for adoption.
She mentioned that her sister’s little dog Izzy had begun reacting to something outside just after dark, barking and wanting outdoors. Her yard has a picket fence around it so she opened the gate hoping it was Jaspurr trying to return. I suggested setting a trap out there and on July 4 I took it over to her house and met her and her other cat Missy and Izzy. I showed her how to use the traps and we set up two and hoped for the best.
Eventually the disturbance stopped and nothing came of it. Through the rest of July and August Mary followed up on any other leads that came along while I and Sherry, who founded Merlin’s Safe Haven Cat Rescue very near me and is always out trapping cats somewhere, continued to give her encouragement when things seemed hopeless. I messaged or talked with Mary a few times each week.
Late in July she happened to see a cat who, from a distance, looked much like Jaspurr in a narrow gated access road that led into a ravine where a construction company stored some equipment. One terrifying thing about Jaspurr’s disappearance was that Mary’s neighborhood was close to an exit on the interstate with five lanes across. If he had chased something, been startled or had been chased by something himself, he could have run across the interstate and, if so and he had survived, he would have ended up in the ravine where the access road led. This was terrifying not only for the idea that he might have run across five lanes of speeding traffic, but he might actually try to come back the same way. He might also be hovering around this spot because he was afraid to go back across.
The cat turned and looked at her when she talked to him and called Jaspurr’s name, but wouldn’t come near. That wouldn’t be unusual for a cat who’d escaped and was still out of its territory. She began setting out food regularly and then set the trap, tied open, with a can of food inside. He didn’t show up each day and she noted where he came from and went to when he came and went so she might track him further, baited and set the trap for a few hours each evening, then tied it open and left the food in it. She eventually bought a trail camera to set up to photograph and video when movement tripped its sensor to see that cat’s activities and anything else that might be coming in and going and eating the food.
She had a pre-scheduled vacation at the end of August and a while I was packing things for my Panhandle Trail show she brought everything back to me and was so sad that nearly four months had gone by and other people had found their cats*, but she hadn’t found Jaspurr, and was ready to give up. Sherry and I each promised to follow up on any leads and told her the break would do her good.
My exhibit was on Friday and Saturday in conjunction with Rock the Quarry, the trail’s annual fundraiser. I set up my tent and was there Friday night, then Saturday morning worked on making signs and printing, matting, framing and packing last-minute things for that day. The event began at 3:00 but I was late in heading there at 4:00 and found myself on the wrong road to get there, driving past Mary’s neighborhood and along the road on the ridge instead of in the valley, where the trail was. I distinctly remember coming to an intersection where I would have turned to take the road to the valley but telling myself that I needed to take the road on the ridge, not the road in the valley. When I realized my mistake I was too far along to turn around and go back, and I could still take another side road and get to the trail, it would just take a little longer.
And then ahead of me I saw an orange and white cat walk slowly across the road from left to right and step into a driveway, stop, and turn to look right at me as I approached, and I knew it was Jaspurr. I’ve studied and matched up facial markings and structure from photos to paint portraits for 25 years. I saw the collar and tags. We made eye contact and I had no doubt this was him and it was no coincidence that I was where I had no intention of being, traveling hours later than I should be, at just the moment he decided to come to the end of a connecting road and walk in front of my car across the main road in full view on a bright sunny afternoon.
I looked in my rearview mirror and a car was close enough behind me that I couldn’t slow down and didn’t want to pull over for fear I might startle Jaspurr and cause him to run back onto the road, so I took a good look as I went past and at the stop sign two houses away turned right and went around a small triangle to get back to the road where I’d seen him. I slowed down at the house where I’d seen him but he wasn’t there so I drove around again and looked into all the back yards as well as I could see, but there was no sign of him. No cars were in driveways, no one was outdoors, no one was around. He was out of sight. I decided to continue on to the festival and let Sherry know as soon as possible and come back the next day to look for him. I don’t have cell service on my phone, so I couldn’t even message her.
That day went until after midnight before I even packed up my tent, but I messaged Sherry late or early, whichever. She drove around a few times on Sunday, and later, after I’d unpacked enough of my car to drive safely, I went out and knocked on a few doors and talked to neighbors to see if they’d seen the orange and white cat. No one had, but they would look.
On Monday I planned to head out but knew evening would be the earliest I could make it. Sherry stopped by for a handful of flyers to put up on telephone poles and to hand to people she might talk to. Within minutes she messaged me that she’d gone to the dead end at the top of the hill on the road I’d seen Jaspurr emerge from to cross the main road, and there he was. She sent a photo of him in the weeds, I pulled up the flyer and it was a perfect match, even with some leaves in the way. He was thin and was drooling and had a wound on his neck, but he was talking and ate a half can of sardines. I packed up a trap and a carrier and hurried out.
Mary had said he was a talker and this cat was talking a blue streak, and forehead markings, back and sides, all matched. Sherry had had a chance to talk to a neighbor on that road just a few houses away who said he had been feeding this cat for about two months, off and on. That filled in a good part of the time Jaspurr had been missing, and might have even been the whole time considering how fickle memory can be. He was one mile from his home.
Because he was drooling we were going to be extra cautious in handling him, and he was in some pretty deep brush, over a guardrail, on a hillside, so we weren’t going to rush in there and grab him, although Sherry had donned the heavy gloves for such situations. We tried to lure him out with more sardines hoping to get him far enough out to pick him up, but instead he decided to head down a steep hill which was actually someone’s back yard, headed toward a garage with an open door, with a truck inside. He entered, talking, as if he knew the place, walked around the truck and hopped up onto the canvas cover over a Corvette and began to give himself a bath.
Now we were trespassing, and even when you really want to catch a cat there are rules about property. I went up to the house and knocked on the door, but I knew no one was home. I looked to see a car heading up the road and thought we might have to move our cars, but instead the car turned down the driveway toward the garage where Sherry was standing. Hoping for the best in this situation, Sherry explained what we were doing. Even though the woman had just returned from a long day at the hospital where her husband had had surgery she not only understood but offered to help. We went in the garage, she closed the garage door and unlocked the entry door and we set about slowly cornering Jaspurr around the Corvette and blocking escape from that corner of the garage while talking about the Corvette, her husband, Jaspurr and his story, and the neighbor who fed the cats.
The woman went into her house to let her dog out and call her husband and Sherry and I continued trying to lure Jaspurr out from under the Corvette. At one point I had the carrier at one corner of the car and held the sardines down through the top opening and waved them toward his face under the car. He slowly came toward them, walked into the carrier, hesitated and eventually walked far enough inside for me to close the door, but I forgot how low to the ground a Corvette was–the door got stuck on the undercarriage and he backed out of the carrier. He headed away from me toward the other corner of the front end where Sherry was standing, still wearing the gloves. I handed the sardines across the car and quietly picked up the carrier to hold it at the ready if she did manage to pick him up. He walked out from under the car following the tin of sardines and she got a grip on his collar, he didn’t object, so she picked him up. Into the carrier he went and close the door, and we couldn’t believe it! We had him! High fives across the hood of the Corvette and we had a good laugh at our luck and then marveled that in this whole story we’d never met Jaspurr, and here he was, the infamous Jaspurr!
We let the woman know we had captured him and thanked her, then went to get Sherry’s microchip scanner, just to make sure. At first there was no response, and finally a number came up, but it said unregistered. Microchip registries are all different, and it did turn out to lead to Mary’s address. It really, really, really was Jaspurr.
And knowing Mary was due home the next day, we decided we would surprise her after she came back rather than letting her know now. After all that time, returning Jaspurr had to be a big event.
He was eating well and the drooling had slowed down somewhat. His injuries didn’t look life-threatening so Sherry held him overnight and took him to a veterinarian the next morning. He had an abscessed necrotic wound under his chin which they removed, cleaned up and stitched. He recovered well, was eating well, talking, friendly. Another reason I hadn’t wanted to tell Mary until he’d seen a vet was that I was also concerned that in his condition, after that amount of time, he might actually have developed some serious condition that could eventually be life-threatening, like renal failure or fatty liver disease or a persistent bacterial infection, things that happen to cats who’ve been malnourished and try to survive outdoors. He was thin and dirty, but had a clean bill of health.
We couldn’t come up with a reason both of us would stop over to Mary’s home but Sherry hadn’t met Mary yet so she messaged Mary she wanted to come over and introduce herself on Wednesday. I’d go with her and Mary wouldn’t think anything of that. We pulled up and said hello, Mary and Sherry went into her house and I went back out to get Jaspurr, then went back in trying to hide the carrier behind my skirt. Mary and Sherry were talking and Jaspurr started to shuffle and move back and forth, probably hearing Mary’s voice and recognizing some of this place where he’d lived only two weeks before he disappeared. At a break in the conversation about how Sherry wanted to meet her and I thought I’d come over I pulled the carrier out from behind me, held it up in front of Mary and said, “And we have a surprise for you!”
It was as good as you would expect. Of course she was disbelieving at first, but she opened the carrier door and knew it was him. We let him out of the carrier on the floor and she hugged him, then let him walk around and he reacquainted himself with the place and with Missy, ate food, went back to Mary several times and rolled over on his back on the couch, ate more, had a bath.
Missy wasn’t too sure at that point but later she wouldn’t be apart from him, had to be touching him. She had been obviously grieving his loss and lost weight, but now they were together again.
And who knows how he got there, or where else he may have been? I guess we’ll never know…
*Mary helped to find Beans too. Beans had gone missing from the hill above me in May and there was no sign of her. While Mary was checking shelter websites for Jaspurr’s photo, she saw one that she knew had to be Beans. She contact Beans’ owner who went down and confirmed it was her. She’d been at the shelter just a week or two, so who knows where she was all the time she was away?
Just never give up!
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!