Li’l Miss Kitty
On April 11, 2011, a fire in North Conway, New Hampshire, caused Heather to evacuate her home and take Li’l Miss Kitty and move into her boyfriend Ben’s house. Three days after the trauma of a fire and being moved to a new place, Li’l Miss Kitty escaped out an open door. After Ben spotted her, he did what most people do, but what Missing Pet Partnership warns everyone not to do: he chased her in his desperation to get her back inside where she would be safe. But she was too fast and ran deep into the woods where Ben lost sight of her.
Ben and Heather searched for her for ten days, even spending a night in the woods. They were aware of many predators in those woods including foxes, coyotes, and fisher cats. The night they spent in the woods only made them more worried, as they heard the scream of a fisher cat and began losing hope of finding Li’l Miss Kitty alive.
Ben and Heather made hundreds of 8 X 11 posters and distributed them to neighbors, veterinarians, shelters, and posted them on telephone poles and anywhere they could think of. They placed an ad in the newspaper and even on the radio! But since Li’l Miss Kitty is an indoor only cat with a skittish personality, distributing posters like a marketing campaign is a good idea, but it is not the ideal solution for this situation.
Ten days after Li’l Miss Kitty escaped outside, Ben contacted Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) for help. He had finally read about cat personality types and how they will behave when displaced from their home. An MPP volunteer did a Lost Cat Consult with Ben and advised him to purchase an infrared camera and a humane trap. They discussed Li’l Miss Kitty’s personality and, based on the facts presented, decided she would behave like a catatonic/xenophobic cat and hide nearby. The MPP volunteer told Ben and Heather to make the large neon signs described on our website and post them all around the neighborhood. At one point Ben said that he was a “realist” and that he was only going to invest one month into searching for Li’l Miss Kitty but then he was going to “move on.” This is actually a common behavior called “grief avoidance” that causes many pet owners to lose hope and stop searching for their lost pet. The MPP volunteer encouraged Ben and Heather to NOT GIVE UP!
Ben made the posters and distributed more fliers. They responded to the calls and MPP advised them to set up the camera with feeding stations at the areas of possible sightings. MPP instructed them to put more neon signs in those areas, and once the camera caught Li’l Miss Kitty on camera, they could set the trap.
The weeks went by, and then the weeks turned into months, but Ben and Heather never gave up and continued to look for Li’l Miss Kitty. They continued to respond to possible sightings and update their posters. During this time, New Hampshire had a late snowstorm in the spring, followed by a very hot summer, and finally a hurricane in August. All this plus the many predators in the woods.
Finally on the morning of September 13th, Ben and Heather got another lead. A neighbor named Lynn had arrived at her vacation property to check for damage from the hurricane. Lynn had been writing on a piece of scratch paper and turned it over to see what was on the other side. Miracle of all miracles, it was Ben and Heather’s poster of Li’l Miss Kitty. Lynn made note of the beautiful long-haired black cat and decided to keep the poster. Later that day Lynn went for a walk and noticed a very skinny long-haired cat basking in the sun who bore a striking resemblance to the cat in the poster. Lynn called the provided phone number and told Ben that, even though it was a long shot since so much time had passed, she wanted to call anyway.
Ben went right over to meet Lynn and saw the area where she spotted the cat. This was LESS THAN 400 yards from Ben’s home! Ben searched around and found an entrance into a single car garage of a vacation home where a cat could easily come and go. He went inside and found a bed of leaves and could clearly see that someone had made a little home and was living there. Ben went home and retrieved his infrared camera and set it up.
Three days later, on September 16th, Ben and Heather confirmed without a doubt that it was Li’l Miss Kitty living in the vacation home’s garage. The excitement and relief they felt after five months of hope and searching was beyond description. Now they had to figure out how to get her home. They wanted to camp there and try to grab her, but they knew that wouldn’t work. Ben went home and read his notes from his Lost Cat Consult and all the advice on the MPP website, and he went back to the vacation home with a humane trap. He decided not to set it right away and instead wired it open and placed food inside, morning and night. Each day they viewed the video and saw Li’l Miss Kitty wolfing down the food.
On the morning of September 18th, once Ben was sure Li’l Miss Kitty was comfortable with the trap and food, he set it. They waited on pins and needles all day and checked the trap that evening. When they approached the trap with high hopes and emotions, sure enough, Li’l Miss Kitty was in the trap! What a reunion!
After Li’l Miss Kitty was home, Ben and Heather saw how thin she was, but she was acting extremely loving and was stuck like glue to their sides. They took Li’l Miss Kitty to the veterinarian the next day and she weighed just 5 pounds. She had started at about 13 pounds. She had a full physical, including a stool examination, and there was toilet paper in her stool. She was likely eating garbage to survive. Other than being thin, she was in good health and they were told she would make a full recovery.
As of this writing, Li’l Miss Kitty continues to recover and gain weight and show more affection than before she went missing. This is a common trait of animals that suffer the tragedy of being lost and then recovered.
This is a story of a cat that defeated more odds than most. She survived predators, extreme weather, and near starvation. This is a text book case of an indoor-only skittish cat that is suddenly displaced outside and ultimately found less than 400 yards from home. People find this hard to believe, but it is almost always the case. What helped in this recovery was Ben and Heather’s willingness to follow the Lost Pet advice from Missing Pet Partnership and to NEVER GIVE UP!
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