The Missing

One of the great joys in my life is cohabitation with a very particular animal.  Nearly three foot long from yellow eyes to rump, with a classic tabby coat and  a lanky and expressive tail that often crooks at the tip like a question mark, Nevyn has now graced my doorstep for the better part of sixteen years. I first met him as an eight-month-old kitten and was still in his original home at the parents’ of a friend.  His enthusiasm for life had already made him unwelcome; his war on every standing lamp and glass of water clashed rather specifically with the sort of established order that that household preferred to operate by.  When my friend moved out, the cat came with.  Gratis.

Soon my friend and I lived together, so I witnessed Nevyn’s adolescent growth spurt and his eventual maturity that dictated that lamps may stand, but glasses of water were improved by tipping over.  This was the era in which we discovered that push handles on doors are not cat proof and that while he desperately wanted to be an outdoor cat, he had no idea what to do once he achieved it.  We learned to be more circumspect about our beverages.  Nevyn eventually learned that drinks on certain surfaces were not actually his. We moved into an apartment with circular doorknobs and a lobby shaped rather like a cat trap. It had taken a few years, but detente had been achieved. My friend went on adventures and when he did, the cat stayed with me.  Over the years, Nevyn has not only infiltrated every crevice of my heart, but he’s also made himself known to all of my neighbors.  He has a curiosity and a friendliness that has lead him to coming home on more than one occasion smelling like cheap perfume.  He is rarely too busy to crawl in your lap on a bad day, or rub his face against yours (or anyone’s, really).

So you may well imagine my terror on the day he got out of the house without his collar and didn’t return for dinner.  This is not entirely unprecedented, but it was rare enough to worry.  An opportunist, he has been known to climb in windows and go through open doors to total strangers.  My neighbors all know him well enough that he occasionally sticks around for an extended visit.  I figured he’d be home by morning.  He wasn’t.  I figured he’d be home by evening.  He wasn’t.  I printed up flyers to avoid despair and began posting them around the neighborhood.  I searched the streets for a small gray body.  I found nothing.  I wondered if he’d wandered off to die, but as my most recent memory was of him head-butting the closed cat flap door rather enthusiastically, this seemed unlikely.

On Saturday, I took my flyers to every veterinarian, groomer, church and train station anywhere near our house.  I walked the streets and put up flyers on every electrical pole within a mile radius.    Exhausted and despairing, I finally posted to my closest friends on Facebook (I believe these are called, in real life, actual friends) and asked for advice as to what else I could do to try and find him, or even what had happened to him.

“Have you tried Craigslist?” my far away cousin suggested.  “I’ve rediscovered my cat a few times through Craigslist.”

In my mind, Craigslist was that weird place where people who were looking for casual hookups went to, well, hook up.  I’d used it occasionally to buy things that would have been prohibitive to ship, but I’d never really spent much time on it.  Even the main page is overwhelming, with so many categories shoved together that it’s hard to know where to even start looking.  I knew, intellectually anyway, that people went there to find jobs and places to live, but I’d never used those services myself.  It had never occurred to me that one might find one’s lost pet there. But, there he was.  I didn’t realize it at first and I posted my ad with a large picture of my lanky friend.  Within an hour, I had two e-mails from people who wanted to make certain that I’d seen the ad of someone who had found a large gray cat in my immediate neighborhood.  It had been posted two days earlier.  I couldn’t possibly have replied to it faster.

And then I waited.  I waited in front of my computer for nine hours, wanting to see the return email the second it came in.  He’d been gone for two days already and I was frantic to get him home.  No reply came.  Distressed but hopeful, now that I knew that he was alive and nearby, I went to bed, certain I’d wake up to an e-mail in the morning. I didn’t.  I sat vigil in front of my computer for another twelve hours and still had nothing.  I took to the streets and started ringing doorbells, which was when I made two delightful discoveries.

The first, is that there’s a herd of feral cats living in my town.  The second, that there’s a collaboration of people who go out of their way to take care of them, to trap them, to get them neutered and to feed them.  I’ve received calls from so many people who just wanted to know if he’s home.

Three days later, in the middle of the night, the person who posted the ad finally called me.  She had gone away for the long weekend and hadn’t been checking her e-mail.  Argh.  She lived in a few towns away and she’d picked Nevyn up off of our block and taken him to a veterinarian local to her and submitted him as a stray.  I was furious, but Nevyn was safe.  We were reunited in the morning (and he was reunited with his collar) and despite being shaken at having spent four days in a cage, he’s returning to his old self.  He was chipped and given a rabies shot by the fine folks at the veterinarians who took care of him.  I went online and registered his RFID tag to my name and number, so now I know that if he gets picked up by another “helpful” soul, he’ll get back to me with less drama.  I’ve learned a few things from the experience.  For one, I’m codependent on my cat.  I’m not certain this is a complimentary quality.  Also, I have the kindest and best-hearted neighbors.  And for a third, someone needs to invent glue that can keep a collar on a cat.

My cat has now become part of the technical revolution, not just because you can scan him like a can of peaches, but because we would have been parted forever if it hadn’t been for social media.  So thank you Craig, whoever you are.  If it weren’t for you, my family would have been broken forever.

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