I hope the following story of how my mother's cat Petey got lost from a cat-sitters' home, and was eventually found, more than six weeks later, with Annette Betcher's help, will give hope to anyone whose animal has gotten lost while away from home. You just mustn't give up and must keep looking and talking to people about your lost pet!
Petey got out of a cat-sitters' home in Houston where he was staying over the Christmas holidays, (while my mother was visiting me in Indiana), during a holiday party when a guest to the home didn't see him as he ran out the door, presumably frightened by the sounds of the party. The catsitters didn't realize he was gone for a number of days - (hard to believe, but, he was in the habit of hiding inside their house), and so they did not begin searching for him until my mother returned home a few days later. What made this an especially difficult situation was that the sitters lived in a neighborhood that was a half hour drive away from Petey's and my mother's home, and most of the houses in the neighborhood had backyards surrounded by high fences, making it hard to assess which direction he may have headed.
Mother immediately began talking to the sitters' neighbors and created a poster with his picture on it. Since he'd been gone a few days, the "scent" was already getting cold. We consulted Annette by telephone right away (she'd helped me locate a lost kitty a few months earlier), and she was able to determine that he was still "in his body", and that he might be hiding in a shed, children's playhouse, or sheltered space in someone's backyard. Annette instructed him to go back to the catsitters' home, but he let her know later that he'd gone back there twice, but no one seemed to be home, (the sitters were inexperienced, and were of very little help). It was clear that we needed to get as many other people as possible looking for Petey, in order to find him. With posters up, and with a local "eblast" going out to neighbors showing his picture, a few people called with potential sightings.
Over the next few weeks various sightings involved a Petey "look-alike", as well as (probably) Petey himself - so it was hard to determine where to focus the search since most sightings were 8-10 blocks away from the sitters' home. It was very hard not to get discouraged, but Annette kept telling Petey to let someone see him, so they would tell his mother, and then she could get him home. Annette also urged us to have the sitters put dry food out on their porch and keep an eye on how it was being eaten, but this was not a dependable arrangement; fortunately, in the area where there had been some sightings, there was a lady who routinely set out food for stray cats, which was probably a place he was eating, but this lady was not often home, and hard to communicate with consistently.
The neighborhood itself was bounded by grassy areas and bayous (deep ditches with water at the bottom) on three sides - Petey had let Annette know that he had a definite "circuit" he traveled, including a grassy area. My mother continually walked and drove throughout the area, but never saw him, although she saw Petey "look-alikes" on more than one occasion. Finally, I made a detailed map of the area, including the grassy areas, marking where all the sightings had been, and faxed it to Annette. Although the sightings were spread out over a large area, she identified three "hotspots" where she felt the largest concentration of his energy. The "hottest" spot was by the edge of the map, near a grassy area bounding a bayou. For the next couple of days, mother concentrated her efforts near these hotspots.
Two nights later a woman called who lived in the next neighborhood over, and as chance would have it, she'd come into this adjacent neighborhood (across the bayou and grassy area) to jog, had seen one of mother's posters with Petey's picture, and realized he was the cat who'd recently been coming around her garage, where she fed her own cat.
Mother went immediately to her home - although Petey was very scared, (and still in "survival mode"), they were able to entice him with food, to come into an inside porch, and from there mother was very gradually able to calm him enough to get him into his carrier and take him home.
In retrospect, looking back at the map we'd sent Annette, Petey was finally found at a house located just off of the edge of the map, and right across from the "hottest" spot she'd identified on it, where he most likely crossed over the grassy area/bayou to get into the next neighborhood. It was such a large area that we were trying to find him in, that without Annette's encouragement, my mother might have given up hope. Thank goodness we all stuck to it (although the three of us lived in three different places, coaching each other by phone and email), working like a team to keep each other going, because it was only by being persistent and not giving up that we found him!
by Robin, for her Mom, TX