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St. Luke’s Hospice

9 Incredible Stories of Lost and Found Cats

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St. Luke’s Hospice

The news from Australia about a cat who came home after straying for 13 years is one of the nicest feel-good stories of this week. Tales of cats missing for long periods of time or turning up in strange places happen more often than you think, but when they are found and returned to their families, it’s always a good story.

1. Charles: Eight Months Later, 1300 Miles Away

In 2009, Robin Alex, of Albuquerque, New Mexico went to New Orleans to built a Habitat for Humanity house. When she returned, her cat Charles was gone. Eight months later, she received a call from Chicago Animal Care and Control. A cat had been picked up with a microchip identifying her as the owner! But there was also bad news- if she didn’t pick him up within six days, Charles would be euthanized. Alex didn’t have time to wonder about how her cat had ended up 1300 miles from home, because she had to get him back. And she couldn’t afford a round-trip ticket to Chicago.

The local news picked up the story, which then went national. Alex asked if anyone was planning a trip to Chicago and would be able to help her. Enter fellow Albuquerque resident Lucien Sims. Sims said he has a tabby cat who strongly resembles Charles, and was moved when his mother sent him an online story about Alex and her pet.

Sims volunteered to pick Charles up and bring him back to New Mexico, as he was traveling to a wedding in Chicago. American Airlines did not charge a travel fee for the cat, and another business donated a pet carrier. Alex is happy to have her cat back. Still, no one knows how Charles came to be 1300 miles away in Chicago.

2. Alfie: Nine Months and One Burial Later

Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back. That old song came true in the case of Alfie, an orange tom that belongs to Angelo Petrillo of Milnrow, Greater Manchester, England. Petrillo buried a cat he was sure was Alfie after a car hit the cat near his home in 2009. Then the Petrillo family moved to a new house. Nine months later, a friend from the old neighborhood called to tell Petrillo that a ginger cat was at their old house trying to get in! The confused Petrillos went to investigate at their old home a mile away, and there was Alfie. The cat had put on weight, so it was obvious that someone had been taking care of him, but there was no doubt it was Alfie, seemingly come back from the dead. The Petrillos still don't know whose cat they buried, or where Alfie has been all that time.

3. Fuzzy: Four Years Later, in a Pet Store

Michelle Wright of Barrington, New Hampshire, was devastated when a neighbor told her a cat resembling hers was struck and killed by a car. Fuzzy had run away from a friend’s house not too long before that. Wright thought that was the last of Fuzzy. But in 2014, the Cocheco Valley Humane Society took a shelter cat down to the Pet Connections Pet Store, which just happened to be down the street from Wright’s home. Shortly afterward, Wright stopped in to buy pet supplies. The more she looked at the cat, the more she was convinced it was Fuzzy. Wright brought in pictures and described a unique mark on Fuzzy's paw. It was definitely her cat!

Wright still had to go through the procedure of adopting Fuzzy from the shelter and paid the $85 fee. That covered Fuzzy’s shots and included a microchip implantation, so Fuzzy will never be lost that long again. See a video report from WMUR.

4. Charlie: Five Years Later


Photograph from Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control.

Virginia Fryback of Fort Wayne, Indiana, thought she’d never see Charlie again after he went missing five years ago. Just a couple of months ago, a ten-year-old cat came into the care of Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, and his microchip led to the cat’s return to Fryback. Fryback was elated, and credits her veterinarian, who talked her into getting the cat microchipped all those years ago.

5. Willow: Five Years and 1,800 Miles Later

Chris and Jamie Squires of Broomfield, Colorado, looked for their missing cat Willow in late 2006 or early 2007 when a contractor let her out of the house by mistake. They put up posters, but sadly figured that Willow was a victim of a coyote or another wild animal. Then in September of 2011, they got a call from Animal Care & Control -in New York City! Willow had been picked up on 20th street and taken to a city shelter. They found the Squires by scanning the cat’s microchip. Even though the family had moved to Boulder, they updated their address with the microchip company just in case. The Today Show paid for the family to fly to New York and retrieve Willow. And how did Willow get so far from home? An anonymous source told Gawker that a New Yorker who went skiing in Colorado brought the cat home, and even sent a picture. It’s a likely scenario, but no one came forward to admit doing it.

6. Örvar: Seven Years Later


Photograph from Visir.

Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson of Reykjavík, Iceland, loved his cat Örvar, but when he adopted a puppy in 2007, Örvar took off. Viðarsson checked in regularly with the local animal shelter (Kattholt) for quite some time. But after a couple of years, he came to the conclusion that his cat was either dead or had been adopted by someone else. He hoped it was someone nice. Then in February of 2014, Viðarsson received an email from Kattholt. Örvar, who had a microchip, had been found! It took a couple of weeks to find Viðarsson, as he had moved.

The reunion was particularly joyous. Birkir received notification from Kattholt, Reykjavík’s cat shelter. “At first I really couldn’t believe it. I did not know what to expect. So I prepared for the worst; maybe he had lost an eye or an ear. Maybe he would have to be humanely put out of his misery. When I arrived, I was told that Örvar was shy and kept to himself in the corner. But when I called out his name he came running, climbed on top of me and wrapped his body around me. It was as if we had never been apart. It was lovely. The ladies at Kattholt told me that they had never seen the cat behave that way. One of them was even moved to tears.”

7. Dixie: Nine Years Later


Photograph: RSPCA handout.

When her cat Dixie went missing in 1999, Gilly Delaney thought she must have been killed by a car. But in 2008, a stray cat was reported to the RSPCA in Birmingham, England. When vets checked the cat for a microchip, they found that it was Delaney’s cat. Dixie had been picked up less than half a mile from her old home! The Delaneys were overjoyed to be reunited with their cat nine years later.

"Dixie's personality, behavior and little mannerisms have not changed at all," said Gilly Delaney. "We don't think she has stopped purring since she came back through the door."

8. Crockett: Five Days in a Sofa


Photograph from St. Luke’s Hospice.

Pauline and Bill Lowe of Corringham, England, donated two couches to the St Luke's Hospice charity shop in Grays, Essex. One of the couches had to be disassembled to get it through the door, and reassembled after it was outside. The Lowe’s cat Crockett was soon noticed missing, but they couldn’t figure out where he might have gone. The sofas went to the shop, and one was bought four days later.

The couch was delivered, and new owners set it up in their home.
Crockett was discovered a day later by the sofa's new owners.

Shop manager Jenny Munro said: "[They] heard a soft miaow sound and, on further investigation of the sofa, saw two claws poking out of the material which moved away when touched.

"In order to release the cat they had to rip the material under the sofa as Crockett had lodged himself well into the back.”

The ten-year-old cat appeared to be in good condition, and by contacting the thrift shop, Crockett was soon reunited with the Lowes.

9. Shelby: Thirteen Years Later

When Shelby went missing from her home in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, in 2001, Paula Harper-Adams thought she’d seen the last of her. Thirteen years and four sons later, a stray black-and-white cat showed up at their home last week. Harper-Adams took the scrawny, matted, lice-ridden stray to a vet and then noticed its marking were similar to Shelby's. Could it be? She dug out some old photos of Shelby and compared them. She also had the veterinarian staff compare them, and they all came to the conclusion that it was indeed the same cat. Shelby, who is now 17 years old, gives no clue as to where she has been, but she found her way home.

More missing cat stories would have such happy endings if more people had a microchip embedded in each of their pets.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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iStock

Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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