Fiona and Adrian share their home with their three cats: Mark and Orla, who’ve been with them for over two years, and one-year-old Squeak, who’s seen as the young upstart by the older two animals.
The recent crisis started with some disagreements about night-time domestic arrangements. Each cat has its own established sleeping spot: Mark sleeps at the foot of Fiona and Adrian’s bed, Orla has a cubby hole in another bedroom, and Squeak is happy to sleep stretched out on the landing. The cats usually wait until the humans in the house are up and about before waking, but Squeak recently started to stir at 5am every morning. She repeatedly scratched on Fiona’s door until she woke to let Squeak go outside.
After a few nights of broken sleep, Fiona decided to put Squeak into the outdoor cat kennel last thing at night: if she wanted to be up and about at dawn, she could do so without disturbing the rest of the house. The cat kennel has a cosy bed, with food and water nearby, and all of the cats sometimes choose to stay there overnight anyway.
The next morning, when Fiona got up with the other cats, there was no sign of Squeak. Normally, if she slept outside, she’d be at the back door, looking for breakfast. At first Fiona thought she might just be busy elsewhere, but when there was no sign of her by the next day, she knew she’d gone missing. But what had happened? Had she had an accident of some kind? Was she lying sick somewhere? Or had she just decided to head off, looking for a home without other cats where she could be the queen of her own household?
Fiona and Adrian dedicated themselves to finding their missing cat. They found a website – www.irishanimals.ie – that contained listings of lost and found pets, as well as giving detailed instructions on exactly what to do if a cat goes missing. They phoned all the vet clinics in the area, in case Squeak had been injured. They designed and printed dozens of posters with Squeak’s photo, and they put these up on lamp-posts all around the neighbourhood. They knocked on neighbours’ doors, putting out the word that their lovely tortoiseshell cat had gone missing.
But there was no sign of Squeak: not even any sightings. After three weeks, they had resigned themselves to the fact that their cat had gone for good. Then last Sunday morning, when the back door was open in the sunshine, Squeak just strolled in. She ran up to Fiona, hopped up onto her lap, and nuzzled into her, looking for affection. She was very thin, and she hungrily ate breakfast and drank a little, but she seemed well.
Fiona brought her down to see me for a check up, and when we put her on the weighing scales, we discovered that she’d lost 25% of her body weight, like a 10 stone person going down to 7½ stone. But she’s otherwise unharmed. It seems most likely that she accidentally found herself shut into someone’s garden shed. She must have had a source of drinking water, but she’d starved for three weeks. She’s lucky to have survived.
Now that she’s back, Fiona’s tempted to pamper her. Since her return, Squeak has slept in Mark’s place at the foot of the bed, but for the long term, she’ll need to go back to her own space. And she needs to learn that 5.30am is not a good time to wake up the rest of the house.
- If a cat goes missing, visit www.irishanimals.ie to find out what to do
- Remember to phone local vet clinics, in case your pet is injured or sick
- on’t forget to ask neighbours to check locked sheds and outhouses.