Monday, May 28, 2012

Lost Cat... Found Cat!

Hello Everyone!

As some of you know,  I had a very scary week and a of my cats, Cosmo, went missing.

Losing a pet is a nightmare that many have faced, and I never thought it would happen to me.  It all started when my husband, son and I left early on a Wednesday morning to visit family.  We suspect that Cosmo snuck out the door when we left that morning, because when we returned 36 hours later, he was nowhere in the house.

Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital's MOST WANTED

We looked around the yard frantically and asked surrounding neighbors if they had seen a black and white cat. The garage was searched thoroughly, my husband looked in the scary disgusting crawl-space, we opened the attic, and we looked in the back of all the closets.  No Cosmo.  The only trace we found was his collar stuck to the branches of a shrub in the front yard.

I immediately thought of all the things I had done wrong as a cat owner.  I hope that all of you can learn from my mistakes...

   1) Cosmo did NOT have a registered Microchip.  This is a small device placed under the skin that can be used to identify a pet if he is brought to an animal shelter or veterinary hospital.  If Cosmo had presented at the SPCA, Humane Society, or a vet hospital, he would have been identified and I would have been called.

   2) Cosmo did NOT have identification on his collar.  Although he is licensed with the town, his tag was not on his collar (It was in a drawer with the paperwork. Smart, I know.).  He also did not have his Rabies tag on him.  Both of these tags could have been used as identification....  if the collar had not pulled off.

   3) Cosmo was NOT vaccinated for Feline Leukemia (FeLV).  This is a virus that can be fatal to cats.  If he came in contact with a cat infected with this virus, he would be susceptible.

Yes-- I know that  a Microchip is only helpful if he is taken to a shelter or hospital (meaning he would need to be found by someone kind enough to turn him in).... and I know that ID tags on his collar wouldn't have helped since his collar was in a shrub.  I still felt awful that I had not worked harder to identify him in the event that he became lost, and I felt responsible that I had not vaccinated him from a potentially life-threatening illness.

It was so strange that Cosmo had not come back.  Any other time he had escaped, he returned promptly for his next meal.  Several scenarios went through my mind.  Did he get lost looking for food? Was he trapped in a garage or shed? Was he hit by a car? Killed by a raccoon? Or did he find a new family... perhaps with a little girl who had dressed him up in a pink dress and bonnet for a tea party?  This last one was my favorite mental image :-)

This would be Cosmo.. all dressed up for a tea party!

The next day, I went into complete search-and-rescue mode.   Starting with my immediate neighbors and working my way outward into other neighborhoods, I went door to door asking if anyone had seen a black and white cat.  I gave out the phone number to the veterinary hospital in case anyone saw him.  My wonderful friends at the hospital helped me make these rounds, and they also made "Missing Cat" fliers which we handed out to all the neighbors in a half-mile radius.  Jacob, my 10-week-old son, accompanied me either by stroller or via Baby Bjorn carrier during all my searches.  I became known as the "crazy cat lady carrying a baby."

We placed fliers and filed missing cat reports in the following places: MCSPCA,  Humane Society in Tinton Falls, Ocean Police, Allenhurst Police, Deal Police, Interlaken Police, Garden State Veterinary Specialists, and Petco. I even registered Cosmo as a lost cat on

After about four days, I became desperate.  I had heard of an Old Wives' Tale that if your cat goes missing, you should hang a pair of scissors outside your window.  It is supposed to help your cat return within three days.  What did I have to lose?  I hung the darn scissors.

An Old Wives' Tale...

Every day, I would walk for 4-6 hours around the different nearby neighborhoods.  I carefully explored the woods near our house.  My husband and I went even went to Deal Country Club where we learned they had feral cats on the grounds.  Maybe Cosmo had joined a "gang" and was trying to prove he was cool enough to be in a feral cat colony!  We returned to the golf course at dusk with cat food and met the feral cats from afar. They were all too shy to come near us... but we did not see Cosmo among them.

My dear husband went out a few times at night with cat food, and he attracted a fair number of prowling felines.  None of them, alas, was our boy.

After ten days of sweat and tears, someone called the hospital saying that they saw him about a quarter of a mile from where I lived. I tried not to get my hopes up, but I visited the described area and started shaking some cat treats and calling for Cosmo.  No luck.  I sadly walked home.

Within 20 minutes of this final search, I heard scratching at our screen door.  When I went to the door, I saw Nemo (one of our other cats) at the inside of the screen looking outward into a familiar black face.... Cosmo had come home!

Home safe and sound... and a little skinny

I was so happy to see him!  He ran into the house when I opened the door, and he immediately starting rubbing against my ankles and purring.  There was no doubt that he was happy to be back.  Nemo kept following him-- I think she missed her brother, too!  Cosmo was happy to eat some food, then I packed him into a carrier and brought him to the veterinary hospital to make sure he was OK.

After examining him, I was pleased to find no bites or injuries.  His color was good, and he only appeared mildly dehydrated.  He had lost a few pounds, but otherwise looked healthy. Often, when a cat hasn't eaten in several days, they can develop hepatic lipidosis. This is a dangerous condition where the liver becomes congested with fatty deposits as a result of the body's efforts to fight starvation.  I submitted some blood tests to check that his liver and kidneys were stable, and I tested him for FeLV and FIV.  (If he acquired either of these viruses when he was lost, it would take a few weeks to show up positive... I tested him to get a baseline for when I repeated the test in a few months.)  If he continues to test negative, I will vaccinate him for FeLV.

His blood tests did show mild liver value elevations, but not enough to indicate a serious problem.  He also tested negative for FeLV and FIV.  I gave him subcutaneous fluids for the dehydration, oral dewormer to kill intestinal parasites, and a dose of Frontline to kill ticks.  He was already on Revolution, so he was safe from fleas and heart worm.  When I went to place his Microchip, I found that he already had one.  I went online to the Microchip registry ( and registered his number under my name and contact information.

This is how a microchip is placed-- very simple! It's like giving a vaccine.

This is what a Microchip looks like in comparison to a nickel. It's about the size of a grain of rice. 

This pup is being checked for Microchip placement.
The device detects the Microchip, and an identification number appears on a screen.

I replaced Cosmo's collar (with town license attached!) and put it on a little tighter.  It is a safety break-away collar, so if he does get caught on a branch, he won't choke himself.  Nevertheless, I still feel better knowing he has visible ID on him.

Cosmo did have one setback.  Since he was so eager to eat, we gave him his regular diet and meal size....  then he promptly developed diarrhea, nausea, and lethargy.  He was given antibiotics for the diarrhea, anti-nausea medication, and a bland diet. Of course, he bounced right back within twelve hours.  In hindsight, I should have started the bland diet right away and only given small, frequent meals. Again-- learn from my mistakes!

We are definitely happy to have our family re-united.  Cosmo is a very special cat, and we were so sad when we thought he was lost forever.  I truly hope that you never have to go through the pain of losing a pet.  Please learn from my experience!

Until next time,
Dr. Schock

Cosmo and Paulie... Best Friends

My search and rescue assistant!  Jake obviously has high aspirations.