The Prodigal Cat Returns

About 3 years ago Our Cat went out and didn’t return.

For the first 6 months, we had some hope.

For the first year, we didn’t give up.

At the end of the second year, we figured he was dead.

About 6 months back I got rid of some of the “cat stuff” we’d likely never need again.

Today we got a call from the Animal Shelter. A lady who “had been feeding him for 6 months to a year” had coaxed him into a cat carrier with wet food and brought him in. She lives about 4 miles from us, near as we can figure.

The sound my wife made, hollering for me from the living room when getting the phone call, was, er, intense. Eventually she managed to tell me what the call was about… He had been “chipped”, and someone finally wanded him; surprised that a dirty scraggly ‘stray cat’ was not really a stray; or had not always been a bum… running from the law… So we were called, and they found that he had a family and friends who would “make bail” and vouch for him.

So today, after paying over $100, we have Magic back. He was named “Magic” as he could escape anything. I’ve lost count of the number of neck collars he’s dumped. Once he got out by pushing a window screen about 1 to 2 inches away from the frame… Once the head is through. the rest just flows. He has a particularly long and sleek build.

We were charged some laundry list of fees. $20 / day for the two days he was ‘boarded’ even though they said they were supposed to call us yesterday when he was turned in, but forgot. We were charged an “un-licensed cat fee” and some misc. other fees. (It would seem that one is to keep the cat licensed even when that might be a posthumous license… just in case…)

OK, I’m just happy to have Magic at home.

At first he was a bit overwhelmed. I suspect he’d gotten lost and could not find home, so “made do” and figured he was never going to see home again. After about 5 minutes, he started walking the house and doing his old ‘tour’. Rubbing chair legs in the dining room. Checking the bath tub for water (for reasons known only to him, he likes water from the bath.)

As he is “a bit skinny” I’ve picked up a 1/2 dozen cans of wet food. He’s downed 2 of them (and a can of tuna that was all we had when first bringing him home) in 6 hours. Making up for lost time ;-) Now he goes to the food dish and just looks at the food, wishing to eat more but unable, I think… then looks at us. We pet him and that makes it all better. For both of us.

For the next couple of days, he’s an ‘indoor cat’ as we all get used to each other again.
If I get a chance, I’ll take a picture of him and add to the posting tomorrow.

As it stands now, it’s like looking at a ghost brought back to life.
For us, and for the cat, I think.

I don’t know how “Cat Years” compare to “Dog Years” or “People Years”, but figure it is like being gone for 15 or 20 years and suddenly being “home again” for him. He is about 11 years old now. So went “walkies” at about 7ish to 8. Not yet geriatric, but not as spry as he once was. Being low on food for few years has not helped his build. He can (and did in the past) catch various birds and rodents; but that’s not an easy life for years on end.

He was jumpy the first few hours. If we made noises with “stuff”, or even just walking near him, would cause a small tense moment. We would get “that look” of cold evaluation. Then softened to just a “Oh, ought I worry?” Now he is prone to just sitting in the hallway, watching us as we come and go; with his familiar old “quizzical look”. Remembering, I think.

It will be interesting to see how all of us, cat included, adjust.

But for now, March 10th is a very good day.

Even if I do have to go buy a bunch of new cat stuff.

Update 11 Mar 2013

a couple of ‘quick snaps’ of Magic. Not a lot of photo effort in this, just point at cat and snap. I’ll likey do more / better later, but for now you can see what Magic looks like. He is sitting in my Daughter’s lap.

Magic The Cat at home the first full day

Yes, it’s a bit dark. The room was dark and this is my ‘pocket snaps’ camera, not the ‘see in the dark’ camera. (Fast, cheap, but not good. “Fast, good, cheap – pick any two. ;-)” Didn’t want to ‘flash him’ in the first picture.

You can see his characteristic “milk chocolate mustache”. He has a distinctive ‘long and sleek’ body, that has also gotten ‘bony and thin’. He’s about 1/2 his full weight by my guess. The facial pattern and large eyes are also easy to pick out of a crowd at the “Kitty Jail” ;-)

Here is one “with flash” that gives a better idea of his color, but he declined to look at the camera for this picture:

Magic The Cat profile, first full day home.

Magic The Cat profile, first full day home.

His fur is already looking better, having had some / much of the dirt brushed and combed out of it over the last 12 hours or so. Getting a bit of shine from the added fat in the diet too, I think.

I’ll see if I can get his permission to take a couple of better pictures later in the day.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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40 Responses to The Prodigal Cat Returns

  1. Sera says:

    Congrats! Love lost, love found, again. Good times.

  2. adrianvance says:

    Cats are like Democrats, professional opportunists. You can be sure that cat was living not far away and on the lap of a rich widow who was feeding him broiled pheasant, “organic” to be sure. If you don’t increase the quality of his food I will guarantee you he will be soon gone and out looking for another multi-millionaire widow.

    [Reply: Sorry, but no. His condition is ‘not good’. He’s been living more feral and less ‘house’. His fur, low weight, and ‘skittish’ behaviour confirm that as well. As does the lady who was feeding him some outdoors. Not indoors. His ‘food’ here has always been ‘top notch’ anyway. Including odd bits of ‘my food’ – like fresh fish and chicken bits. No, he left during spring, probably following the wind, and then didn’t have a way back home. (He had crossed a major road we though impassible for a cat). In short, while you may be correct about some “opportunists”, that’s not this cat. He has a ‘cussed independent’ streak, and liked being out on his own for days at a time before anyway. But just went too far too long once too often… Now his condition shows it. It will take a few days just to get the dirt and “hiding under cars” junk out of his fur… -E.M.Smith]

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    My wife got a picture of him doing the ‘nose touch face rub’ with my daughter. They have always been very very close, and it was clear both of them were in the “love found again” space.

    Yes, very good times.

  4. Pingback: Daily Linkage – March 11, 2013 | The Second Estate

  5. Petrossa says:

    I lost my dog one day run over by a car, so i went to the funeral parlor and arranged my funeral. I arranged my affairs and then my girlfriend bought me a puppy so i’m still around.

  6. philjourdan says:

    Cats live about 25% longer than dogs on average. An 11 year old is middle aged. 18-20 is the normal life span.

    We had a cat like yours. We called him Houdini. He would roam, and come home on occasion to eat. So we grabbed him and built a pen under the deck. Did you know that cats can dig holes? This one could. So we filled the area around the bottom with gravel. That stopped him for about 1 day. Then we poured a concrete footing on it. That stopped him. Eventually he became an inside cat as he got older (we even had a heater for him under the deck during the winter along with windbreaks and shelters – the deck is 6 feet high, so it was big and roomy).

    He developed kidney problems. His kidneys shut down eventually, and the vet gave him a short extension on life by having him get IVs every other day. But we had to put him down a month ago as he no longer had any strength. He was 18. My wife will still not allow anyone into the room he slept in.

    His “brother” (just a cat that is a year younger than him, but they grew up together) sensed what was happening. He knows he is the “Daddy” now (see Middle Age Crazy if you need an explanation). And like Bobby lee, he does not like the role at all. But such is life. The vet says he does not have any kidney problems. He also does not roam.

  7. R. de Haan says:

    I had a Siamese cat for 24 years. Cats don’t have a boss like dogs have, cats only have servants.

  8. Brent Buckner says:

    Thanks for sharing your good news story!

  9. Graeme says:

    Glad you managed to get your cat back. Folk wisdom around here suggests buttering his paws for a few days, until he loses any urge to go feral again. However, I have yet to see anyone manage to butter a cat’s paws!

  10. philjourdan says:

    @R. de Haan – towards the end of our cats life, he was getting very picky on what he would eat (the Vet said it was because of the urine backing up in his blood and his inability to smell food). So I picked up a bunch of different flavors (small cans) and was checking out of the Pet Store, and the cashier remarked at the variety. I made the exact same comment to the Cashier – who claimed she was a cat lady – and she was amused! She said she had never heard that before.

    I thought it was universal among all pet owners.

  11. philjourdan says:

    @Graeme – is that like putting salt on a Bird’s tail? ;-)

  12. j ferguson says:

    our version was that cats do not have owners, but staff. Crocket, the very dark brown Burmese, that lived with us would sit on top of the forward cabin when the boat was underway. His back would twitch from time to time. He apparently loved it.
    Making a living forced us to live in a marina for 18 months. After six, Crocket disappeared the same evening that one of our neighbors left to continue a circumnavigation. We never heard from either again.

  13. DaBilk says:

    We had a similar experience with our fuzz bucket. Griz was on the lam for about 3 years as well. The area has a good population of feral cats and he was always a good scrapper. We spotted him one day on the side of the road one day and enjoyed a few more years of his antics.

    This is a link to the National Film Board of Canada’s “The Cat Came Back” cartoon.

    Off topic a bit, but the NFB has produced some classics. One of Buster Keaton’s last films “The Railrodder” is a good chuckle.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @J Ferguson:

    Golly, a cat that got wanderlust so swapped ships for some more sea… what a story!

    @Brent Buckner:

    You are welcome. Just glad to have some good to share!

    This morning, stomach much rounder, Magic is laying on a bit of throw rug surveying his staff. Glad to have them again, I think…


    We thought about naming him Houdini, but I couldn’t spell it and, quoting my wife, “The name was longer than he was”. (We got him at about 8 weeks… he was small then.)


    Cats crave fat. People like to think fat is evil, it isn’t. It is the core fuel for a carnivore. Wet cat food has ‘low fat’ since 1) People think that’s good and respond to it. 2) The cat eats more, trying to get his ‘fat fix’.

    (A college friend went on to work for a major cat food maker doing “feeding studies”. The criteria of most interest was how much the cat ate…)

    So I’d always added bits of fat to the food dish and watched how the cats reacted. A bit of butter and they are satisfied… Chicken fat they love ( lamb fat not so much..)

    Yesterday Magic got the oil from the tuna can.
    This morning, about a Tbs ( 15 ml ) of chicken fat (pan drippings from roast chicken).

    Don’t need to put it on the paws. The food dish will do…

    You can tell when they are happy about it. First off, the face plant in the food dish, then they eat until clearly satisfied (though not as much food volume) then they begin the face wash / paw lick process; then they find a place for a nap…

    As magic is about 50% below weight (and his fur is in need of some oil too), I’ll be giving him all the fat he wants for a while…

  15. Verity Jones says:

    That has cheered my evening. I look forward to photos.

  16. E.M.Smith says:


    I just dashed over and took a couple of quick snaps, so you can see what he looks like. They are added above at the bottom of the posting.

  17. Tom Bakewell says:

    I’m happy for all. I expect Magic will be bouncing around enlivening the household to everyone’s entire satisfaction.

  18. Verity Jones says:

    Aw. He has a very noble face and is quite unusually marked. You probably miss Starfleet and Magic’s return is a small compensation. Cats can form a very close bond with their humans.

    I don’t know how well you be able to see this but this is my blogging (and working) handicap: He used to try to crawl up to my neck when I had the laptop on my lap, now he pesters me until I form a ‘bed’ he can lie on between me and the keyboard. To be found in this position most cold evenings (mutual benefit); happily making small catty snoring noises as I type.

  19. Verity Jones says:

    Sorry that was very blurred. Taken with a new webcam that I obviously have not focused correctly.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, when snoozing the whole world is a bit “blurred” so I’m seeing it as “artistic license” ;-)

    Ah, yes, the “long reach past cat to keyboard” position… Been there, done that… ;-)

  21. Zeke says:

    He has been through so much. He deserves our respect.

  22. E.M.Smith says:


    As of now, the middle “stomach region” is back to normal size ;-)

    So far, he mostly is enjoying the food dish and litter box with long snoozes in between. He hasn’t even made so much as a long look at the doors or windows. (In the past, he was always angling to ‘get out’ and explore.)

    I think he’s “had enough exploring” for a long time, and is enjoying the “Spa time”.

    I’m enjoying that he’s enjoying it…

  23. Steve C says:

    Speaking as a Cat Person who thinks the ancient Egyptians had the right idea about ’em, this story really warms my heart. He’s a handsome beast, too. When you’re sure he’s not ‘going out’ again, pop down to a herbalist and pick up an ounce of valerian, and watch that feline reserve vanish as he goes into purr overload!

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    On one occasion I planted catnip in the garden. I’m still trying to eradicate it… So I can just go pick up the dried bits of what I uprooted about 4 days back…

    But valerian is a new one to me. I’ll have to look some up somewhere sometime…

  25. NZ Willy says:

    About 30 years ago I was house sitting a friend’s house in the mountains, 7 miles away, and brought my cat. It didn’t like it and went out the basement window. Bye puss. 4 months later it came home to my cabin in town, having navigated the mountains and the city — and one has to wonder what it ate in the meantime. Somehow, they do it.

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    @N.Z. WIlly:

    They can be quite good at such things. IMHO it’s a mix of magnetic sense and smells and ‘dead reckoning’. It’s what I use. (Seriously. Dad trained me to sense north at a very young age. That’s another post… but we have the magnetite in our brains, just needs training… I can “smell home” when going back to where I grew up. It just smells like home.)

    In this case, Sir Cat got himself a few miles away on the other side of what we thought was an “Impassible by a cat” roadway. I think he had an ‘easy in – hard to find that spot back out’ happen. It’s easy to cross “the one overpass” or “the one not busy day of the year”. Much harder to get back to it from the other side… especially if pointing at home from the middle of of the block on the other side, not the strange edge case location….

    I have another picture to be put up “soon” of him on a bit of carpet. Stomach has ‘recovered’… then the skinny bits on each side ;-) Seriously, though, he is ‘packing away the groceries’ and I’m hoping he gets back to his former large weight with loads of muscles and spunk. Right now he’s more in the ‘skin and bones’ camp. My guess is he had about 5 months, maybe, before he would have starved to death. Probably entered a ‘death spiral’ of muscle catabolysis to get through the winter, then not able to jump and catch birds well enough to recover. (Thus the lady being able to tempt him into a trap with ‘wet food’…)

    But he is back on this side of The Big Road now, and being stuffed with calories at the optimal rate. Still showing no interest in “the great outdoors” so appreciating the Spa Time ;-)

  27. j ferguson says:

    Cats and their parallel universes.

    Rover, the cat, moved to Saint Louis with us in 1970. In Chicago, she had never been allowed outdoors. but it was OK where we lived in Saint Louis – big, somewhat overgrown, back yard. Came the first snow. Rover asked to be let out, went out, tried to shake the snow off her front paws, clearly didn’t like it and asked to be let in. Next action was to go to another door and again ask to be let out. She was, and with the same result. we had five doors to the outside and she tried each of them always with the same result. She stayed in for the night and next morning must have accepted the idea, and went out without further fuss.

    We kept an eye on her choice of doors and noticed that she might leave by any of them but always returned through the one she’d exited.

    By now someone has probably equipped their cat with a wi-fi gps tracker and mapped the cat’s travels. We always wondered if the outdoors visited via one door was a completely different place entered via another.

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    @J. Ferguson:

    Some vague memory…. I think someone did a scify piece on that… where the cat was always looking for the door into summer… wait a second while I web search…


    The title was triggered by a remark that Heinlein’s wife had made: in the novel, the protagonist’s cat refuses to leave their house through any of its numerous doors when he sees snow on the ground: he is looking for The Door into Summer. Heinlein wrote the complete novel in only 13 days. No rewrite was needed, only some light editing that Heinlein did himself.


  29. Eric Barnes says:

    Very happy for Magic and your family. Losing a pet can be so painful. I can’t imagine what it’s like to get one back. :)

  30. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. And don’t forget Heinlein’s “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.”

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @Eric Barnes:

    You have no idea.

    Heck, I have no idea

    I just picked “the little rodent” (as I call him) up and gave him a snuggle….

    I’m allergic to cats. Not something over which I have any control. I sneeze and have “other immune issues” around cats. Doesn’t matter. I love “the little rodent”…

    I’m now sitting on the patio, having abandoned the house to “the little rodent”. It doesn’t matter.

    I’d load up the “Assault rifle” and take on the “U.S. Army” if needed to keep him happy and alive.

    I can’t explain it. We “have a bond”. I paid something like $35 because he kept his balls. (Yes, there is a “balls tax” for cats found not to have been castrated) yet I’d go to the gallows for him and his rights.

    Never mind that the only determinant of fecundity is “fertile females” (one male “with his balls on” can service a very large number of females; so we pay a “balls tax” for not snipping a male – despite the fact that it makes not a whit of difference to total kittens birthed) so Magic “Keeps his balls” political Bull Shit be damned.

    For whatever it is worth, we did notice a trend toward a “Long and sleek” body form, rather like Magic, in the cats in the neighborhood prior to his disappearance.

  32. j ferguson says:

    The door into summer – i vaguely remember it, thanks for reminding me. it’s funny that at the time it happened at our house, we didn’t “get it” until the third door and then wondered if Rover would grasp the problem before running out of doors. She didn’t.

    She made it to 22. she had a good memory for people she didn’t like. we were visited by a cousin who as a child had tormented her a bit. Cousin was now 19 and hadn’t been seen by Rover for 12 years. She recognized her instantly and hid until she was gone.

  33. PhilJourdan says:

    @NZ Willy – birds, squirrels, voles and moles. My cats are fed regularly, yet still manage to keep our yard free of the latter (voles and moles), and the former very cautious about prancing around the yard!

  34. PhilJourdan says:

    @E.M. – Re: Love the little fellow:

    Check this out.

    You may be a cat pod person! ;-)

  35. E.M.Smith says:


    Yes, seen that several times. (IIRC Adolfo was on about it some months back…)

    Don’t have any of the symptoms. Don’t have any reason to suspect any infection. Have a very hyperactive immune system with IgE that is especially effective for parasites (but gives a tendency to allergies in return…) Etc. etc.

    I like “the little rodent” simply for his personality. Many cats are, um, not of interest to me. Too demanding or too boring or…

    This one is a “cooperating and understanding” cat. That’s what I find interesting. He uses body posture to “ask” for things, then gauges your response. I like watching him think… So, for example, I’ve been his “Doctor” for several injuries over the years. “Treatment” always happens in the bathroom with the door closed (so he could not escape). He came to recognize this… Yet also realized I was “fixing things”. So would give me the “not THAT room?!” look, yet not ‘fight me’ over treating things. Even things that clearly hurt (like draining an infected pocket in his leg, that involved needles and such…)

    So we have come to an understanding of each other. It is that which I find binds us. Frankly, I’ve got no interest in having a cat. It was the daughter who wanted one, and got him. We didn’t get a ‘replacement’ when he was gone. There is no generic “like cats” here, just a “like this furry person in particular”. All that argues for “not a bacteria driven generic response”.

  36. PhilJourdan says:

    @E.M. – Understood. I was just struck by your statement that you are allergic to cats, yet really liked this one. My wife is the same way. While I do not think I am infected either, I am just paranoid enough to not proclaim I am not infected.

    And yes, watching cats and how they reason and react is a great endeavor. We have one that is a nasty old B**tard! He will not let you pet him, or pick him up. Until he is sick – then he becomes a lap cat. That lasts until he gets better – then it is spitting and scratching unless you keep your distance (he does love to rub his head on your leg however).

  37. Graeme says:

    My ex-wife thinks there is some kind of cat grapevine….everytime she or her mother “loses” a cat, another shows up on the doorstep a day or so later…She gets adopted by cats. She tends not to get to choose them.

  38. E.M.Smith says:


    Maybe they just all have a ‘shift day’ and play “musical cats” ;-)


    Once was in a cage with two bobcats. Real sweethearts. Leapt up in my arms and wanted to snuggle and rub…

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