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Everything We Need to Know About #Survival, We Can Learn from a Missing #Cat

April 19, 2016

Remember how I told you that the day we moved, our beloved kitty escaped out a window into the forest and our missing cat was never heard from again?

Well guess what?

He’s HOME!

How the Misadventure Began

Syllies day 1

Sylvester has always been a skittish cat. We got him when he was just a few weeks old, after some horrid person had tossed him and his sibling into a trash can to be picked up on garbage day. He was starving and scrawny, and my daughter fell madly in love with him, setting her alarm to bottle feed him in the middle of the night.

I guess you could say, he’s always been a survivor.  Soon, he had become healthy and basically took over like a little 2-pound purring dictator.

Syllie kitten on the laptop

Fast forward to a year and a half later. Sylvester was a big, beautiful, luxurious house cat and the adored companion of my teenage daughter. His hobbies were jumping on our elderly cat, swatting the dogs tail, and scratching things he wasn’t supposed to scratch.

Then, just over a month ago, we moved to our new home on the edges of a national forest. I brought the cats and dogs over myself, in the back of my Jeep. I put the cats into the bathroom and shut the door. But what I should have done was shut the windows, because unbeknownst to me, the screen on one of them was not in properly.

When we went in later to bathe the cats because of an unfortunate incident during the car ride, Sylvester was gone.

We searched frantically, long after dark, calling him, shaking treat containers, opening cans of cat food. It was all to no avail. Our cat, who had never been outside at all, was lost in the deep dark forest.

Over the next few days, we did all the things you’re supposed to do when you have a missing cat. We put up lost kitty ads, we canvassed the neighbors, we put his litter box and some personal items outside hoping he’d find his way home.

He never did. After a couple of weeks went by, we were pretty sure that something had eaten him. There is quite frequently evidence of bears and mountain lions in the forest around our property, and he would have been a big, tasty meal for them. My poor daughter was broken-hearted.

The Return of Our Missing Cat

A couple of days ago I was walking out the front door to water the herb garden when I startled a cat on the upper patio. It took off before I could do anything more than stand there with my mouth open but I was pretty sure it was our missing cat. After all, how many fluffy gray and white kitties could there possibly be in the forest?

We went out and called for him to no avail, but I put out a dish of food and water on the patio. The next morning it was gone, but of course, we had no way of knowing if it was eaten by the kitty or something else.

The vet here in town lends out live traps in certain situations, so we picked one up the following afternoon. Within an hour of putting in the stinkiest cat food I could find, we heard a rattling. As we sat there and watched, hardly daring to move, a skittish, skinny kitty suspiciously sniffed all around the trap. Finally, the hunger was too much for him and he went in and ….

We have our cat back!

He was frantic when we caught him, absolutely terrified, and it took him a few minutes to recognize us. We carried the trap into the house and went into the bathroom with it so we could release him in a controlled area. After about 15 minutes of hand feeding little bites of kitty kibble, he was back with his mama.

Sylvester is home

He’s headed to the vet today for a check-up, but here’s our initial assessment.

  • He has assorted small wounds – gouges, scratches, etc.
  • He lost TEN pounds. He’s gone from a huge, kind of chubby cat, to a lean, mean, surviving machine.
  • He has what seems to be a hernia on his belly.
  • He somehow got a claw ripped out of his back paw.
  • He had a lot of ticks, which we’ve been patiently removing.

But holy cow. I can’t believe our pampered house pet survived in the forest for this long.

Survival Lessons from Sylvester

It really got me thinking about how unprepared most of us would be to survive in the forest alone for a month. You know, Sylvester didn’t pack a bug-out bag before his journey. He didn’t have food stored or a canteen of water or a firestarter. He only had the weapons nature provided him: his claws, his agility, and his speed.

Maybe the lessons from Sylvester aren’t absolutely everything you need to know about survival, but he covered the basics – you just have to fill in the skills to achieve those basics.

The main lessons are these.

  • Find something to drink.  It would have been a lot more difficult for him in another location. Fortunately, we live right on a mountain stream, so water was abundant.
  • Find something to eat. You don’t get to be picky and you have to figure out how to catch it and kill it yourself. Obviously he found something to sustain him, although not much, given his extreme weight loss.
  • Hide from the things that want to eat you. There are all sorts of predators out in the woods that are just as hungry as you are. On their side is the fact that they are used to hunting and you are not. Find a place to hide where you are hard to get to.
  • Stay warm. It dropped below freezing for several nights, and we also had a lot of rain during his misadventure. Somehow, he managed to stay warm and dry enough to survive.

Here’s our boy’s before and after picture. Poor fellow sure is happy to be home. I’ll add an update after we see the vet!

OP collage of Sylvester

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