I think I found my lost indoor cat after 3 years living with a feral cat colony - will she ever be the same?

maggie101

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Unfortunately no! The caretaker has not been able to get her. He said sometimes people come by and give the cats food, so the next morning they're not as hungry and don't come too close. Or the weather keeps them hidden away. Or she came up and late in day and he didnt think to get her. It is making me very anxious! I am afraid something will happen before I get her, or that she will take off again! I've gone looking, but there are too many places to hide, and there was no sign of any of the 20+ cats.
Can you drive over and wait in your car or or come to the caretakers early before the cats come to eat?
 
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cynthia1966

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Hello All. I really could use some advise. I have a number of questions, see below, but first some.... Background: Three summers ago I brought my indoor cat up to our summer home, which is on an island with few people and lots of forest. We were there for only a couple of days when someone left the door open and my cat escaped. My son ran after her but she just bolted. I spent the remainder of the summer searching everywhere, attempting to trap and release in areas near our home. I put up flyers everywhere, posted on facebook, spoke to everyone in this small community! Everyone knew my cat was missing, and everyone has continually been on the look out for her. I had to return home after summer, but my friend continued the search with every sighting. And every summer I returned and went through the process all over again. This past year due to covid we decided to stay at our summer home, and as winter came there were more sightings of my cat. I never knew there were so many orange tabbies - not her. But, I received a tip recently that an orange tabby that they have been trying to trap since my cat went missing has made herself at home with a feral cat colony. I spoke to the caretaker and he showed me a picture and the cat has the identical white patches under her eye, on her chest, and paws. It looks exactly like my cat. He said she lets him pick her up when she is fed, and that she has been neutered and doesn't have a clipped ear. I really think that the chances are good that this is my cat. When the vet comes we will check her chip, and then I want to bring her home. Questions: But, will she ever be the same? Will she remember me? What do I need to do to help her adjust? We have a small place, and the only quiet space, away from our dog, is in my room. I thought I would make up a private space in my closet, but I will still be sleeping in the room - will this be ok for her? She used to sleep with my husband and I, so maybe that would be good.I have searched google, but have only found stories about bringing in strays or feral cats, but none about what to do when you find your very much loved cat after 3 years in the wild. The caretaker and I plan to take her to the vet when he arrives on the island in the next few days, and I am anxious. I have learned not to get my hopes up, since none of the others looked like her and most were males. But, I really think this is her, and I am afraid she wont want to come home. Any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Hello All. I really could use some advise. I have a number of questions, see below, but first some.... Background: Three summers ago I brought my indoor cat up to our summer home, which is on an island with few people and lots of forest. We were there for only a couple of days when someone left the door open and my cat escaped. My son ran after her but she just bolted. I spent the remainder of the summer searching everywhere, attempting to trap and release in areas near our home. I put up flyers everywhere, posted on facebook, spoke to everyone in this small community! Everyone knew my cat was missing, and everyone has continually been on the look out for her. I had to return home after summer, but my friend continued the search with every sighting. And every summer I returned and went through the process all over again. This past year due to covid we decided to stay at our summer home, and as winter came there were more sightings of my cat. I never knew there were so many orange tabbies - not her. But, I received a tip recently that an orange tabby that they have been trying to trap since my cat went missing has made herself at home with a feral cat colony. I spoke to the caretaker and he showed me a picture and the cat has the identical white patches under her eye, on her chest, and paws. It looks exactly like my cat. He said she lets him pick her up when she is fed, and that she has been neutered and doesn't have a clipped ear. I really think that the chances are good that this is my cat. When the vet comes we will check her chip, and then I want to bring her home. Questions: But, will she ever be the same? Will she remember me? What do I need to do to help her adjust? We have a small place, and the only quiet space, away from our dog, is in my room. I thought I would make up a private space in my closet, but I will still be sleeping in the room - will this be ok for her? She used to sleep with my husband and I, so maybe that would be good.I have searched google, but have only found stories about bringing in strays or feral cats, but none about what to do when you find your very much loved cat after 3 years in the wild. The caretaker and I plan to take her to the vet when he arrives on the island in the next few days, and I am anxious. I have learned not to get my hopes up, since none of the others looked like her and most were males. But, I really think this is her, and I am afraid she wont want to come home. Any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Thank you everyone for your words of hope and advice! You have given me hope! Che is a special cat and I will never give up on her! When she was 8 months old my daughter was with her BF at the door and she ran out! I recall that night the streetlights shone bright on the street by the storm drain where bugs were moving about in the light. I had the distinct feeling that she was drawn to them and may have fallen down into the storm tunnels under the street. For the next two days it rained. I looked all day and night for five days, and would on a regular basis call her name into the storm drain. I knew she couldn't have gone too far. Everyone in my family gave up, and DH said that she would just come back. But, I kept looking that night and when I was about to give up for the night I decided to go by the large grated storm drain at the end of our street. I called for her and waited. I called again, and again. And that is when I heard her faint cry! I was panicked because I couldn't imagine how to get her out! I ran home and dragged my daughter's BF to help me lift the steel grate. And we did - some how we found the strength! Next my daughter jumped down into it (and these are those big ones) and called for her. I didn't realize how large the tunnels were under the street, and that there was a system of tunnels that went even deeper. She was stuck on the far side, crying! But with a little coaxing and crying from us she was brave and came to us! When I brought her home my DH was shocked that I had actually found her! And my first instinct was right: she was playing with the bugs, fell in the drain and then it rained, washing her to the end of our long street and she couldn't find her way out. She didn't stray too far from our home! She was so happy, and I think she knew I saved her!

And then a year later I make the mistake to take her with me to our island home, and she gets lost! They say indoor cats stay close to home, and I think she would have if it wasn't for the unusually threatening environment. First, my neighbors in the summer let their dogs run loose, and there were too many! Then people were at the shooting range across the street from of us and it sounded like a battle was going on! And the crazy thing is that in the ~15 years I've lived here I have never seen anyone there, and since the day she got lost no one has been there. Just at the worst time! And, early on the second morning I heard coyotes! I knew she was chased off, but everyone kept saying no, she is here somewhere! Of course some people say the worst things, especially old men, and at the worst time! As I was posting flyers and talking to everyone, I had the joy to get the wisdom from a number of these folks. One said..."well, you know, I have a pole barn down state and over the years I have had many cats. But, I never keep the orange ones because they stand out and the coyotes always get them." Another proceeded to tell that it was the bald eagles, and that his son once climbed up to a nest and found ten collars from pets of all different sizes! This was the last thing I needed to hear. But, I read articles about coyotes, and they are not the villains they are made out to be. And cats are too smart to walk out in the open where an eagle can swoop down and get them. And the funny thing (not really) was that the first cat in my humane trap was an orange tabby! I wanted to believe it was her, and took her home to our bathroom to wait until the vet could come to the island. But the coloring was off and I couldn't get close enough to get a really good look. But, I wanted to believe it was her and thought, well maybe she was dirty and that is why I couldn't see the white patches; the cat used the kitty litter so it must be her (I now know that is not so unusual). But it wasn't, in fact it was a he! And over the years I have had so many sightings of orange tabbies! But none had the same face markings as Che.

It was hard to leave that summer knowing that my Che would have to brave Michigan winters outdoors and alone! I received a number of calls, especially in the fall about sightings. One in particular always stood out, that was from people who lived by the lake where the cat colony is located, where I think she is today. My island neighbors are great and they tried hard to trap the cat with no luck. And when I returned to the island every year since her disappearance I would go by this lake several times - dawn, dusk, and once around 2AM. It is amazing how fear subsides when you are trying to find the friend you love so dearly! And let me tell you, it gets so dark on some nights that your eyes can't adjust! I would on a regular basis walk around calling her name, and praying that one day she would just be there! I would work in my garden as much as I could. I started trying to be discrete with my obsession, since I didn't want to ruin everybody's summer. But, I never stopped believing that she was out there somewhere! I have to admit at times I worried that maybe she really did get killed by the coyotes, or the eagles, or she froze to death, hungry and alone! But, I knew cats (especially my Che) are resilient! It was (is) so hard believing that she was out there and I couldn't save her this time! I regret the day I decided to bring her with me. I should have left her at home with a friend! Che was my first cat, and will always be special. But, back home I now have two other cats who I do love dearly - one my daughter got for me to help the loss of Che (a boy named Bohdi), the other my son wanted (Mochi) but she chose me! I refuse to bring them here! MY DH doesn't want another cat, but he knows that Che is different, and he too is hopeful. The thought of all three together is so exciting! Actually four, since my daughter moved home and brought her cat Lela (also cute). I never was a cat person, and now I am the crazy cat lady!

As I mentioned, my island neighbors are really wonderful! No one has forgotten Che, and every once in awhile I get a call about another sighting! Since November of this year I have had four different sightings, I think because it starts getting cold at that time. I have followed up on each, but they weren't her. I feel so bad for these cats out on their own in this bitter cold! So, I was able to get some cat shelters donated by Focus on Ferals in Grand Rapids, MI, and I added extra insulation and taped mylar emergency blankets for self heating to the inside. One thing good about the snow is that you can follow cat tracks easily, and I was able to follow them to a pole barn where the cats were able to easily climb in under the damaged door. The owner rarely is on the island, but I was able to track him down and get his permission to put in a couple shelters and a heated water bowl! Since I had extra shelters I posted on our FB page to see if anyone needed one. I have received a number of calls and have helped others put up the shelters. They are also getting pics of them so we can show to the person on the island who volunteers with the vet to do TNR. From the pics we can see their ears haven't been clipped, so when the weather improves we'll see about TNR. Interesting thing is that they are all very healthy, and I think thats because they're being fed, but they won't come anywhere near people. Even though they are not Che, I can't not help. Maybe they'll find her for me?

That brings me to my current situation! On FB one of my neighbors said I should check back at the Lake, and that the orange tabby has become a regular at the cat colony! So last week I was finally able to get ahold of the caretaker of the colony, and he confirmed that this may be the cat from a few years back. So I went to see for myself. Of course as soon as I drove up all the cats scattered! But, he had a couple of pics and when we zoomed in the cat had the very same facial markings and I just knew it was her! With the other cats I knew they weren't, even though I wanted to believe. At the same time, I am worried that I just want her so badly! So, the plan is that when she comes up to feed that he will get her and put her in the crate so I can pick her up! The vet showed someone in his office how to use the chip scanner so I don't have to wait. But, apparently she hasn't been hungry since neighbors have been bringing scraps. Each day I called and he hasn't gotten her yet. He said when he got home yesterday she came up to him, but he didn't think about catching her then. So, this morning he called and said he would try to get her as soon as he can, and call me so I can come. I told him that it doesn't matter the time, I'll be there. So, now I wait! And I am finding the wait really difficult! I have been distracted by excitement on one hand, and then dread on the other that something might happen to her before I get her. I know I should be patient, what's a few more days/weeks after waiting more than three years? What if it is her, but the chip scanner doesn't work? Is that possible? But what if it is not her, and she is still out there?

I apologize for this rambling post! But it has been so helpful to put my thoughts into words, and share them! I am so grateful to have found thecatsite! I will keep you posted!
 
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cynthia1966

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Can you drive over and wait in your car or or come to the caretakers early before the cats come to eat?
They seem to be very aware of strange cars/people. He said once one cat reacts they all do. If he doesnt get her today I will suggest that. If I am there before they eat and there when he feeds them maybe she will come up! I will try everything! Thanks!
 
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cynthia1966

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Can he talk to the neighbors to not feed him or show a pic of your cat?
That is a good idea. I can put a post on our FB page and island forum to let the community know. He has very few neighbors, but he says people just drive by and do it! I guess everyone knows that he cares for cats. Sadly, he said that too often people leave their cats there because they don't want them or are leaving the island! That really breaks my heart! But, it great he is there for them, and he seems to really love it. He is all alone, but now he has the cats! He has this huge property with barns, sheds, cranes, vans, cars, everything you can imagine cats would love to hide in. And when you walk across his property you can see countless trails left in the snow from the cats running around. I like to think that the cats are lucky they have this place, and that they may actually enjoy the camaraderie! I am glad that Che found it, if it is her. But, hopefully she is ready to come home!
 

maggie101

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I have a video I am having trouble showing of coco. she disappeared 5 weeks old and came back a year later rubbing against my porch window like she used to. So maybe she did remember me though it's possible some one in the same apartment complex took her so she already knew the location and /or remembered me.
 

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Thanks! So, do chips always work? What if they can't find it?
I'm not sure if chips always work, or not, but with Che's distinct markings, it shouldn't be too hard to prove it's her, once you have her in hand.

Your Ruby looks much like my Che, except for she has white markings
Not sure if you know this or not, but pure orange female cats are quite rare. Most will have some white on them. Some more than others, like your Che. My Ruby, on the other hand, has just a little white on the tip of her tail.

Your Ruby looks much like my Che, except for she has white markings
IMG_1571.JPG
I believe it's those white marking that will confirm whether it's Che or not. The odds of another orange female cat having those same beautiful markings seems next to impossible.

Hopefully you'll get news soon.

I apologize for this rambling post! But it has been so helpful to put my thoughts into words, and share them! I am so grateful to have found thecatsite! I will keep you posted!
If rambling helps calms you you, ramble away. :) And, yes, definitely keep us posted.
 
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cynthia1966

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I'm not sure if chips always work, or not, but with Che's distinct markings, it shouldn't be too hard to prove it's her, once you have her in hand.



Not sure if you know this or not, but pure orange female cats are quite rare. Most will have some white on them. Some more than others, like your Che. My Ruby, on the other hand, has just a little white on the tip of her tail.



I believe it's those white marking that will confirm whether it's Che or not. The odds of another orange female cat having those same beautiful markings seems next to impossible.

Hopefully you'll get news soon.



If rambling helps calms you you, ramble away. :) And, yes, definitely keep us posted.
Thanks! This is lifting my spirits! Still no word....
 
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cynthia1966

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Hello All. I really could use some advise. I have a number of questions, see below, but first some.... Background: Three summers ago I brought my indoor cat up to our summer home, which is on an island with few people and lots of forest. We were there for only a couple of days when someone left the door open and my cat escaped. My son ran after her but she just bolted. I spent the remainder of the summer searching everywhere, attempting to trap and release in areas near our home. I put up flyers everywhere, posted on facebook, spoke to everyone in this small community! Everyone knew my cat was missing, and everyone has continually been on the look out for her. I had to return home after summer, but my friend continued the search with every sighting. And every summer I returned and went through the process all over again. This past year due to covid we decided to stay at our summer home, and as winter came there were more sightings of my cat. I never knew there were so many orange tabbies - not her. But, I received a tip recently that an orange tabby that they have been trying to trap since my cat went missing has made herself at home with a feral cat colony. I spoke to the caretaker and he showed me a picture and the cat has the identical white patches under her eye, on her chest, and paws. It looks exactly like my cat. He said she lets him pick her up when she is fed, and that she has been neutered and doesn't have a clipped ear. I really think that the chances are good that this is my cat. When the vet comes we will check her chip, and then I want to bring her home. Questions: But, will she ever be the same? Will she remember me? What do I need to do to help her adjust? We have a small place, and the only quiet space, away from our dog, is in my room. I thought I would make up a private space in my closet, but I will still be sleeping in the room - will this be ok for her? She used to sleep with my husband and I, so maybe that would be good.I have searched google, but have only found stories about bringing in strays or feral cats, but none about what to do when you find your very much loved cat after 3 years in the wild. The caretaker and I plan to take her to the vet when he arrives on the island in the next few days, and I am anxious. I have learned not to get my hopes up, since none of the others looked like her and most were males. But, I really think this is her, and I am afraid she wont want to come home. Any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Hello All! So, the caretaker caught her today. I really don't know what to think, if it's her or not. She was in the cat carrier so I didn't get a great look. When he went to get her out she bolted from him and ran away. So, I could not get the best look. He said she was calm until he put her in the carrier which wouldn't surprise me if it was Che. It appeared as though the white marking under her eye was not as wide as my pictures from 3.5 years ago. But, when I looked at her I thought it very well might be, she was calm and looked at me and seemed calmed when I called her name. But the face marking which made me so confident before is what has me doubting now. When I compare pics from when she was 6 months to the 1.5 years it appears as though the white band did get smaller with time, in just about one year. Could 3.5 years make an even greater difference? I am sharing a picture for insight. I would have taken her home if she didn't bolt. But when they figure out how to use the chip scanner I will bring her in. I am not giving up hope. I just worry it's not her and that means she is still out there somewhere! Its not that I can't love another cat, its that I can't give up on her!
 

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gilmargl

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Looking at the pictures, it could well be her. She is obviously older and markings do get less clear as cats get older. Adult cats rarely look exactly like the kittens they once were. I would take the risk and bring her home!
 

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I am noticing that the left lip is a bit white on the top two photos and completely orange in the bottom photo.
 
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cynthia1966

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I am noticing that the left lip is a bit white on the top two photos and completely orange in the bottom photo.
Yes, I saw that too :(
 

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Try going back to where the caretaker said he saw her and leave a dirty article of your clothes there. Go back later and keep going back. She may remember your scent and stay around the piece of clothing. Keep going back and calling her name. I think she will come out of hiding eventually. She knows you, even though it's been 3 years. Cats develop a bond with their owners and do remember and recognize them after long periods of time. It's been documented many times.
 

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I am so so sorry to have to point this out, but your photos of Che show a tabby pattern with thinner stripes, and the cat from the feral colony has the wide, swirled, “marble cake” pattern. The amount of white on the face might possibly shrink, but the tabby pattern wouldn’t change as she ages. 😢
I know the pain of “not knowing” and am praying for you and Che. ((HUG))
 
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I didn't realize until I actually got the pics and had both to compare. In the crate I couldn't see much. So, I am pretty sad knowing she is till out there. Yesterday someone posted on our local forum that they witnessed a black cat in the talons of a hawk. It was probably a squirrel because birds of prey can't carry off something that weighs more than they do. Hawks/owns 2-3 pounds, cat 9-11. Maybe an eagle? Or a really small cat and really big hawk. But, it really has me down. I'll keep looking for her..:(.
 

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Don’t give up. Cat fur does change over time. Color can change. Ever seen a black cat turn reddish? My tux now has white bits in new places as she gets older. Less black. I have seen lots of changes. Diet, sunlight etc. can affect fur. If she is caught again, I hope you just take her straight to the vet or home. My orange tabby has changed in color since I caught her. Her health has improved greatly since she was found and she no longer lives as a feral. The calico that left here for a year was young when she left. When she returned it took me time to be sure it was the same cat. Her kitten and teenage photos didn’t exactly match but she obviously knew me. Once she had time to be with me inside, there was no doubt at all. She also recognized her sister and her sister knew her. Trust you gut feelings. They have led you to her before and I have seen instincts prove out many, many times. Don’t second guess your instincts. If you feel so strongly that she is out there, I believe you.
 
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