Wednesday, December 24, 2003This Christmas, I'd like to tell you a story about the friendly orange cat who literally showed up on our doorstep Saturday night. Just before midnight, as our little holiday party was ending and we were seeing friends to the door, a skinny little longhaired cat began crying out at us and followed us into our apartment hallway. He was very affectionate and sociable, but looked as if he hadn't eaten in days, and he had no identification or collar on. We were reluctant at first to bring him inside because he looked like he might be ill or have fleas, so we brought out dishes of water and cat food into the hall.
"Martin Mistletoe! That's what we'll call him." He couldn't stay in the chilly hallway overnight - but since we already have an older cat at home with some medical problems, we decided to "quarantine" 'Martin' in our bathroom with his own litterbox and food dishes until we could schedule a vet appointment for him.
Last night we took Martin to our Wrigleyville vet, and while we were there we asked if they could scan him for an implanted AVID ID chip, just in case he had an owner. One of the veterinary assistants passed the cell-phone sized scanner over Martin's head and shoulders. After about five seconds the machine emitted a short "beep", and the implanted chip's number appeared on its display. He was a 'marked cat' - and he had an owner somewhere.
After a few false leads and phone calls, the vet's office tracked down the registrant of the AVID chip - we discovered 'Martin' belonged to a woman who lived only about four blocks away from us, and his real name was Frankie. By about 8 pm, Frankie's "mom" arrived at our place for a joyous reunion with her pet, whom she believed permanently lost - or dead. We learned that he'd been missing since Hallowe'en night - nearly 2 months - and that Frankie was 18 years old. Frankie was 126 in cat years? I thought he didn't look a day over 3.
If you're looking for a pet I.D. chip success story, this is one: Frankie's owner told us he's a cat who absolutely refuses to wear collars, and she decided to have him "chipped" in August of this year. If he hadn't had the implanted chip, I believe he'd never have made his way back home after such a long time. I know there are stories of animals returning home from amazingly long distances, but I think these are usually rural pets; our neighborhood is filled with cars, trucks, and myriad dangers and confusing ground smells that would make even a four-block return trip very difficult indeed. It's amazing that such an elderly cat could survive for so long in cold weather in the city, without medical attention and a regular healthy diet. As Frankie's owner said to us last night, "it's a real Christmas miracle!"
A bizarre side-note: Frankie's owner had been alarmed after receiving several strange phones calls Sunday, from someone who would just say "we have your cat" and then hang up. We certainly hadn't made those calls, and Frankie's owner hadn't been receiving any calls from her "Missing" posters for many weeks; in fact there were no longer any posters in neighborhood, except for a single one on her garage door.
Was it the Ghost of Christmas Cats?