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Cat Defender

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Given Up for Dead, Sneakers Is Reunited with His Owner After Having Gone AWOL Ten-Years Ago

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology a long-lost cat has been reunited with his original owner after a ten-year separation.

Sneakers, a longhaired black cat (See photos), disappeared without a trace from Allison MacEwan's Seattle home in 1996. MacEwan, who had adopted the cat as a kitten a year earlier, placed ads in newspapers and passed out fliers in her neighborhood in an all-out effort to locate Sneakers but her efforts were for naught. "We made a full-bore effort to find the cat. But, no cat," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on May 3rd. (See "From Seattle to Sacramento -- Cat's 10-Year Mystery.")

On April 29th, MacEwan got the shock of her life when Animal Care Services in Sacramento informed her by telephone that they had Sneakers. The reason that they knew it was him was because of a microchip that had been implanted in his shoulder eleven years earlier. "It was very surreal," the stunned water resources engineer told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer upon hearing the news. "I was completely surprised. I mean, completely."

She then flew to Sacramento and reclaimed Sneakers. Her daughters, who were ages four and six when he disappeared, were reportedly thrilled to get him back.

As far as it is known, Sneakers was found in Seattle in 1998 by an unnamed third party who, apparently thinking he was a female, renamed him Keisha before subsequently relocating to Sacramento. For whatever reason, Sneakers' new owner cruelly dumped him at Animal Care Services in late April. The cat's whereabouts between 1996 and 1998 remain a mystery.

There are certain similarities in Sneakers' plight and that of two other cats who were reunited with their previous owners because of microchips. When Cheyenne, a black American Shorthair, disappeared from Pamela Edwards' Bradenton, Florida home in 1997 she was either flown or driven to San Francisco by some unknown person or persons. She was, thankfully, reunited with her owner in 2004 when shelter personnel discovered an implanted microchip. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")

Likewise, when Plato, a three-year-old Siamese, disappeared from Erin DeBoard's Monterey, California home he was picked up off the street and transported to Portland, Oregon where he was later abandoned at a shelter. Because of an implanted microchip, he was eventually reunited with his owner after more than a year's hiatus. (See Cat Defender post of May 25, 2006 entitled "Plato's Misadventures Expose Pitfalls of RFID Technology as Applied to Cats.")

Locating a lost cat is seldom easy, but there are nonetheless a few tips worth remembering. First of all, cats are territorial by nature and it is therefore rare for one to voluntarily abandon its own turf. Consequently, initial searches for missing cats should be geographically limited. If a lost cat cannot be located on its own turf, it has most likely either met with foul play or has been abducted.

In such an instance, the search must be extended to shelters and veterinary hospitals. In cases where theft is suspected, the posting of a reward for the cat's safe return might prove to be fruitful, especially if the thief cares more for money than for feline companionship. Pet detectives, such as Carl Washington of Georgia, are another option but their services do not come cheap.

Despite their limitations, microchips do work miracles. Old-fashioned collars listing the owner's name and telephone number are also valuable, whether or not the cat has been microchipped. In the final analysis, however, cats have many enemies in this world and there is not any substitute for close personal supervision.

As miraculous as the stories of Cheyenne, Plato, and Sneakers are in themselves, it is no less amazing that each of their previous owners not only wanted them back but was willing to go to considerable expense and effort to reclaim them.

Not much is known about how the feline mind works but it would be interesting to know if any of these long-lost cats ever exhibits any prior familiarity with either their old owners or surroundings. Most likely they quickly forget people and places but it is entirely possible that upon being returned to their old haunts that their memories also return.

Contrary to the old adage, cats do not have nine lives but, given half a chance, they will certainly make the most of the one that they are given. As the implantation of microchips becomes more common, a corresponding increase can also be expected in the number of amazing stories that surface about cats who have seemingly returned from the dead.

Photos: WJAR-TV, Channel 10, Cranston, RI.