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Cat Defender

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

Heartbroken Restaurateurs in the Highlands Are Offering a £1,000 Reward for the Safe Return of Their Beloved Lady Thor

Lady Thor

"She is a very special and beautiful cat. She is like a dog in the way she follows me around, so it is like a death in the family."
-- Hamish Mowatt

Losing a beloved cat is, arguably, the cruelest blow that life has to dish out from its seemingly endless bag of miseries, heartaches, and coups du sort. The almost unbearable pain that accompanies such a devastating loss is only compounded when an aggrieved owner is left in the dark as to what has happened to the cat and that in turn makes achieving any measure of closure totally impossible.

Those no doubt are just a few of the dark and foreboding thoughts that have been the constant companions of Hamish and Carole Mowatt of St. Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay ("Ronald's Island" in Old Norse) in the Orkneys ever since their beloved three-year-old cat, Lady Thor, mysteriously disappeared on February 21st from their home at Skerries Bistro near Pentland Firth. Although the elderly restaurateurs are offering a £1,000 reward, even that expedient has failed to lead to her safe return.

Found cowering underneath the Mowatt's automobile on a Thursday when she was barely two months old, the black, gray, and white female with a distinctive patch of brown underneath her chin was, appropriately enough, named in honor of the great god Thor. From that day forward she became an indispensable member of the Mowatt household.

"She is a very special and beautiful cat," Hamish told the Press and Journal of Aberdeen on March 30th. (See "£1,000 Offered for Return of Missing Orkney Cat.") "She is like a dog in the way she follows me around, so it is like a death in the family."

Other than successfully enlisting the aid of the Press and Journal, it is not known what additional efforts the Mowatts have undertaken in order to locate Lady Thor. Presumably, they have thoroughly searched the area around their restaurant and thus concluded that she is no longer residing in St. Margaret's Hope.

Her wariness of strangers coupled with the inherent love of place that all cats share in common also would tend to indicate that if she was removed from the area it was against her will. "She is not a friendly cat with anyone else and won't let anyone come within fifteen feet of her," Hamish affirmed to the Press and Journal.

Unless she has met with foul play, it thus seems likely that she has been either intentionally or accidentally spirited out of St. Margaret's Hope and possibly even off of South Ronaldsay. Given the island's location, two possible destinations immediately present themselves.

First of all, since South Ronaldsay is connected to Mainland Island in the north by the A961 which transverses the Churchill Barriers (a quartet of causeways covering 2.3 kilometers), Lady Thor could have been driven there or dropped off along the way at either Burray, Glimps Holm, or Lamb Holm. In fact, unconfirmed sightings of a cat matching her description have been reported in the Tankerness district of St. Andrews Parish, approximately forty kilometers from St. Margaret's Hope.

The second and even more depressing scenario is that she somehow found her way onto one of Pentland's automobile ferries which sail thrice daily from St. Margaret's Hope to Gills Bay in Caithness on the Scottish mainland to the south. "We believed at one point that she probably went on the midday ferry. We have cars driving down here regularly between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and that is when she went missing," Hamish theorized to the Press and Journal. "If she has gone to mainland Scotland we fear that we will never see her again."

Because of their diminutive stature and tendency to become easily frightened of both crowds and loud noises, cats sometimes seek sanctuary in movable objects and that quite often leads to disaster. While it is always conceivable that she could have been forcibly kidnapped, a far more likely scenario is that she somehow wandered into a parked car and as a result was unwittingly transported out of the area.

It happens every day and, sadly, only a handful of these unfortunate felines ever are reunited with their owners. (See Cat Defender posts of November 6, 2006, December 12, 2007, August 18, 2008, April 18, 2010, June 1, 2012, and December 11, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Trapped in a Moving Van for Five Days, Texas Cat Named Neo Is Finally Freed in Colorado," "Bored with Conditions at Home, Carlsberg Stows Away on a Beer Lorry for the Adventure of a Lifetime," "Ronaldo Escapes Death after Retailer Coughs Up the Exorbitant Bounty That Quarantine Officials Had Placed on His Head," "Ally's Last Ride Lands Her in a Death Trap Set by an Uncaring and Irresponsible Supermarket Chain and a Bargain Basement Shelter," "A Tattoo Unravels Burli's Secret Past but It Is a Radio Broadcast That Ultimately Leads to His Happy Reunion with His Forever Grateful Current Guardian," and "Uprooted from Home and Left Stranded Thousands of Miles Away, Spice Discovers to Her Horror That Not All the Ghouls and Goblins in This World Are Necessarily to Be Found on Halloween.")

Lady Thor

It often is not even necessary for a cat to gain entry into the interior of an automobile in order to be driven miles from home in that some of them, attracted to the heat given off by cooling motors, become trapped underneath the bonnet. Others meanwhile are forced to hang on for dear life to undercarriages and precarious perches on petrol tanks. (See Cat Defender posts of January 5, 2006 and March 16, 2003 entitled, respectively, "'Miracle' Cat Survives a Seventy-Mile Trip Down the New Jersey Turnpike by Clinging to the Drive Shaft of an SUV" and "Mausi Is Saved from a Potentially Violent Death on the Fast and Furious Autobahn Thanks to the Dramatic Intervention of a Münchner Couple.")

Some cats also make forays into trash cans and Dumpsters and as a result end up at either recycling plants or in worse straits. (See Cat Defender posts of August 23, 2007 and May 4, 2010 entitled, respectively, "An Alert Scrap Metal Worker Discovers a Pretty 'Penny' Hidden in a Mound of Rubble" and "Picked Up by a Garbage Truck Driver and Dumped with the Remainder of the Trash, Alfie Narrowly Escapes Being Recycled.")

Cats even have found themselves in landfills and at charities after unwittingly secreting themselves away in furniture that was slated to be discarded. (See Cat Defender post of March 23, 2009 entitled "Mistakenly Tossed Out with the Trash, Autumn Survives a Harrowing Trip to the City Dump in Order to Live Another Day" and the Edmonton Journal, August 26, 2010, "Edmonton Cat in the Mat Comes Back.")

Cats additionally have been accidentally mailed from one location to another. (See Cat Defender post of July 21, 2008 entitled "Janosch Survives Being Sent Through the Post from Bayern to the Rhineland.")

To make a long story short, either anyone or anything that moves in and out of a cat's world is a potential death trap. Moreover, disaster can strike within the twinkling of an eye in that a cat can be in plain view one moment and fifty miles away in parts unknown an hour later.

Other than the steps that they already have taken, the Mowatts might want to consider placing some online and print advertisements on both Mainland Island and in Caithness. If they have not already done so, the should blanket both locales with "Lost Cat" posters. Door-to-door canvassing also would be another idea worth trying.

Given that Skerries Bistro reopened for business on March 14th and will continue so on a daily basis throughout October, it is not known how much time and energy that they have to invest in searching for Lady Thor but if they love her half as much as they claim they will drop everything immediately and devote all of their time and resources into finding her. During the interim they could prevail upon someone else to fill in for them at the restaurant.

If that is totally out of the question, they always could retain the services of a private dick in order to beat the bushes for them. (See Cat Defender post of April 2, 2015 entitled "Cornishman Shells Out £10,000 on Private Peepers in Order to Track Down Farah's Killer but Once Again Gets Stiffed by Both the Police and the RSPCA.")

Presumably, the couple long ago contacted any and all animal protection groups that exist in St. Margaret's Hope as well as Cats Protection's office in Finston on Mainland Island. They additionally should have alerted the Scottish RSPCA in Caithness to be on the lookout for Lady Thor.

It has not been disclosed whether Lady Thor has been microchipped and from the photographs of her that have been made available it does not appear that she was outfitted with either a collar or a tattoo. If she is wandering around without identification that is certainly going to make it more difficult, albeit not impossible, for the Mowatts to get her back. Therefore, the key to relocating her would seem to lie in getting photographs of her as quickly as possible into the hands of rescue personnel as well as the general public.

If indeed Lady Thor's misadventures have left her marooned in some unknown strange and distant place she has a considerable amount in common with a three-year-old brown and gray tomcat with bright green eyes named Poussey who mysteriously disappeared without so much as a trace on April 22, 2013 from the home that he shared with Sandrine Foehr and her family in La Havre. Unbeknownst to them, he was found two days later wandering the automobile deck of the P&O Ferry as it wended its way across the English Channel from Calais to Dover in Kent.

Poussey and Sandrine Foehr

Since it is two-hundred-seventy-four kilometers from La Havre to Calais, Poussey quite obviously did not walk that great of a distance, especially in forty-eight hours. He therefore was transported there by car, but it never was determined whether he made the trip as an unwitting stowaway or as the victim of a botched kidnapping.

After being corralled by the ship's crew, he was immediately handed over to the Port of Dover Police upon docking and likely would have been killed on the spot if it had not been for the compassion shown him by PC David Palmer. "Javert (as he had christened Poussey) was effectively on death row," he later revealed. "If an animal arrives without a pet passport, it becomes a rabies danger and must be put down or go into quarantine."

Humanely opting for the second alternative, Palmer was able to prevail upon Jeremy Stattersfield of Burnham House Veterinary Surgery in Dover to issue Poussey a pet passport and to vaccinate him. The veterinarian then took it upon himself to arrange for the wayward tom to spend his first three weeks of quarantine at The Animal Inn on Dover Road in Ringwould, near Deal.

After that impromptu living arrangement had run its course, he cleared the way for him to stay at the Rhodes Minnis Cat Sanctuary outside Folkestone. He even was able to convince La Fondation Brigitte Bardot to pay for Poussey's quarantining.

"He is a very affectionate cat and it wasn't his fault he found himself in the wrong country," is how he later explained his rationale for intervening. "We just had to help him."

All the while that Stattersfield was busily working his many wonders, Palmer had embarked upon a campaign to locate Poussey's owner. Relying upon information deciphered from an implanted microchip, he prevailed upon Major Arnauld Caron of the Police aux frontières to have the local authorities in La Havre leave a note on the door of Poussey's address.

Both Palmer's and Caron's carefully laid plains nearly came to naught however because Foehr had neglected to update the contact information contained in Poussey's microchip. As a result, the note from Palmer was delivered to his old abode instead of his current address.

Although by this time he had been missing for almost two months, Foehr never had given up searching for him and as a consequence she traveled to his old address and, amazingly, discovered Palmer's letter. That in turn led to her happy reunion with Poussey at Stattersfield's surgery on Castle Street.

If it had not been for the extraordinary efforts of Palmer, Stattersfield, and the Police aux frontières Foehr never would have either seen Poussey again or even known what had happened to him. Even as things eventually turned out, he came within a hairbreadth of being unceremoniously liquidated. (See Cat Defender post of July 25, 2014 entitled "Poussey Overcomes a Surprise Boat Ride to Dover, a Stint on Death Row, and Being Bandied About Like a Flying Dutchman in Order to Finally Make It Home to La Havre.")

In early September of the same year, a two-year-old brown and gray female named Poppy somehow made it eight kilometers from her home in Bradwell to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk where she then unwittingly found herself on a boat bound for an oil rig in the North Sea. The crew belatedly discovered her presence on board but that was not until they were forty-eight kilometers from shore.

They kept her safe, warm, and well-fed until they returned to shore whereupon they then surrendered her to the RSPCA in East Norfolk. An implanted microchip later revealed that she belonged to fifty-six-year-old Janet Holland and the duo were successfully reunited on September 16th.

Poppy and  Janet Holland

"The RSPCA phoned me quite early in the morning and when they told me where she'd been, I thought I was dreaming," she later told London's Express on September 20th. (See "Cat Reunited with Owner after Sneaking onto Ship Bound for Oil Rig.") "I cannot thank them or the ship's crew enough. They probably don't realize just how much this means to me."

Poppy, who earlier had lost her tail to a hit-and-run motorist, has a tendency to roam but she never before had ventured very far from home. "She has a little friend over the back she goes and plays with and she's known for wandering around the school playing field," Holland disclosed to the Express. "But Poppy had never spent a night away from home so we thought the worst."

As was the case with Poussey, it is unlikely that Poppy walked all the way from Bradwell to Yarmouth. Consequently, it would seem likely that she either was kidnapped or made the journey as an unwitting stowaway in a motor vehicle.

This is mere supposition but the motorist who drove her to the hometown of Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty, surely must have dumped her on the docks as well. It is even conceivable that she was kidnapped with the intention of having her as a companion on the oil rig. That is because although cats are known for incurring streaks of notoriously bad luck, it strains credulity that she wandered into an automobile and then onto a boat all by her lonesome and within such a short span of time.

As the dramatic rescues of both Poussey and Poppy have amply demonstrated, there is hope that the Mowatts may yet be successfully reunited with Lady Thor. Moreover, they have at least two advantages over Foehr and Holland.

First of all and unlike Poussey, it is believed that Lady Thor is still in Scotland. Consequently, the Mowatts do not have to contend with either international entanglements or quarantine fees and restrictions.

Secondly, there is not anything in the record to even remotely suggest that she has been transported to an offshore oil rig. She therefore likely is still on terra firma and that enables the Mowatts to search high and low for her without incurring either any legal or geographical constraints.

The important thing for them is neither to give up hope nor to stop searching for her. In furtherance of that objective, they need to devise a detailed plan of action and to see it through to completion. Lady Thor never would give up on them and they likewise never should give up on finding her.

Perhaps most important of all, the Mowatts have money and with it almost anything, either good or bad, is possible. It is an entirely different story for the impecunious who love their cats every bit as much as the privileged love theirs but, owing to circumstances beyond their control, are unable to do very much for them in their times of greatest need. Carpe diem!

Anyone who has seen Lady Thor or knows where she can be found is urged to promptly contact the Mowatts by either telephone at 44-01856-831329 or online at www.skerriesbistro.co.uk. Locating her is the only way that this once happy trio can ever be made whole again.

Photos: Press and Journal (Lady Thor), Facebook (Lady Thor), Daily Mail (Poussey and Sandrine Foehr), and the Express (Poppy and Janet Holland).