Leah Gellar-Shore still remembers the day she’d lost her best friend—and gained a new one. 

Gellar-Shore, who was living in Jacksonville, FL at the time, had invited a date back to her house. David, not knowing that her tortoiseshell mix, Beethoven, was strictly indoor, mistook the five-year-old’s cat’s signals as indicating he needed to go outside. Beethoven—who had never worn a collar or tags because he never went out—was startled by a car alarm and darted out of sight. 

“I was hysterical,” remembers Gellar-Shore. Beethoven, she says, “was my best buddy. He’d rub up against my legs and sit in my lap for hours in the evening[s].” She’d gotten him after her younger brother had passed away, and he’d been a huge source of comfort. “We looked everywhere for him, until the early hours of the morning.” 

In the weeks that followed, David helped her put up posters and contacted the area’s shelters. Although they had no luck, the experience brought the couple closer. 

Six months after he disappeared, there was a sound at Gellar-Shore’s door. David, who had moved in with her, opened it to find a thinner—but as it turned out, perfectly healthy—Beethoven.   

“I was hysterical.”

Losing a beloved pet is tough stuff, and Gellar-Shore is certainly not the only one to have gone through it. But sometimes, the cat does come back—albeit not the very next day—bringing with it an increased appreciation of just how important our feline friends are to our lives. 

Lost CatsBrenda Popoff and Radley 

Even before his disappearance in October 2014, Siamese-tabby mix Radley and his person, Brenda Popoff, were inseparable. Popoff, a Trail, BC, resident, calls her “lap cat” her best friend and is still deeply affected when she talks about the time that he went missing. 

Popoff had never left the three-year-old indoor cat before entrusting Radley to her upstairs landlady—herself a cat owner and enthusiast—to go on a weekend getaway with her boyfriend. 

“Radley knew her well and I knew that she would go feed him and visit with him,” says Popoff. “I felt assured but was still terrified to leave him alone for a few nights without me. I worried the moment I left. He was always on my mind.”

The morning after she’d left, the unthinkable happened. 

“[The landlady] called me crying that he escaped,” says Popoff. “I was heartbroken.” Although Popoff never blamed her landlady, she was devastated. “I just wanted to go home to look for him. I was over seven hours away from home so the trip back home was long and so sad.”

“I looked for him the moment I got home, day and night. Many nights it was cold and raining. I looked all over the neighbourhood, put up signs outside and all over social media. I went across the street where there was a storage unit that I had walked by many times. I phoned the company and explained he was missing [and asked if they] could look inside in case he was trapped. I had many people say they spotted him way on the other side of town. Not sure if that was true, or if it was just a cat that looked like him.” 

When Radley’s absence became too difficult to bear, she moved in with her boyfriend. “My boyfriend saw how devastated I was and knew our bond. He said he thought it was just too hard for me to be there always looking out that window for him.” Just over two weeks after his disappearance, Popoff presumed Radley had been killed. “There were so many wild animals around the old place,” she says. 

The day after moving in with her boyfriend, her landlady called to say Radley was back. “He was skin and bones,” says Popoff. “He just laid in my arms and wouldn’t leave my side. What a great day that was.”

Seven years after his big adventure, Radley, now 10, still loves to sit on Popoff’s lap and sleep with her at night. “I wanted to know, good or bad, what happened to him. I still wonder where he was and how he survived.”

The hardest part about losing a cat, agrees Guyrene Johnson, “is wondering if they are okay and not hurt.”

Johnson’s cat, Minou, disappeared while the Vancouver, BC resident was away on a month-long trip.

 The friend who had been cat-sitting told her the domestic shorthair had escaped through a bathroom window and was gone. “This is a major city and near very busy streets,” says Johnson, who was in Toronto, ON, at the time. “I was heartbroken and worried myself sick.”

Johnson placed a classified ad in the newspaper, to no avail. 

Two weeks later, Johnson, who had moved, was sitting outside the house when she spotted Minou “running up the sidewalk towards me. It was the happiest moment ever,” she says. She recalls being amazed, as Minou had never been to the house, and had no way of knowing that Johnson was there.

Minou, says Johnson, “was my world.” When she died at the age of 17, it was a huge loss, says Johnson, “maybe even more than a parent passing away.”

Where do these cats go when they wander off? Ideally, to the home of a loving cat owner like Andrea Caron. 

Over the past 12 years, the Greenfield Park, QC resident, had numerous cat visitors at her home, and has reunited many with their owners by posting their photos on Facebook and putting up flyers. She found the owner of a 12-year-old cat who was also named Minou.

Lost CatsAndrea Coron and Sneakers/Photo Courtesy Andrea Coron

“We believe that Minou saw my cats (Caron has had cats her entire adult life and is currently cat mom to tabbies Dexter and Sneakers) outside my house and thought, ‘hey, this is a cat-friendly home,’ and saw the cats go in the cat flap and followed them inside.  Minou’s owner, Fatima, is forever grateful that Minou found a cat-friendly home and that I took care of Minou. She insisted on giving me a thank you gift and we met and talked for two hours. I am so happy I was able to reunite their cat, and I made a new friend at the same time.”

Her advice for those who have lost a cat? “Keep looking, keep posting on social media,” says Caron.

Measures you can take to increase your pet’s chances of being returned should it wander include microchipping, collars and identification tags, and GPS tracking tags, says Hannah Sotropa, assistant manager of communications at the Toronto Humane Society. Also, ensure cats stay indoors, says Sotropa. “The outdoors poses a slew of potential risks for a domestic cat, such as wildlife, dogs, harsh weather conditions, people, and cars. There’s a lot you can do by means of indoor enrichment! Additionally, with the right approach, you can also harness train your cat so that they can enjoy outdoor time safely.”

If you lose your cat, Sotropa recommends contacting the Helping Lost Pets network and relevant city animal services and local shelters, as well as putting up flyers.

“Social media provides a platform to reach a wider audience,” adds Sotropa. “There are also dedicated lost and found pet groups and sections on community Facebook pages and opportunities to expand one’s reach.”

Perhaps most importantly, breathe, says Sotropa. “It’s scary, but composure is needed to take all the necessary steps possible to find your pet. Keep at it, sometimes it can take days, weeks, or even months for animals to be reunited with their owners.”

 Since Radley returned, Popoff has left him with a reliable house sitter several times. “I explained about him going missing and my anxiety,” she says. “She would send me pictures of him to reassure me. I’m always glad to be back home with him.”

As for Gellar-Shore, she credits Beethoven’s disappearance with bringing her and David, now married to each other, together. She still doesn’t know where her beloved cat went for almost half a year. For the most part, she’s just happy to let his remarkable reappearance remain a wonderful mystery. “Everything,” she says, “happens for a reason.”