We've had our cat Max for almost 7 years. I found him thrown in the bushes at my work as a kitten. He is an outdoor cat and a creature of habit. He wanders the streets at night and comes home everyday at sunrise and sunset for food and to sleep on our bed. On Valentine's Day, he didn't come home.
He does this occasionally. We would go outside every night, call his name and shake his food bowl. Then, we'd listen. Max always answers with a meow to let us know he is on his way. He's very vocal. He gets that from me. But every night all we heard was silence. Days turned to weeks and as of yesterday he had been gone for 21 days. It rained Saturday night. Sunday morning I got his food bowl, that had been sitting by the back door every day, and dumped the rain soaked food in the garbage. I put the bowl in the dishwasher. We had given up.
We were watching the Oscars last night and I checked e-mail out of boredom. There was a reply to my Craigslist ad for a lost cat. I thought it was another pet rescue group with 101 tips on how to find your cat. It wasn't. It was a man who thought he found our cat. He said his family was driving by McDonalds and saw an orange cat in the rain peeking up out of the culvert. I quickly googled culvert. It's a drainage pipe and I knew it was Max.
We have a storm drainage area right in front of our house. Those drain pipes are Max's second home. If we go on a family walk after dinner, Max will pop up out of the drainage area 5 blocks north of our home because he can hear our voices. He'll meow at us as if to say, "I'm hungry people, get home and make me a chicken pot pie!" I'd tell him we'd be home in 5 minutes and he'd dip back underground to his maze of pipes and be waiting for us at home.
But, the McDonalds where they found him is 10 miles away. My heart sank knowing that if it was him, he had been through hell and back. Did he travel all that way through drainage pipes? I don't know a thing about them, but I imagine several meet up in a common drainage area. Did he leave one and go into another and make his way 10 miles South? How did he get lost anyway? Did something chase him and by the time he got away he had no clue where he was?
The nice family that picked him up brought him to their home, 40 minutes away. I didn't want to drive that far if it wasn't Max. So, he sent me a picture. At first I wasn't sure. He doesn't have the beautiful orange coat that Max has. He was really blonde and his face looked puffy. Bad lighting? Harsh flash? I had to pull up a picture and compare the face markings. When I darkened the coloring on the photo, I knew it was Max.
David didn't want me to go into Prescott alone. It was snowing and it was a long drive. So, we all loaded up at 7:45 on a Sunday night to get Max.
David waited in the car while I went in. I couldn't believe it. It barely looked like Max. Our once wild independent beautiful orange cat was not in that box. This cat was blonde (or very dirty) really beat up and scared to death. I called his name thinking he would stand up and come rub foreheads with me. He didn't move. It was as if he couldn't hear or see me. I was relieved that we found him and I was scared to death. His face was so puffy, most likely from infection. The insides of his ears were black and filled with God knows what. His fur on his ears was missing and he has scabs all over. The box he was in has blood in it, from where...who knows?
On the way home, he sat on the floor of the passenger seat and devoured some cat food. The nice family had fed him liver, but I think he was happy to have his own food. We got the kids ready for bed and got Max situated in the laundry room. We didn't want to give him free roam for fear that he would hide under the bed and we'd never get him out. I knew we'd be going to the vet this morning and I couldn't chase him for hours.
I went in to bring him ice water in a glass (which is how he likes it) and make sure he was settled on his blanket tucked into a cabinet so he'd feel safe. He looked so tired. I pet the top of his head being careful not to scratch his scabs or the raw spots on his ears. I told him he was safe now.
Welcome home sweet Max.