By Charlie Senack
It was a cold January evening when a cat was found wandering through the streets of Hintonburg after having been missing for nine months.
Feeling the isolation of the pandemic, Hintonburg resident Alex Hosselet decided to go for an evening stroll along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway after dinner on Jan. 31. As he and his wife Jess DeVries were returning home, they saw a mostly black cat wandering along Bayswater Avenue, near the Innovation Yards. It was -20°C and the temperature was dropping.
“The ground was really cold and he was moving his paws,” said Hosselet, who has two cats himself. “He was totally not happy so we had to bring him in. After about 10 minutes he finally came over. After about an hour we brought him back home — it was about 8:30 p.m. at this point — an hour after we first spotted him.”
Hosselet asked his wife to head back home to get some kibble and a cat carrier as a way to convince the cat they weren’t a threat. It was a long and cold process but the cat slowly crept his way into the carrier and went with Hosselet and DeVries.
“He was really, really sweet which is super rare for cats who [have] spent time on the streets,” said Hosselet. “They usually get super defensive and lose their trust with people.”
After returning home, the hunt for the cat’s owners started. DeVries went to Facebook groups first, hoping someone would recognize the neighbourhood cat.
Just hours later before calling it a night, their phone started to blow up with messages from people who said they suspected it was a cat named “Scott” who had been missing for months.
Hosselet was able to get ahold of Scott’s owner Rachel, who asked for her last name not to be published for privacy reasons, and she asked if they could first bring the cat to a vet to see if it was microchipped. That’s what they did the next day and it turned out to be a match.
Rachel said she was surprised when she got the call. Scott first went missing nine months earlier on May 18, 2020.
“I think we are still in a state of shock,” she said. “It was definitely a surprise and unexpected. When we were searching in the summer, we really got an appreciation for how many cats live in our neighborhood, and based on a series of conversations we had with people, unless the weather was super bad out, I don’t know if you would see a stray cat and be alarmed. Every night when we’d go out we’d probably see 20 cats.”
When Scott first went missing, Rachel says she and her partner spent two months searching daily for their feline friend. They’d go out late at night when it was dark, and would wake up at 3:00 a.m. to continue their search.
But after weeks turned into months, their hope in finding Scott was diminishing. They thought either someone took him in, or he was fending for himself in the wilderness.
They had a few promising tips but none of the cats they found turned out to be Scott. One they found in Little Italy was so similar in looks, they were just about to bring him home before noticing there was no freckle — one of Scott’s identifying marks.
It’s unclear where Scott spent nine months living, but when Hosselet found him he was partially covered in red brick dust, leading them to speculate that he spent at least a few cold nights at the stone warehouse at Bayview and Scott.
“The spot [where] he was found is only like four blocks away and we actually searched there and the surrounding areas and found nothing,” said Rachel. “I feel like he could have been in Orleans and Barrhaven and now was back here. I wonder how many times he was just out of view.”
It’s believed Scott is two years old, but it’s unclear because when Rachel adopted him he was a stray — Scott was abandoned at an apartment in Carleton Place. One thing they do know is that he’s always been a hider.
According to Humane Canada’s Cats in Canada 2017 report, nearly 160,000 cats in the country were either lost or abandoned and ended up in shelters in 2016. In the United States, 10 million pets are lost every year, with only two per cent of cats who are microchipped being reunited with their owners.
Rachel is very thankful to Hosselet who took the time to bring her cat to safety instead of just viewing him as another stray.
Scott is doing well and is now spending his time fully indoors gaining weight.
If you suspect that there’s a lost/stray cat in your neighbourhood, the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) recommends a few steps:
- Check for identification (microchip or collar)
- Create a temporary “paper collar” for the animal
- Reach out to community through social media
- Search the neighbourhood and talk with neighbours
- Contact the OHS for additional assistance
To learn more, visit the OHS website at ottawahumane.ca.