The following story of JB-the-cat was shared with me by his guardian (Donna Quinta) early in my pet detective career, probably in 1998. It remains one of my most favorite lost cat recovery stories not only because it is amazing, but also because it demonstrates how many domestic cats (like JB) that have a skittish or aggressive temperament (like J.B. had) are easily mistaken as being “untamed feral” cats when humanely trapped and taken to local animal shelters. This story is a bit long, but it is SO worth the read! Kat Albrecht-Thiessen
“In the late 70’s I adopted a beautiful black kitten whom I named J.B. He was a very unusual animal. His mother was a purebred white Persian who had a romance with a ‘stray black cat.’ J.B. was coal black and grew into nearly 20 pounds of sleek, beautiful panther-like cat. He walked on a leash, rode in the car, sitting on the armrest, and loved to go shopping. He even sat in the child’s seat of the cart at the drug store and would ride on the back of a friend’s big Harley motorcycle! J.B. was very protective, feared no man or dog that lived, and was quite a celebrity in our neighborhood when we went for our daily walks.
J.B. was also an indoor-only cat and outside only when on a leash. J.B. would go to the closet, sit and look up at his harness and leash when he wanted to go out. He was quite the character…and I loved him to death. Things were fine until in February of ’85, my friend let the dog out into the backyard and J.B. ran out the door. I was at work and did not know J.B. was missing until late evening when I returned home. I searched the neighborhood for days and weeks, putting up posters, offering rewards, etc. to no avail. I searched the shelters, put ads in the paper and still no J.B. I kept his leash and harness hanging by my door just for ‘luck’ that maybe he was safe somewhere. For almost a year and a half I made periodic visits to the local animal shelter, hoping to find him. Every time a black cat was brought in, I went to look but it was never J.B.
Then in the late summer of ’87 on a Wednesday night, I had a dream. I dreamt that J.B. was sitting on the pole on the outside of my yard, over-looking the alley and calling to come in. The dream was so real that it woke me. I got up and went into the yard and looked, took a flashlight and searched up and down the alley but of course, no J.B. The dream was so vivid that I related it to my co-workers the next day and it preyed on my mind. I went home and looked in the lost-and-found pet columns and saw that the Montgomery County, Maryland animal shelter had a black cat in the shelter. It was Thursday and I called the shelter all day but only got busy signals. By the time I got home, they were closed. I called through my lunch hour on Friday and finally got through. I was told that the cat had been found, held for three weeks, and was scheduled to be destroyed the next day (Saturday).
I asked them to hold him and let me see him that evening after I got off work. But I was told that the cat was vicious and that he was considered ‘feral and dangerous.’ The shelter employee said that I would not be able to see the cat because a determination had been made that he was just too dangerous for adoption. But I insisted that I be allowed to see whether or not it was J.B. I worked up on Capital Hill but that evening I was able to get off work a half-hour early. I headed toward the shelter in Wheaton but ran into a terrible storm that had caused a horrible car accident. When I arrived in Wheaton, I had trouble finding the shelter. By the time I arrived, it was 6:30 p.m. and the shelter had closed at 5:00 p.m. I went to the door, rang the bell and spoke through the intercom to a young man who informed me I was too late and that I could not come in. I begged and pleaded, but to no avail. At that point, I told the man that I would drive my damn car through the front window if he didn’t let me in to see the cat! I guess by this time I was so hysterical he decided to let me in.
Once inside, the young man told his co-workers ‘this woman thinks that black cat is her cat that has been lost for two years.’ All three of them thought it was quite funny, with one of the shelter workers making a ‘crazy’ circling motion with her finger to her head. Needless to say, there was much snickering and laughing. I was warned that this cat was vicious, had bitten several attendants, had growled constantly and had refused to eat. It seemed that everyone was afraid of him. All the cats waiting to be destroyed were in cages in an adjacent room. In one of the bottom cages was this big black cat–growling and swishing his tail back and forth. The young man put on his heavy gloves and said, ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this, as it’s against the rules lady, but I’ll bring it out.”
I knelt down next to the cage and began to call J.B. and the cat went berserk–yowling and growling and trying to get out. The young man opened the cage and the cat leapt up into my arms, knocking me backwards. The cat was licking and purring like mad! It was J.B.!
I sat on the floor, crying like a baby while J.B. kept purring and kissing me with his paws on either side of my face. By this time, all the shelter workers were in the room and they were crying! I sat there for a long time, talking and petting him, and the shelter workers just could not believe it. I told them that this was my cat and they agreed that it certainly had to be! I could not take J.B. home until the following morning as there were procedures to follow…fees, license, etc. but they promised that they would NOT allow him to be put down. I explained this to J.B. and told him I would be back the next morning and he went meekly into an adoption cage for the night. As you can imagine, I did not sleep a wink that night! I was at the door as soon as they opened the next morning with J.B.’s leash and harness–which he sat down, just like he always had, and patiently waited for me to harness him. We proceeded to walk out of the shelter as nice as you please–with all of the shelter workers following us…all of us crying.
In the event that you think that this black cat was not J.B., let me add this. J.B. had a particular black spot in his left eye, almost like a small half-moon and a place by his left ear where the fur would never grow. I took the cat to my vet who took one look at the cat’s eye and the furless spot and said, “Yup, that’s your cat!” He had worms, a broken tooth, a fracture and he only weighed about ten pounds, but otherwise he seemed to be fine.
J.B. stayed with me for three more years until his sight faded, he lost weight and he began to lose control of his bodily functions. The vet said it was just a matter of time and offered to put him to sleep but I just couldn’t let him go. One evening when I came home from work, I knelt by him and he just put his head in my hand, meowed, and died. Up until two weeks before his death, J.B. could still climb into my lap. And although he was too old and weak to walk on his leash, I would carry him for his walk. Every evening we would walk through the park near my apartment along a path that ran next to a man-made stream with a waterfall. I buried J.B. next to the stream where, back when he was healthy enough, he had loved to sit.
I am sure this story does not sound true. There are so many strange things about it that even I question myself. Where was J.B. all that time for two years? How did a pampered house cat mange to survive two years living on the streets? How did he end up over 20 miles from my house in the Wheaton shelter? Why wasn’t he destroyed right after he was brought into the shelter and why on earth did they allow me to even see, let alone open the cage of, this ‘feral’ cat? And strangest of all, just why did I dream about J.B. two days before his death date?
I don’t often tell this story anymore because most people don’t believe me. But most of all, it is still so painful for me to think about losing such a special friend. Someone once told me that my story ‘sounds like a Disney movie and couldn’t possibly be true.’ But it is true and the cat I found was my J.B. And even though I don’t understand why it happened, I will always be glad that I found J.B. and that I had two extra years of happiness with him.”