If you love cats, this will be a tough but very necessary blog for you to read. It involves the recent death of a beloved cat named Monet. Please don’t avoid reading this blog because you don’t want to read a sad story. Read this blog because Monet’s family needs for her death to help save the life of other cats.
On September 18th a woman named Roseanne from Seattle called Missing Pet Partnership and reported that her indoor-only gray pastel Tortie named “Monet” had escaped outside. Although MPP had a cat detection dog trained to find lost pets, none of our volunteers (including myself) were available that day to respond. This is one of the most difficult aspects that we deal with right now at MPP: the requests for assistance to help families search for lost pets far exceeds our ability to respond on all cases. At this time, Missing Pet Partnership just doesn’t have the resources (or the funding) that we need.
Instead I E-mailed Roseanne and gave her all the standard instructions on how to search for and humanely trap an escaped indoor-only cat–the use of digital wildlife cameras, feeding stations, and baited humane traps. I also referred Roseanne to an independent pet detective who could come out and search around outside Roseanne’s house and see if they could find Monet hiding nearby.
But when I contacted Roseanne a few days later I learned the devastating news: she had found Monet deceased. The worst part was that Monet was found inside of her home, concealed under a staircase. Monet had never even escaped outside as Roseanne had thought. Instead, something (sudden illness, infection, or injury–the vet who examined her could not determine just how she died) happened that caused her to exhibit a pattern of behavior that kills so many cats: “The Silence Factor.”
When I first discovered this pattern of behavior in cats back in 1997, I called it “The Silence Factor” because I didn’t know what else to call it. My book The Lost Pet Chronicles shares more details of the early cases I worked and how I discovered this behavior (HOLY COW! Is my book really only $4.25? I’ll never get rich as an author at this pace!). I just knew that many of the “lost” cats that my search dog (Rachel) and I found were concealed and deceased within their own territory (oftentimes deceased but laying in their outdoor litter box) and within calling distance of their own home. Ninety percent were either on the owners property or on the property of the house next door. The cat owners on these cases simply could not believe that their beloved cat was so close to home (sometimes even AT home) and had not responded when called. Here’s more info about The Silence Factor that I blogged for HomeAgain a few years ago.
Most vet’s know that sick cats tend to hide in silence and yet that info, for some reason, has not been passed onto cat owners. Just look at the nine responses on this vet’s blog and tell me what you think happened to these sick, hiding cats? Why don’t animal shelter staff instruct owners of “lost” cats of this behavior? Instead of being told to search under and in every conceivable hiding space within a cat’s own territory, cat owners are told to post fliers, to post their cats on-line, and to keep checking the shelter for their cat. Look at what information the Los Angeles Animal Services provides to the public in how to find a lost pet. Sorry, but their solution to finding lost pets is pathetic. This is why I refuse to give up on the development of Missing Pet Partnership. This is why I know that so many dog and cat lives could be saved if MPP can train resources and develop lost pet services in communities across the USA. But before we can save animals in Los Angeles or elsewhere, MPP needs to succeed here in my own backyard (Seattle). And the fact that we failed Roseanne and Monet still weighs heavy on my mind.
A thousand LOST CAT fliers wouldn’t have helped find Monet. A pet detective with a tracking dog (working outside of the house) wouldn’t have helped find Monet. The only thing that could have saved her was if Roseanne had been told immediately–by her vet, by the animal shelter, or even by myself, that SICK AND INJURED CATS HIDE IN SILENCE, MOST OFTEN WITHIN THEIR OWN TERRITORY and that she needed to search under and in every conceivable hiding space, especially inside of her own home.
But the sad fact is that since Roseanne told me that Monet had “escaped outside” I immediately assumed that was the case and proceeded to give instructions in humane trapping. I took it hard and blamed myself for failing Roseanne and Monet. However, Roseanne did let me off of the hook. She acknowledged that “The Silence Factor” information is posted on Missing Pet Partnership’s web site. That helped a little, but why is it that the most memorable lessons that we learn in life have to be so painful? From now on, I won’t just leap into humane trapping advice for “escaped” indoor-only cat cases without first insisting that the owner completely search the interior of their house.
Roseanne sent a nice note that I thought I would share in this blog:
“Thank you for your kind thoughts, and for telling Monet’s story on your blog. I hope the story of this tragedy helps to save other sick kitties. Just need to clear one thing up: the front door actually had been open for 15-20 minutes Monday evening when she went missing. That’s why I was so sure she had gotten out. I did check around the house a few times – very close in fact, to where she was hiding. My mistake was in failing to use a flashlight to look into dark corners inside the house. I just looked in places inside where I know she had hidden before, all the while thinking it was futile because she must have escaped outside. I just couldn’t fathom her hiding silently in the house. If only I knew then what I know now.”
Let’s use Monet’s life and her death to educate others. Tell your vet and your local animal shelter about this blog and ask them to link to Missing Pet Partnership’s web site at www.missingpetpartnership.org. Post a link to this blog on Facebook and Tweet about it. Everyone who is owned by a cat needs to know this information. Please, in honor of Monet, help me to spread the word. I can’t do this alone.
** UPDATE ** After I posted this blog I learned that Amy Adams, the pet detective that we referred Roseanne to, DID consult with Roseanne on the phone, explained The Silence Factor, and instructed Roseanne to search INSIDE of her home using a flashlight. I had not realized this (due to a lack of communications on my part) and simply thought Roseanne had not called Amy and had just found Monet on her own. I’m a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due, so THANK YOU AMY ADAMS for the work you and Harley are doing on lost pet investigations!