Blog Updates Listed Below: Monday August 30th – 11:00 a.m.; Monday August 30th – 1:30 p.m.; Tuesday August 30th – 10:00 a.m.; Tuesday August 30th – 1:30 p.m.; Tuesday August 30th – 5:40 p.m.; Wednesday Sept 1st, 11:45 a.m.; Wednesday Sept 1st, 11:50 p.m. – (Mugsy saga continued on individual blogs starting Sept 2nd)
I don’t normally blog about my pet detective “cases in progress” but this one is different. This story was covered by the local media and now people are following the progress. I will update this blog daily until the case is solved. This is case 10-298, the case of Mugsy the displaced RV cat.
Sunday August 29, 2010– While traveling eastbound on I-90 at Exit 53 just east of Snoqualmie Pass, WA, an RV driven by Ross Mayfield left the roadway, went air born 160 feet, and crashed down onto the street below by the underpass.
Yeah, it was bad. Ross (82 years old) and his wife, Etta Mayfield (79), were injured and transported to the hospital. While Etta is doing pretty good, Ross is still in bad shape. One of their two cats was found (injured) inside the wreckage and was taken to a vet. She apparently sustained a pelvic injury. But Mugsy, a 17-year-old long-haired Tortoise shell cat, was no where to be found.
Monday August 30, 2010 – 11:00 a.m. – Missing Pet Partnership was contacted and asked if we could assist. I (Kat Albrecht, founder of MPP) spoke with Vicki, the Mayfield’s daughter-in-law and learned that Mugsy had been spotted a few hours earlier inside the brushy median immediately east of the crash site. Vicki said they were in the process of crawling through that brush in an attempt to find Mugsy. I advised Vicki that crawling in after Mugsy was NOT advisable because it could flush / scare her out of hiding and onto the Interstate. I told here I would respond and we’d develop a recovery plan.
Monday August 30, 2010– 1:30 p.m. – I arrived at the location and met with Vicki and a small group of volunteers. Vicki showed me the location where Mugsy had been seen earlier that morning. Mugsy had appeared, well, smug. She did not appear skittish or spooked but simply ignored the rescuer who was calling her. She vanished deep into the brushy thicket.
I had not brought our cat detection (search dog)out because like I told Laura, bush wacking into that brush with the search dog could have flushed Mugsy and that’s the last thing we wanted to do. My strategy instead was the same strategy that we use for displaced cats. We set up four baited humane traps with a plan to capture Mugsy in the trap. We sprayed the traps with Feliway, a feline pheromone designed to calm stressed cats. We even used the “cat-as-bait” method by bringing out a neighbor’s cat (in a secure crate) and set it in back-to-back with one of the traps. We hoped that the sound of a meowing cat would attract / interest Mugsy just like it did on the case of Ginger, the cat who hid in silence for 17 days inside the wall of a Seattle home yet immediately meowed the moment she heard another cat meow.
There was only one problem. The cat that Vicki brought out sat calmly in her crate and did not meow! WHO KNEW! Where is a yowler when you need one?! So, out of desperation I pulled out my cell phone and used an app of meowing cats, hoping that sound would capture Mugsy’s attention. I’m pretty sure Mugsy just smirked at us. Oh and KOMO 4 News came out and covered this story on the 11:00 o’clock news.
During our search, I had found an ATM card (expired in 2007 – could be related to a crime) in the heavy brush, so that caused a call to two different Sheriff’s Departments and took up an hour of my time. On the way home from this search, I met with Crystal, the owner of Fiona-the-missing-Keeshond. This is dog whose been lost in Preston, WA for over a month, wandering nearby trails and eluding capture. Crystal rented a wildlife camera from us to help her in her recovery efforts. Also on this drive up I-90 (apparently I need to leave Federal Way more often) I met with Laura & Lindsay from Bellevue, the proud owners of Widget, a calico that MPP searched for last week. Missing for 16 days, Widget was found 7-houses away, hiding under a neighbor’s house. Laura told me that it was our advice ( to keep searching yards and talking to neighbor’s) and encouragement that kept their hopes alive and helped bring Widget back home. Another happy ending. I am confident that we will have the same (a happy ending) with Mugsy.
Tuesday August 30, 2010– 10:00 a.m. – I spoke with Vicki–Mugsy was not in any of the traps. She is going to “Plan B” and has a team of ten friends / family members who are going to enter the brush and look for Mugsy. It is a cone shaped strip of heavy bushes and brush and is set off of the freeway far enough, but if Mugsy bolts and runs towards I-90 it could mean trouble. I had discouraged them from doing that initially and encouraged Vicki to back out and set the traps. However, they’re afraid that Mugsy is at risk because of the rain and her age (Mugsy is 17). So I gaveVickiinstructions on how to conduct a grid search with critical separation distance and how to use “spotters.” They are heading out to conduct this search right now which doesn’t give me time to assemble any of our volunteers. I will keep everyone posted on what develops.
Tuesday August 30, 2010 – 1:30 p.m. – Vicki just called. Good news, bad news. The grid search technique worked– they saw Mugsy, but they still don’t have her!
Vicki and her friends formed a grid search line with “spotters” on either side who were instructed to watch and see if they saw Mugsy bolt out of the brush. That’s exactly what happened. Half way through, and in the exact area of where we have 3 traps set up (and on the ramp side very near where she was spotted yesterday), the spotter saw Mugsy flush out with a panicked look on her face! Mugsy spotted the spotter and then darted right back into the brush area.
The searchers backed out and I’ve instructed them to STAY OUT of the brush. Going in after her or continuing with that grid search and trying to catch her will only cause them to flush her out and put her in harms way (since she is surrounded by roadways and I-90). I advised Vicki that (1) she proved that Mugsy is still in there (2) we learned that Mugsy is NOT going to come to anyone (3) we have the traps set in the correct location (4) Mugsy is just not hungry enough yet (she has not reached “The Threshold Factor” yet where she will respond to the food). The most effective and safest method to get Mugsy back home is going to be waiting until she is hungry enough to enter one of those humane traps. And as much as we all want it to happen NOW, it just doesn’t always work that way. Cats are, well, cats! And trying to catch a panicked cat with your bare hands is like trying to catch a greased pig. The name of the cat-catching-game is baiting and patiently trapping (not chasing and trying to catch a fleeing cat). Sometimes it takes hours and sometimes (when the cat is smater than you) it can take days or even weeks.
So, I instructed Vicki to add more food to the trap and cover them with tarps (to protect from rain and create a dry hiding place that might be inviting to her). I also advised Vicki to put out “distractant” bait to keep the raccoons fed but out of the traps (marshmallows, peanut butter, and Cheerios work well) and the coyotes bellies full (a 5 pound bag of dog food satisfies them). Plus, she will put out meaty bones or giant raw hide chewies so any coyotes that come will grab those, run, and chew on the bones and be kept busy and not interested in Mugsy. This technique (to keep displaced cats safe from predators) has worked wonders on other cases and I’m hopeful it will do the trick on this case as well. In urban areas when we are through with attracting the cat (and wildlife), we then work to shoo away the coyotes and raccoons by using a motion activated Scarecrow Sprinkler thingy. Only, so far all I’ve used it on is the neighbor who stole my fan.
I will likely meet with Vicki and loan her a few digital wildlife cameras to the humane traps so we can monitor Mugsy’s behavior in the brush. Would you like to help more cats like Mugsy? Although it is not tax deductible, if you’d like to support MARN efforts to train people to recover more displaced cats, please consider making a donation via PayPal (please list as donation) or you can send a check to Missing Animal Response Network % Kat Albrecht, 424 W Bakerview Rd, Suite #105-360, Bellingham, WA 98226. Please pray for peace, healing and hope for the Mayfield family – and that Mugsy will get hungry…tonight!
** UPDATE** Tuesday August 30, 2010 – 5:40 p.m. – Vicki just called with an update. Although MOST of the volunteers pulled out of the brushy area as instructed, one of them remained in there and their moving around caused Mugsy to bolt! Thankfully, she was not struck by a car and she ran south across the on ramp (away from I-90) into a new wooded area. Vicki said she’s relieved because she is now farther from roads and there is a water source. They moved the traps (left one back near the crash site, although in my experience with cases like this I doubt Mugsy will go back there) and the crate across the street to the new area and will work on getting cameras out there tomorrow. And they will (listen to me and) stay out of the woods…
Wednesday Sept 1st, 11:45 a.m.– Vicki just called. Ross Mayfield passed away last night. And Mugsy did not enter any of the traps. Vicki asked me to coordinate the recovery efforts with her neighbor Ken, a local firefighter who has already been helping to check the traps, and one other rescuer. So I’ve started that effort. I just spoke with Ken about the need to get wildlife cameras in place with the traps so we can determine whether or not Mugsy is breaking cover and responding to food. Ken will also be putting out the “distractant bait” plus he might be camping out over night by Mugsy’s wooded place.
In some cases, cats will investigate a trap because of the smell of food but will be hesitant to enter the humane trap. If that is the case, we would need to switch to using a drop trap which is a surveillance-based method that will require volunteers. The primary way to determine if this is taking place is using wildlife cameras to actually see what is happening at the trap, like we did on the case of Buddy. So my goal is to get cameras set up to determine the next move. We are also considering trying the “cat as bait” method again using a vocal crated cat, a baby monitor and night vision, and direct surveillance at night time when the noise has subsided and Mugsy may be calmer. This operation would likely take place this Thursday evening.
Someone asked me last night WHY would a cat who has not eaten in three days not respond to the scent of food. The answer is that cats (and dogs) who are in a “fight or flight” panicked mode, either because of their temperament or because of the circumstance (displacement, traumatic event, thunder, sonic booms caused by President Obama’s visit, etc.), will have the sensory portion of their brains close down. Have you ever noticed that when you try to give a piece of hot dog or smelly treat to a panicked, stressed dog that he won’t eat it? That’s because mother nature has geared animals to fight or run (and not to eat) when they are afraid. So we’re hoping that the longer that Mugsy is out there, the more familiar she gets with her surroundings, the CALMER that she gets, the more that she will grow hungry and she will enter the trap. Stay tuned for more details…and please pray for the Mayfield family.
Wednesday Sept 1st, 11:50 p.m.– I received a text from Ken, Vicki’s neighbor who is helping by checking the traps. No one has seen Mugsy and she has not been caught in any of the traps. Another volunteer told me they were not even sure she was still in the construction area where she was seen bolting into. We were not able to get cameras up there today. I do plan to head up there tomorrow (Thursday) with a few volunteers and we hope to do some night time surveillance. I’d like to try a few new tricks and use more equipment (night vision, baby monitor, listening device, spotters in vehicles, cat-as-bait again). I am even thinking of getting a hotel room and staying up there (on the pass) for a few days until Mugsy is caught because it is nearly impossible trying to coordinate this effort from Federal Way. If anyone has connections with a Snoqualmie Pass-area hotel that would donate a room for a few days, that would be fantastic. We also need to borrow a Snoqualmie-area cat that will MEOW LOUDLY when crated so we can try the “cat-as-bait” again. This would take place either Thursday or Friday evening.
The cat would be safe as we will monitor it with night vision, binoculars, and a baby monitor. Plus we will have a device in place to scare away any wildlife if needed. I would use my own cat Cheeto (pictured above) except that he is trained to be SILENT in the crate because we use him to hide silently so our cat detection dogs can find him. If you can help with either of these needs (finding housing or bringing your loud, mouthy cat) please call Missing Pet Partnership and leave a message at (253) 529-3999.
** Blog updates after this entry were created as individual entries each day and listed as “Mission Mugsy” **