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Finding Coco

Looking for a lost pet is exhausting and nerve-racking. Cats are resourceful masters of stealth, which can make finding them even more difficult. It can take weeks, even months, before a lost cat may be found. This was indeed the case for a cat named Coco.  

Background:

Coco is an Adopt-A-Pet Shop alumna, adopted out in the earlier years of the Shop. She had been rescued when she was about two years old out of a colony of cats living outside. She had some experience with people but was rather shy. After weeks of socializing with dedicated fosters, she arrived at The Shop. She quickly formed a tight bond with a kitten named Bonnie! The two became inseparable and found their forever home with a fantastic family who was gladly willing to take them home together. Coco and Bonnie spend the next six years happily living in their home!

The girls were loved and doted upon by their family, both living the high life as spoiled indoor-only cats. In turn, Coco would unleash her inner huntress and protect her home from the occasional wayward bug or mouse that was unlucky enough to find its way inside. Unfortunately, Coco developed a habit of trying to sneak into the garage as her family would come and go, likely interested in any critters that could be found out there. One day her curiosity got the best of her; she snuck in without anyone noticing. Unaware, Coco’s owner went to open the garage to back his car out. The noise of the garage spooked Coco and she ran out into the neighborhood. 

Just like that, Coco was lost from home.

Week One:

That same day, Coco’s owner let his neighbors know to keep an eye out and he posted online to neighborhood groups. He set up some security cameras outside the home and left food and water out in hopes she would find her way back. The first two nights she did in fact find her way home, caught on the cameras coming close to the home but the noise from the nearby busy road scared her off too quickly.

On the third day, with no new sightings on camera, her devastated owner reached out for help, from family, friends, and The Adopt-A-Pet Shop (TAAPS). Members from TAAPS team quickly sprung into action, sharing with Coco’s family all their best tips for getting a cat back home (click here to read them all), loaning live traps, and forming a search party to help hand out fliers.

Family and volunteers spread fliers to every home in the neighborhood. Every day and evening Coco’s owner walked the surrounding area looking under porches, in bushes, up in trees, anywhere that frightened Coco might hide. He had set up live traps around the home to try and catch her quickly if she did come back. He even stayed up all hours of the night on the lookout.

A Turn for the Worse:

After a week of being lost and no sightings, Coco’s owner was hospitalized for unrelated health concerns, although Coco’s continued unknown whereabouts surely did not help. Bonnie was also having a hard time. Confused, she spent most days wandering the home looking for Coco. She undoubtedly was feeling the stress of her owner and her missing friend. Family and TAAPS volunteers came together to push the search even harder to get Coco home.

Week Two:

The search team decided to offer a small reward for any photographed sightings. Fliers were printed clearly stating not to approach or chase Coco if seen as that would only cause her to run farther away. The reward fliers were distributed into neighborhoods surrounding her home.

After 12 days of being missing, a sighting had finally been called in from a reward flier! Coco’s family members rushed to the location to look for her. She was spotted near a walking trail that ran along a golf course about three city blocks from her home. Along the trail was various drainage ditches with thick patches of brush and weeds with dense trees on the other side - the perfect spot for a scared cat to hide out from humans and catch some food.

Flashlights in hand, her family searched the area. Unfortunately, by the time they had gotten there, Coco had already moved on. Live traps were set and baited, and her family went home crossing their fingers she may be hungry enough to wander into a trap overnight. The next morning the traps were all empty and the food was untouched…

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A Renewed Hope:

A search team of cat specialists from TAAPS came out to the area in the morning to look for any signs of Coco. The team searched for hours only to concluded there were too many places for her to hide in the thick trees and brush. They hung more fliers in the park and went home.

Later a TAAPS volunteer returned to put out fresh water and re-bait the traps before nightfall. A good Samaritan walking her husky stopped the volunteer to tell her Coco had been spotted just down the path a little way! The volunteer rushed to find a kind man quietly crouched on the path watching Coco walking through thick trees and brush across the drainage ditch.

The volunteer tried to walk over quietly and slowly hoping to get close enough to offer Coco food. With the help of the dog walker and the man who spotted her, the volunteer spent two hours trying to get her to come close enough to safely grab. Unfortunately, Coco was in survival mode and relying on her instincts. While she wasn’t frightened of humans, she was leery of their presence. The closer anyone would get the farther she would saunter off into the trees.

With the daylight fading, it got hard to keep track of Coco. The search team was forced to call it a night. New traps were set near where she had been seen, and Coco’s family and team were once again left waiting. However, the night didn’t end with disappointment.

Coco’s owner, now home from the hospital, was overjoyed with the news that Coco had been seen and looked healthy! This brought renewed stamina and hope to the family and search team.

Week Three- Just Keep Trying:

The traps were diligently baited with fresh food every morning and night for the next week. With his health on the mend, her owner walked the area daily looking for her as well. Many locals and residents of the areas also were looking for her, calling her name, and watching the trees on their daily walks.

Every day the traps would be empty, and no food eaten. While disappointing, the continued lack of activity gave the team some helpful information. One, that there must not be many predators in the area, being that the food was untouched by any animal, giving hope to Coco’s continued safety. Two, that Coco had likely moved on from this spot.

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In lieu of wasting more food, the traps were packed up. Online fliers were re-posted to Facebook groups, Nextdoor, and lost pet websites. Looking closely at satellite maps of the area the search team hypothesized where Coco may have traveled. The golf course she had been hiding along had a line of trees that she could have easily run into. Thinking that Coco may have used these trees to cross the golf course into the neighborhoods on the other side, the team traveled to that spot. For a third time, the team went door to door leaving fliers at every house, as well as at the golf course.

Week Four- Getting Warmer:

Two days later, Coco’s owner got a message from a woman who saw his post online. She sent him a security camera video of a white cat approaching her home around midnight the night before. Coco had, in fact, moved across the golf course to a cluster of homes, but in an area the team had not yet distributed fliers. So again, Coco’s team went door to door, talking with residents in the area and leaving her flier on light posts, doors, and playgrounds.

Before the team had even finished putting fliers in the area, they got a call from a woman saying she had just seen her yesterday afternoon. She met with the team, kindly offered to allow traps in her yard and to put food out. She showed the group exactly where Coco had been seen, in her neighbor’s backyard which bordered a small walking path and trail. The team was able to contact the owner of the home whose yard she was spotted in, and they also kindly put food and water out for her.

That evening, 5 different phone calls came in at varying times to report seeing Coco in the same area not only that night but every day for the past three to four days. With confirmation that she had been staying in this area, a nearby volunteer rushed out and left out two traps along the walking trail she’d been seen near. The traps were put out without “setting” them to close so that Coco could eat near them without being spooked off if the trap was triggered by accident.

Home Stretch:

The next morning Coco’s owner went to check the traps and reported that some food had been eaten from them. Hopeful that it had been Coco, the team decided to set and bait the traps that same night. They waited, holding their breath for good news.

 

At about 8 p.m. a woman walking her dog peeked into a trap to see a wide-eyed white cat looking back and hissing. She called the phone number on the trap, and Coco’s owner quickly rushed over to meet her. Sure enough, it was Coco, exhausted, scared, and confused waiting in the trap. Her family was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to get her home and relaxed.

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Home Again:

They set up a comfortable spot for her, keeping her separate from Bonnie until she could be treated for any fleas and parasites. Once out of the trap she ran under a bed, her typical favorite spot. Her stress started to melt away and she spent the next few hours carefully grooming herself, pausing occasionally to come out purring for headbutts and snuggles. It didn’t take her long to realize she was home, and after a couple of weeks of reintroductions, Bonnie and Coco were reunited. All was back to normal again, with one little change. 

 

Coco, who had not previously been the most overly affectionate cat, now had a new lease on life. She showered her family with love and attention. She even thanked every member of the search team personally when they came to visit. She truly was thankful to be home and to everyone who helped.

If you or someone you know has a missing pet, the best advice we have is this -

 Do not give up; keep actively searching.

Coco had been gone 24 days and traveled nearly a mile from her home. There were many times when the search went cold and felt hopeless. However, she was found because her owner and family never gave up on her. They asked for help, talked to surrounding community members, walked miles on foot, and kept refreshing her fliers and online posts. Their hard work paid off, and yours can, too.

 

To see a complete list of our lost pet tips, click here.

Coco's first stress free nap back home, smiling ear to ear!