Missing and Heartbroken

This constant state of limbo is incredibly hard.

Watercolor illustration of a longhair black-and-white cat
Image created via Midjourney

I've held off on writing this post because I didn't think I could get through it without crying.

On Friday, August 11, our cat, Phoebe, escaped the house. She's still missing.

I first noticed her absence on Saturday morning. She (along with my other cats) always comes to greet me when I wake up and start writing in the morning. She didn't appear at my side. I thought it was a little strange, but there have been a few other times when she had slept in or gotten stuck behind a closed door.

When my kids woke up, I told them that we needed to look for Phoebe, thinking she was trapped somewhere. A few hours later, no sign of her.

I felt my heart sink.

Ever since we adopted her back in December, she's been eager to dart outside a door. One time, she even managed to get outside while I was standing in the doorway grabbing a package, propping the door open with my foot. She ran right between my legs (and I grabbed her).

I checked our Ring Doorbell. Our cleaning person had been in our house around midday on Friday (a new employee at a company we've used for a long time). I could clearly see from the Ring activity that there was a period of time when the door was propped open as she set her stuff down. Plenty of time for Phoebe to escape.

The terrible thing about Saturday was that Autumn's birthday party was that afternoon. I had to prepare for the party: clean, decorate, make cupcakes. I kept thinking (hoping) that maybe Phoebe was sick and hiding somewhere in the house.

After the party was over, we searched again. Still nothing.

I reported her lost to her microchip company. I posted her info in our neighborhood Facebook group, NextDoor, and three different websites that shared her information with local animal shelters. I even paid for a Facebook ad to blast her picture and info to thousands of people in our area.

Over the weekend, she was spotted — twice. Both times, more than half a mile from our house. While the internet told me that housecats don't wander far from home, I think she's different. She was a stray when she was brought to an animal shelter back in December, so she's used to being outside. When we adopted her and brought her home, I knew she had belonged to a family at one point. She was so incredibly friendly. As I saw her proclivity for trying to escape, I wondered if that was how she'd become lost.

I haven't given up hope. When she was found previously, it was because she was so friendly that she eventually approached someone. She may eventually decide to do the same.

But I also wonder if she likes her life outside and wants to be free.

Or that someone will find her and decide to keep her because she's so cute and friendly.

My heart hurts so much whenever I think about not seeing her again. That first night when we knew she was missing, I went to bed sobbing, thinking, "How can this be happening?"

I know cats can go missing for weeks (or months) and eventually turn up. I'm getting a daily digest of intakes from every shelter in a 50-mile radius.

But this constant state of limbo is incredibly hard.

And the timing is wretched. We had to say goodbye to my beloved cat, Libby, on August 3, 2020. So every year when I see Facebook "On This Day" memories, I'm reminded of her passing. At the time, it was really hard because it was right before Autumn's birthday. So much joy and sadness at the same time. And now, if Phoebe never comes home, Autumn's birthday will be parked squarely between losing two of my cats. All of this a few weeks before my Season of Grief starts with Nelle's birthday at the beginning of September.

I haven't told many friends about Phoebe, mostly because I don't know how I'll handle an influx of "I'm so sorry to hear that" and then I'll be a mess all over again.

I'm comforted only by knowing that wherever Phoebe is, she's having the time of her life on her adventure. She's not afraid. She's probably bouncing from one neighborhood to the next, exploring. Or maybe she's found a new family to love her.

For the Love of a Cat
My cat heals me in so many ways.
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