Written by Janet Kenny and photography by Caroline Morrison
It was winter 2013 and my many cats often lined themselves along the gate in the evenings, gazing out into the street before I called them in for their soft food treat, thereafter remaining in the house for the night.
The mystery cat
One night I saw a long-legged Siamese-type cat on the other side of the gate talking to my cats. This happened a few times and I realised it was then disappearing to an empty house down the lane behind us.
I couldn’t get near the cat but managed to snap a zoomed-in photo by crouching out of sight and waiting patiently. I also put food out – and it was ravenous.
I posted the photo on our local security email group but no one came forward as owning or knowing it. I kept feeding every night for at least two months and still could not approach the mystery feline visitor.
Bringing the cat in from the cold
It was a freezing-cold winter and the empty house was about to be renovated. The cat couldn’t keep living there. I borrowed a trap and caught this furious cat, and with the help of a wonderful cat lady, Sarie Greeff, established that this was a sterilised male.
I took him home and contacted vets, SPCAs and grooming parlours; he was posted on local groups and shared far and wide but with no response – nobody claimed him. I named him Simon. He’s a very vocal cat and he rapidly crept into my heart.
We had Simon inside for two weeks and he was settling down well when, one Saturday night, he became desperately ill. His urine was basically pure blood and he was very unhappy. Panicking, we rushed off to the after-hours vet. I was devastated as he’d already become very special to me – I couldn’t imagine losing him.
Thankfully, Simon recovered quickly and that sealed the deal: he remained part of the family, loved and admired by everybody.
Because of his previous wild living I was careful to always make sure he was around the house somewhere, although my husband kept reminding me that the electric fence surrounding the property kept all the cats in.
The cat was clinging to the car roof
One evening (Saturday the 19th of March 2016) my husband, Michael, drove to the garage 2km away; when he returned, we went out for the evening. I’d last seen Simon sleeping on a bed and all was well.
But when we returned and called the cats, Simon did not come in for his treat; I called and called, no doubt driving the neighbours mad, and never slept a wink that night. But no sign of Simon.
The next day I drove down the road and was told by a gardener that my husband had driven down the road the previous evening – with a cat clinging to the top of his car. This was confirmed by guards further on who’d apparently tried to stop him but he hadn’t noticed and drove on.
And so began the most terrible six months of searching, with the least popular person in the house being my husband.
Searching high and low
My daughter, Caroline Morrison, made hundreds of signs; I joined Lost and Found Cats on Facebook; I drove around constantly every day; I followed every lead no matter how unlikely. A crank call sent me chasing all over (of course, from a blocked number, giggling human beings), saying they’d actually caught Simon and asking if I wanted my cat back or not. That was most agonising.
Other genuine calls sent me to a security company where there were many cats being fed by a kind cat lady, and, slightly nearer, a gentleman called and said a cat resembling Simon had been on his veranda at night and he’d try to befriend him. Of course, the cat never appeared again.
I contacted an animal communicator who said I must look under a bush with pink flowers... quite a task! I drove around like a madwoman checking bushes and putting signs in post boxes. But I would not give up on Simon.
Meeting the neighbourhood cats
One day in August it was brought to my attention that many feral cats were living and breeding on the property of a very old lady 1km away; many of the kittens ended up being run over. The lady said she had not seen a Siamese cat in her pretty garden and I offered to feed the ferals for a month until Colleen Gartrell, who’d witnessed one of the kittens being run over, returned from holiday to help. I found this distressing as the mother cat could be pregnant again and I set a date for Animal Allies to trap and sterilise.
They were extremely busy but a date was set for September. I always fed on the pavement of a lane alongside the property where there was always a street guard who looked on with interest. Another cat joined in with the daily ritual. She was friendly and, from her clipped ear, I knew she was sterilised. I referred to her as Kitler due to her Hitler moustache.
Animal Allies arrived in the evening of the appointed day as darkness was setting in. The gentleman set out the traps and then decided we should take a walk around the property. I’d been there with permission in the day but never ventured there at night…
We started to slowly walk to the veranda of the house when THERE HE WAS… MY SIMON! Standing right there on the veranda! I called out to him and he stared at me but, when he saw the unknown man coming up behind me, he ran.
He’d survived... and I wasn’t going to rush trying to grab him. He was alive!
The next day he was seen again, and I started calling the same way I would at home, i.e. in a voice that must sound most peculiar to my neighbours, and I always scream “come babies”.
The day after I headed back, well-stocked with catnip, and decided to just take it easy, talk to Kitler and see what happened. Simon had been a free guy for six months and there could be no errors in trying to get him. Kitler and I sat on the lawn for about an hour when Simon emerged out of a bush, ran across the lawn, eyes darting at us as he ran, and into another bush.
I called Caroline, who was just leaving work, and told her to bring fish and a cat carrier. We put catnip and fish down and out from the bushes he crawled, and when he was well into chomping his food, I simply picked him up and popped him into the carrier. Unbelievable! The guards in the lane were just as astounded as they’d never ever seen Simon.
The look on Simon’s face when we brought him inside our house was one of complete amazement – and relief. The vet checked him over the next day and said he was thin but not emaciated and various tests were negative, which was fantastic.
Colleen returned and the many cats were trapped and sterilised; we continued feeding them too. She arranged for The Cat Shack to collect my friend Kitler. Incredibly, someone saw her there and knew her owner – it turned out that she’d been missing for eight months and lived not too far away.
She wasn’t the only missing cat who found his way home – a ginger cat was trapped and reunited with his owner.
After I posted on Facebook that Simon had been found, a lovely lady, Vanessa Vasani, contacted my husband: she was Simon’s original owner and he’d disappeared from her in 2008. He was one of three kittens; his mother was a black cat and his father a Burmese. Vanessa came to see him the first week he was home and confirmed that this had indeed been her cat and his name was Frank. She’d later moved from the area and was happy that he’d found me and was safe as she now lives overseas.
Big question: where was Simon for five years between disappearing from Vanessa in 2008 until 2013 when we came across him? We’ll never know. But I’m glad he’s with us now.
Simon has recovered completely from his adventure. He never fails to talk when I arrive home, never argues with other cats, and has no intention of ever car surfing again!
P.S. The bush he emerged from had pink flowers.