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Pets Large & Small

The lost cat

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(9/2014) It happens so fast it, it momentarily stuns her.

Titus had lived inside the house for the last fourteen years and he never – never – got outside.

Until tonight. It was like a lightning flash, that’s how quickly he darted out the open patio door. She didn’t think the cat could move that fast anymore. One minute, Titus had been eyeing something outside in the yard and the next minute, his black tail with the white tip on top disappeared between the bushes.

Fear like she’d never known before chokes her and she’s frozen in panic at the still open door.

Think, she demands of her locked brain. Think.

He’s always responded to her voice, so she steps out to the bushes and calls for him. She canvasses the length of her yard – nothing. How could he have even gotten that far? How could he move that fast? Where could he be?

Twilight paints the sky a vivid blue and if she were in a better frame of mind, she’d take a moment to appreciate it, but she’s so wracked by fear for her boy that she can’t comprehend much beyond the thumping of her heart saying find him find him find him.

The darker it gets, though, the tougher it is to see much of anything.

Her neighbor’s watering his late summer annuals and he must notice something in her face because he puts the hose down and walks over, "Anna, what’s wrong?"

She chokes out the story and he starts to help her look. They walk the length of the neighborhood block, collecting other concerned people as they go and by the time night has truly fallen, there’s not a single sign of Titus.

It’s literally gut wrenching.

Once she’s back inside, her instinct is to call for Titus, which sends a sharp pain through her stomach. She’s gotta get him back.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen without her feline companion, she feels her heart really start to thunder and she can’t get her breathing under control. She’s seconds away from a full-blown panic attack when she tells herself this will not help Titus.

Using deep breathing exercises and reaching for a calm she doesn’t feel, she heads to her computer to create a flyer. She needs to get his information out there to let people know to be on the lookout for him.

Going through his photos, seeing that green-eyed expression of mischief, and knowing he’s out there somewhere alone in the dark compounds the worry and upset she feels. Still, she manages to get a flyer together and logs in to her Facebook account. She also prints out a handful for the neighborhood. When she’s finished, she goes to bed.

But sleep eludes. The house is just too quiet. The bed seems far too big without Titus stealing all the room on her pillow. It’s easily the toughest night she’s had in a long while.

By morning, she ignores the tight feeling in her chest and sets out to make contacts. She pulls out the microchip information she has for Titus and makes sure every vet office has the flyer. She calls the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and in her fear and grief, the people there are so thoughtful and nice that she feels like crying all over again. They assure her they will put his information on their Facebook page as well in an effort to get him home.

Titus had become such an integral part of her life, she didn’t realize it would be like missing a limb to not have him around.

She sets out again in the neighborhood, posting the flyers on telephone poles, and receives well-wishes and mentions of prayers from friends who live nearby.

By evening, she’s dissolved into a quiet desperation. She hasn’t eaten anything in almost 24 hours. Her stomach just can’t take it. She hasn’t filled Titus’s water bowl or food bowl and it seems wrong, so in a pique of either insanity or some bizarre sentimentality, she fills both, hoping that his little meow will precede his presence in the kitchen.

Nothing happens.

She’s in tears, practically curled into a ball on her kitchen floor when her cell phone rings. She jolts almost like she’d been shot, but jumps for the table.

It’s the shelter. They have Titus. A concerned community member found a black-and-white cat meandering pretty close to her neighborhood. They scanned him for a microchip and her number came up. She hasn’t showered the whole day or brushed her teeth, but she’s in the car within 30 seconds and on her way to CVAS.

Once there, Titus is brought out and responds to her voice and much to her chagrin, she starts sobbing and can’t seem to stop. The people at the shelter are kind and gentle to her, but she feels a little melodramatic.

She’s just so happy to have her boy back.

That night, they both sleep soundly, curled up together in bed and she thinks of her gratitude – for her neighbors who showed such concern, for the people who found Titus and brought him to the shelter and for the shelter staff who treated her so thoughtfully.

She knows there are good people in the world and she’s lucky that so many came together to help her and Titus.

She hopes they all realize what they have given her – she has her life back.

Microchips work. Please consider having your pet microchipped in the terrible event that
 he or she gets away from you. Remember to keep the information (address and phone number) up-to-date with the company. CVAS has returned pets to their owners because
of a microchip. Give yourself that peace of mind and invest in one today.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau