How I Lost & Found My Cat
During the Santa Rosa Fires
I live in Santa Rosa in the Northern California Wine Region. On October 9th, 2017, my community was subjected to the worst wildfires in California history, and the most expensive in the nation. Over 5,200 homes & structures were destroyed in the fire, and entire residential neighborhoods were gone. The fire was fueled by extreme winds that sometimes exceeded 50 miles per hour, and moved very quickly when everyone was sleeping. It caused a chaotic scramble among authorities and unprepared residents. The fire killed at least 23 people in and around my city.
During the chaos of my families evacuation, my cat Mac broke out of his crate and was lost in a nearby town where I took him to be boarded. This first night of the fires, over 20,000 people were evacuated. Hotels were full, shelters were set up quickly but often had just yoga mats to sleep on the floor. Stories of destruction were both exaggerated and under reported. I was so scared for my lost cat, but had much bigger problems to deal with first.
In the end, we were manditory evacuated from our home for 8 days. It turned our house was ok and is still standing. With determination and help from friends, I was also was lucky to find and rescue my cat after being lost for two weeks. I was one of the "lucky ones" with thousands of homes destroyed in our community. This is the story as I unfolded it on Facebook.
My first post at 5am on Monday, October 9th
Huge fires in our area. I evacuated myself & my mother-in-law from Oakmont to my home in Rincon Valley/Santa Rosa. Mandatory evac a 1/2 block away, but ok here so far. Packed up for another evac of we need to. Crazy night, no sleep for us!
Then at 9am, I updated our status:
Update on our situation with the Santa Rosa fires. We are safe but had to evacuate. Our home is ok, but there was fully engulfed buildings a 1/2 block away. No power or gas when we left home , and since we have a well that means no water either. Scary stuff all the way around.
One of the local animal shelters has boarded our 5 tiny dogs & 2 large cats, and the foster kittens I had went back in a day early to have their spay/neuter surgery & go up for adoption. We are "camping out" at our son's house that is without power or gas but does have cold water.
I have a big show in Santa Clara starting Wednesday, so we probably will camp there in the comfort of a very nice hotel & hope the mess at home will be more in control when we return. So, basically I am grateful that we are doing better than a lot of other families, and are able to make "lemonade out of lemons."
After a couple of days, I realized I needed to ask my friends for help:
Our cat, Mac, escaped in Rohnert Park when taking him to into the Animal Shelter for boarding due to evacuation from the fires. He is a big strong cat & freaked out while being carried in. The crate cracked open and he took off over the back fence & into an apartment complex. Not the staff's fault by the way, just bad luck.
They are watching for him & have out traps, but no sign of him yet. We live in Santa Rosa, so he has escaped in a nearby town, far from home.
If you have seen him, call me or the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. We live in a mandatory evac area so had to leave the area to stay with relatives who could help care for our elderly Oakmont Mom.
I know this is a small problem in comparison to those who have lost so much, but would be a big loss to us. Any help appreciated!
My status in the Northern California fires:
We came home today after being evacuated from the Santa Rosa fires a week ago... feels so good, even though things are not anywhere near normal.
We are lucky, our house is still standing. I have 13 friends that lost their homes, and I know I will hear of more.
I picked up our pets from the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter, who I am so grateful to for boarding our pets for free while we were unable to be in our home. My little d
ogs are excited, & watching me like a hawk...
I am still looking for my escaped cat, Mac, and have lots of people helping share the word. I will keep looking & expect a happy ending.
My mother-in-law was just put on hospice, and evacuating and staying with relatives was hard on her. I am grateful she had a safe place generously offered, rather than being in a shelter. Hopefully she can go home soon, and in the meantime we can now have her with us which is very close to her home.
I am grateful for so much more than I was a week ago. It is interesting how disaster tends to do that.
I can't believe I got a lead on my missing cat & now can't catch him. He is in a culvert/storm drain & won't come out. If I call him, he meows back but is not going to leave his safe place for the last week & a half!
Once again, the wonderful staff at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter are helping me with a trap, yummy food, and good advice. I just need patience to catch my
Will come back in the morning & see how things are.
By the way, the man who called me about seeing my Mac was burned out of his home in the Wikiup area. He has been going back to that area everyday looking for his 2 cats, so far nothing...
OMG, who could have guessed how hard it is to catch my very scared cat...still working on it.
Last night Melissa & Carla offered to help me at dusk to find Mac again. He wasn't at the same place all day... I am so grateful for the help from these two friends!
We caught a Tuxedo cat in the trap. Oops, greedy guy was seriously mad at us & ran away faste
r than I have ever seen a cat move!
Then Melissa spotted a cat way far away in the field. Not sure if it was Mac. We walked down there & found another culvert/storm drain & called for him. It was Mac! Carla went to get food & I stayed to keep talking to him. All of a sudden Mac walked out & right up to me!!! I carefully picked him up & he purred. So sweet.
Crap, now what? I was there with no aids & was a long-long way from the car. Mac hates to be picked up normally. So I gently started walking to the car in the dark, praying it would work. I got about 50 feet & he freaked out in fear again. He is a big strong cat & I was unable to keep a hold of him. He tore back to his safe place in the storm drain. OMG. So close & so far!
No amount of coaxing worked. His best buddy, my dog Button, didn't get success either. We moved & set the trap there and gave up about 10pm. I am going back this
he went in the trap. If not, I will repeat tonight & be prepared this time.
Each day getting closer. Learning a lot of things the hard away, including he won't come out unless I am the only one there, which makes everything harder. I have also been awed by the support & help from friends and strangers both.
map was published by Cal-Fires showing the homes & structures destroyed in the Santa Rosa fires. It came very close to us, the purple dot near the bottom red line is our house, which we were fortunate is still standing. The red line is the burned area, and the red circles are destroyed structures. This just a small part of the burn area that destroyed at least 5,200 homes total, but is still hard to absorb.
Even though we were evacuated for a week & I am still looking for a lost pet, I feel so fortunate. I am still grieving for my friends and community. We are resilient, but the stories are still unfolding as each day I hear of someone else I know who lost their home, or came too close to losing their life. I will continue to find ways to help, and to reach out to my friends & neighbors.
October 22, 2017
Our baby, Mac, is still not home. Tried to get him again tonight & he didn't come out of the storm drain. He was responding to our voices & meowing to us. Good. I laid down on the cover & reached in. Could just reach the top of his head & got to scratch it. Lots of loving noises from him & it was a sweet moment for me. This is progress but so slow... We will return in the morning to see if he went in the trap, or if we catch the tuxedo cat again... Two weeks today he has been out there. Praying a whole bunch we get him soon!
Great news!!! I was able to catch Mac this morning & bring him home. OMG we are so happy our little animal family is all together again after the Santa Rosa wildfires. Mac ate, drank water, & is now taking a nap. He looks good after his 2 week adventure so I think that field may be missing a few mice.
Another huge thanks to my friends Melissa & Carla who volunteered to drive down to Rohnert Park every day to help me. I couldn't have kept this up without them!
Thanks also to Tom who spotted Mac so I knew where he was hiding. PS - Tom lost his home in the fires & was looking for his 2 lost cats, and still took time to contact me & meet me there to show me where Mac was.
I am a such a happy girl today!
I am so delighted that Mac is home with us again. Two weeks hiding out in a sewer drain in a remote field was an adventure he is still affected by. What I wouldn't do for love! I spent 5 days of going there twice a day and trying to sweet talk Mac out of the storm drain. I offered love, tuna, and every smelly kind of cat food I could buy or borrow. My friends helped me. My Facebook friends (and strangers) spread the word and encouraged me. I am exhausted, but so happy to have a happy ending.
Today is the first day he was willing to leave his safe playpen since I brought him home Tuesday. Usually bold, he is carefully visiting all his favorite spots in the house. He actually dropped quite a bit of weight, so those field mice weren't in much danger as I thought. He is making up for it now, eating often with the occasional promised treat of tuna.
We are happy he is being clingy, we feel the same way.
Mac was one of my many foster kittens. I became his foster mom when he was 2 days old. Mac & my husband became best friends and we ended up adopting him. You can read his kitten story on this website.
Click here to read.