After more than three months, a missing cat is finally back home with her family.
Luna, a six-year-old black and white cat, went missing last fall.
An outdoor cat, she would typically wake up owner Ashley Smith around 6 a.m. to be let out. By the time Smith’s kids were leaving for school, she’d be back.
But this morning, on Oct. 8, was different.
“It was like one day she was there, the next day she was gone,” said Smith.
Luna has gone missing before, but she’s always come back. The Smiths would go for walks on the trails in behind their home near Simms Creek in Willow Point and see her exploring the creek and climbing trees.
“But this time it was different,” said Smith.
Her six-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, has a strong connection with Luna. Bedtime routines would see Mackenzie and Luna cuddle.
“That was her cuddle-buddy. That was her security,” said Smith. “She has ADHD and whenever she’d get into a mood, or something, she would go find Luna and hug her and hold her and that would settle her down. That was her companion.”
Over the months, even as cougar and bear sightings increased around Campbell River, Mackenzie never lost hope.
Even into December, Mackenzie would leave food and water outside for Luna.
“She just never gave up hope,” said Smith. “She’d sit there and cry.”
Smith was preparing her kids for the worst.
“We didn’t hear anything for awhile and then we started having the cougar and bear sightings,” said Smith. “So then I just assumed that she had probably got eaten.”
Just before Christmas the family welcomed another furry member to the home.
Mr. Fluffy Pants, a six-month-old cat, wasn’t fitting into his previous family’s life very well, and with no Luna sightings, he joined the Smiths.
“Mr. Fluffy Pants was just to try to help her (Mackenzie) have somebody to cope with,” said Smith. “She finds the purring very calming.”
When Luna went missing in the fall, Smith had posted about her on the Lost and Found Animals of Campbell River Facebook page, which has more than 6,500 members.
When a lost black and white cat was brought into the BC SPCA in Campbell River, staff put a call out on Facebook with the animal’s photo hoping it would get recognized.
Jamie Derksen, an administrator for the missing pets page, thought the cat looked familiar and searched through files of missing pet posts. She contacted Smith.
But just based off the photos, Smith wasn’t totally sure it was Luna. There’s another cat in the neighbourhood that looks similar to Luna and Smith thought maybe it was that animal.
“I was all day at work going ‘I want to go get the cat. I want to see if it’s her,’” said Smith.
She waited until the SPCA opened at noon and went down to check if Luna was indeed their mystery cat.
“They opened the door where they keep the cats and she let out this ugly meow. I’m like, ‘That’s my cat. It’s her morning I want food meow; give me attention meow.’ It’s the ugliest thing I hear. She has a really nice, cute meow and then there’s that one,” said Smith. “I’m like that’s my cat.”
Luna went over to Smith and let her pet her.
Smith had left her kids in the dark about Luna’s possible return. She wanted to make sure it was her.
With Luna safely tucked away in her SPCA box, Smith collected her kids from school and brought them to the car.
“All they see is this box and they’re like ‘What’s in there? Is it a cat? Is that my cat? Are there two cats in there?’” said Smith with a laugh.
Smith filmed the reunion. In the video, Mackenzie and Eathen, her son, get in the backseat. They close all the doors and then cradle the box in their laps. When they unfold the cardboard flaps, they just stare in stunned silence.
You can hear Eathen say, “I thought she was dead.” After three months, they had been prepared for the possibility.
“They looked like they didn’t recognize her because it had been so long,” said Smith. It’s true, three months can seem like a lifetime to kids. “They had this stunned look: What is this? Is it her? Is it really her?
“It was just a really cute moment.”
When they got home, Mackenzie and Luna were nearly inseparable for awhile.
In the days since she’s been home, Smith said Luna is still acting a little differently.
“She’s not quite the same as she was,” said Smith. “She is a little bit more timid, but she every day is getting a little bit better.”
Smith doesn’t know much about where Luna was while she was missing, but heard that a family near the former Eagle’s Nest Lodge along the South Island Highway had been putting out food and water for her and brought her in to the SPCA when they were able to.
Smith is grateful to the people that helped take care of Luna.
She says that Luna won’t be allowed outside for awhile at least.
“I’m not going through this again,” said Smith. “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”