Can a shy, inside cat survive outside in the dead of winter?

Search parties and ice storms collide

2 minute read

A gray and tan cat with a white snout peeks its head out from underneath a fake fur bed and throw
This narrative is part of the Wondercide March series called The Lucky Ones, stories of rescued animals. But we've discovered that it's us, the humans, who are the lucky ones, indeed.

All her life, Angel had been accustomed to creature comforts. Although she’d known nothing but love, she was shy and a little skittish, an indoor cat with no interest in the world outside. So, when she went missing, her family shifted into panic mode.

The search begins.

Angel’s parents, Susan and Richard, posted her status on lost-pet websites, plastered utility poles with pictures of the petite dilute-calico. Susan went door-to-door by day, and searched backyards by night.

No one in the family knew how or why their shy indoor cat had taken it upon herself to sneak out. By the time they realized she was gone, her tracks were disappearing as fresh snow fell.

The dead of winter.

Then the ice storms came. Then subzero cold.

According to lost-pet websites, skittish cats were most likely to leave their hidey-holes, between 12:00 and 6:00 AM, in search of food and water. So that was when Susan looked. She patrolled the neighborhood – in full winter gear armed with an open can of cat food and a lantern.

There were no streetlights. And lots of places for cats to hide. To make matters worse, since Angel was skittish, she would fear coming out of hiding, even with familiar voices.

Don’t give up. Gear up.

Richard set “live traps” with food inside. The traps didn’t harm animals, and Richard checked them every few hours, day and night, so no one would freeze. They caught and released several large tomcats, a couple fat raccoons, and one irate ‘possum. No Angel.

Mail carriers helped with the quest. It became a neighborhood project .... Finally, after many long sad weeks, a neighbor spotted a cat near her garage and called Richard. It was Angel!

A brown and gray striped cat with a white muzzle peeks out from greenery ground cover

In the nick of time.

He gathered her in a blanket and rushed to the vet’s office where she’d been born. She was put on IVs immediately, skin and bones, but she made it. Their vet said she’d been found in the nick of time: They had saved Angel's life.

Returning the favor.

Ten years later, Angel's mom Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. Her prognosis was still very good, but she was in a dark place with many surgeries ahead. Richard felt helpless.

A guardian Angel.

Fortunately, they also had a ray of perpetual sunlight, hope. A guardian Angel, on their side and by their side, herding Susan to the couch after surgeries. Purring loudly when she lay down. And being so sweet and cuddly Susan couldn’t have stayed depressed if she’d wanted to. A cat's love is healing.

A gray tan and white cat lays on a brown sofa and a red wool throw

Susan is now cancer-free, and her guardian Angel is still on duty, living up to her name. Who saved who?