Lost Cat: two of the saddest words cat lovers dread, but one of the happiest book reading experiences of late. When the publicist sent copy of Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul and illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton arrived, I planned to read a few pages in the garden with a glass of wine before dinner. A few pages turned into dinner being late. I had to find out what happened to Tibia (Tibby) Caroline Paul’s cat who slipped through his cat door in San Francisco and vanished for five weeks. He returned plump and smug and Caroline became obsessed about finding out where he’d gone. Pet psychics, kitty cams and mysterious neighbors oh my! This is what’s called a page turner for good reason. The sparkling prose by fiction and nonfiction writer Caroline Paul and the funny, pitch perfect illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton captivate and capture what it means to love both 2 legged and four-leggeds. Before Tibby disappeared Wendy, Caroline’s live-in partner Wendy wasn’t initially a cat person but after Tibby vanished she transformed into one. That is the power of purr.
I’m delighted to share our Q & A with Caroline and Wendy. One lucky reader will win their own copy of Lost Cat.
Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton with Tibby
LMW: With this book and the BBC documentary tracking 50 U.K. cats, do you think we’re going to see more GPS tracking or high tech devices used on cats?
CP & WM: In 2009, when we first started to track Tibia, there was only one rudimentary device available for cats. Now there are so many! What was once just curiosity can now become an obsession. Everyone wants to know what their animals do when they’re on their own, out of your sight.
Most of us think we understand our cats. But there’s another part of us that realizes that our cats are independent creatures with a wild side to which we aren’t privy. It’s that part that buys a GPS! This urge to figure out the mysteries of our cats is not new. But now technology has caught up.
But to those who want to track their animals: be aware that GPS doesn’t answer everything. When I was tracking Tibia I told myself I was trying to figure out where he was wandering. But what I really wanted to know was why he was wandering. The GPS figured out the former (I also used cat cameras, pet psychics, pet detectives, and an animal communications class with varying degrees of success.) But the tracks showed a cat with a life that was much more complicated than I supposed. That was a shock. In some ways, GPS opened up more questions than it answered.
LMW: Do you have any practical advice for anyone who has lost a cat or anything you would have done differently? All cats should be micro-chipped and the information constantly updated. In our case it wouldn’t have helped (read the book to find out why), but we have since heard stories of cats gone for three years, seven years, even 13 years, who were reunited with their owners because the address on the microchip was current.
CP & WM:The rest of my advice is simple: don’t give up hope. And keep searching. We have a website of lost cat stories (http://lostcatbook.com) that show how the persistence of owners and the tenacity of cats results in happy reunions.
Often cats adopt another family, or more than one. I heard a great story about missing cat posters going up around a neighborhood, all from different families who thought they owned this one specific cat. Turns out a separate family, who also thought they were her owners, had gone on vacation and boarded her, which was why she failed to return to her many homes.
There are also good books out there about how to find a lost cat. In particular I like How to Find Your Lost Cat, Advice from a Pet Detective by Kimberley Freeman.
LMW: Cats have never been hotter culturally. Why do think that is and where might the trend be heading?
CP & WM: Cats are cute, let’s face it. And cute is perfect for the internet videos in which they so often star. They also have this aura of mystery, because they’re so inscrutable. We laugh especially hard at their antics because they’re constantly surprising us.I’m the wrong person to ask about internet trends, but I do hope it involves cat cameras and GPS.
LMW: Wendy, this experience transformed you into a cat person. How else did it change you?
WM: Animals open up your heart. That love spreads out into the world. I’m much more of a softie toward any creature, human or kitty. I’m just a better person overall for learning how to love a cat.
LMW: Caroline, what did Tibby and Fibby teach you about yourself?
CP: At the time I began to track Tibby, I’d had my cats for 13 years. They were the longest relationship of my adult life. I thought I knew them very well – Fibby was the sociable one, and her brother Tibby was shy and skittish. But when Tibby disappeared for over five weeks and then returned, fat and happy, I had to come to grips with the fact I didn’t know Tibby much at all. Who was this swashbuckling adventurer? In fact I probably didn’t know either of my cats as well as I had thought. Like our human relationships, we can’t know everything about our beloved. In the end I had to accept that love was enough.
LMW: When and how did Tibby die? What or who is new in your kitty family?
CP: Tibby died at the age of 18, just before the book came out, of renal failure. By then we had already adopted two more kittens from the pound. They looked up to him, and I think he liked that.
LMW: Are you still using a cat door?
CP & WM: We understand that there’s a big controversy about whether to let cats outdoors. We try not to get involved, but yes, we let our kitties out. But we bring them in at night. We understand the risks, and that they may wander like Tibby did. Plus we are once again under the foolish human delusion that we know our cats well and they love only us, and they’d never want to leave home for any reason at all.
Gris Gris gives Lost Cat our top rating of 4 PAWS.
To enter our giveaway to win a copy, simply leave a comment. I’d love to hear if you’ve ever lost a cat. This giveaway is open until 11:59 PM EST, June 30, 2013. If you must get yours paws on a copy pronto…
Only five days left to nominate us for a Pettie Award. Purrrrs of thanks for your continued support!