Uni a chubby cheeked British Short Hair with a shy but inquisitive nature, stares down at me from the steps of the kitty platform and I offer her my hand. She gives it a cursory sniff before pushing first one cheek and then the other into my palm over and over again. Not for the first time I notice the tiny slither of fur on the top of her head that has grown back defiantly white. It covers a small scar, the only physical reminder of her recent misadventure.
It was chilly winter morning when I received a frantic call from Julia, Uni’s owner. Uni hadn’t returned home the night before and Julia and her husband Tobias had been out all night searching for her. David, one of our cat boarders and a massive Uni fan, and myself quickly joined the search party.
Armed with a pile of ‘Lost Cat’ posters and a bag of Uni’s favourite treats we headed out. Uni’s home is in a small row of terraced houses with gardens that back onto each other. Her territory consists of the few adjoining gardens that she shares in a tumultuous relationship with the neighbour’s little black cat. She loves to explore the garden but is always home in time for tea. The tiniest shake of her favourite treats and within seconds she is bursting through the cat flap and staring up at you expectantly.
We talked to neighbours and plastered posters liberally around the streets. Lots of people recognised Uni, and told us about favourite trees she liked to climb or places she liked to sit. We searched gardens, looked in sheds, basements and bushes, under cars up trees and talked our way onto local building sites. We shook treats and chimed a spoon against Uni’s food bowl as we walked. Soon a small band of local cats, hypnotised by the sound of the treats, were following us everywhere forming a strange procession behind us.
Back home Uni was registered as lost with the łocal vets, animal sanctuaries and online organisations. Julia and Tobias contacted a pet detective who arrived a few days later with his highly trained sniffer dog and traversed the neighbours gardens hunting for Uni's scent.
The days turned into weeks and although we tried to remain optimistic the temperature outside had dropped to below freezing. Julia and Tobias continued with twice daily searches replacing worn posters and talking to neighbours. David and I were kept updated with occasional but fruitless leads and our hearts broke to think of Uni lost, hungry and cold.
Then three weeks later at 6am I received a call from Julia. She had been walking the street that morning, a now familiar sight at 5am, gently calling Uni’s name when she thought she heard a faint meow. She stopped and listened, it was definitely a meow coming from beneath a parked car. Julia peered underneath the car and although she couldn’t see a cat the meow was louder. Then through a small hole in the bottom of the car she glimpsed Uni. Unable to believe her eyes and desperate to free her, Julia tried to find the owner of the car, and when she couldn't called emergency services.
When David and I arrived Julia had been laying on the floor between parked cars for at least 40 minutes, talking to Uni and feeding her drops of water through a tiny gap in the bottom of the car. We tried again to find the owner of the car, and when we couldn’t, tried free her ourselves. To our surprise an Alan key for my bicycle fitted the bolts that held the bottom of the car in place. David held the torch and Julia loosened the bolts, I crouched like a goalkeeper ready in case Uni shot out of the car and made a run for it.
We needn't have worried about her running away, when Uni pushed her way to freedom she was blinded by the daylight, bedraggled and half starved. Her back legs had seized up and the bottom of her fur was soaked in urine.
Back at home Uni drunk water thirstily, directly from the tap. She showed her appreciation to her rescuers by purring and rubbing around each one of our legs in turn. We were euphoric and once we were sure Uni was ok, Julia and I returned to the car and made sure the bolts were back in place and the bottom of the car was secure. Uni went to the vets that day and recovered quickly. We have no idea how long Uni was trapped in the bottom of the car and can only imagine the events that led up to it.
Although the euphoria has passed, whenever I look at Uni curled up in a ball sleeping or jumping in the air trying to catch her favourite toy I can't help but smile. A healthy happy cat, even more loving now than before she went missing. As well as the new sprout of hair atop her head she now sports a GPS collar that allows Julia and Tobias to track her movements should they ever be brave enough to let her out into the garden again.
Below is a link to a video of Uni’s first drink of water after being trapped in the car
Uni's First Drink