By Elisa Black-Taylor
A West Palm Beach, Florida cat has walked 197 miles to get home demonstrating a fantastic homing instinct. This is one of those stories I can never get enough of. It shows the love of a lost cat and its desire to be reunited with her family.
Four year old Holly, a calico cat, was lost on November 4, 2012 when her owners, Jacob and Bonnie Richter had their motor home parked in the middle of the Daytona Speedway Park. They believe Holly was scared off by fireworks and bolted from the motor home.
Holly’s family spent days putting up flyers and notifying rescue groups. Then time ran out and they had to head back to their home in West Palm Beach without their cat.
The Long Walk Home Mapped
Holly was spotted outside a Daytona Beach restaurant where feral cats show up to be fed. A rescue group spotted her and notified the Richter family. Holly was gone from the restaurant area before the family had time to make the trip to rescue her.
Last Saturday Holly showed up in the West Palm Beach garden belonging to Barb Mazzola. Holly was too weak to meow and could barely walk. She had lost a lot of weight and could barely walk.
Barb took Holly to a vet, where she was scanned for a microchip. The information came up showing she belonged to the Richters. Holly had walked to within one mile from her home, for a total of 190 miles in just over two months.
Here’s a short video describing Holly’s adventure.
Holly’s going to be fine, but will need to be fattened up after her ordeal. There are several lessons I can think of about cats that we can learn from this brave little kitty.
First of all, love of family conquers all. Holly loved her family and was determined to be rejoined with them.
Next we have the importance of microchips. Not only is it important to have our cats micro-chipped, we also need to make it understood to anyone finding a cat, that the cat should be taken to a vet or shelter and checked for a chip. Micro-chipping is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the return of a lost cat. Statistics show a 2-5% return rate for cats who are not micro-chipped, compared to 39% of cats who are. Be sure to keep the micro-chip information up to date with the provider, and have your vet scan it at each visit to ensure it’s still working.
I just have to say something about the manner in which Holly was lost. She was terrified of fireworks. I’m going to hold my tongue on that one, which is really hard for me, but I’d like to say WHAT CAT ISN’T! Fireworks and cats (or dogs) don’t go well together. My cats live indoors, and we always have to comfort them during the seasonal fireworks the neighbors shoot off. Thankfully, they’re usually over and done with in less than ten minutes. We try to offer our cats playtime and treats to distract them from the noise. I really hope Holly’s owners didn’t realize the fireworks were going to take place.
Holly’s story leads me to ask, “how did she do it?” How did she find her way home? Is this a fantastic sense of direction that a lot of humans don’t possess? Michael has a page on this: The Homing Instinct of Cats. The homing skill is dependent on the individual cat and the major factor is probably the ability of cats to sense the earth’s magnetic field. We are not sure, though.
In Holly’s case, the fact that the journey home was almost directly south might have helped using the earth’s magnetic field.
Domestic Cats Struggle in the Wild
Some people say the domestic cat can manage if simply left in the wild. A few can. Almost all cannot because they are domesticated. Holly’s loss of weight indicates the difficulties faced by domestic cats when they have to survive on their own.
In closing, I’d like to offer a bit of advice every cat lover needs to remember. Always guard the door to your home. Sometimes this can be quite difficult if your cat is a Houdini master escape artist (like our cat Gizzy). Be especially proactive on keeping your cat inside during holidays where fireworks may be set off. It takes a lot less effort to guard a door than to search the neighborhood for a terrified cat. Especially if the cat escapes a good distance from home.
Stay safe, Holly. Please don’t take any more road trips on your own.