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Tue Apr 27, 2021, 12:49 PM

Why Animals Don't Get Lost

The New Yorker

One of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed involved an otherwise unprepossessing house cat named Billy. This was some years ago, shortly after I had moved into a little rental house in the Hudson Valley. Billy, a big, bad-tempered old tomcat, belonged to the previous tenant, a guy by the name of Phil. Phil adored that cat, and the cat—improbably, given his otherwise unenthusiastic feelings about humanity—returned the favor.

On the day Phil vacated the house, he wrestled an irate Billy into a cat carrier, loaded him into a moving van, and headed toward his new apartment, in Brooklyn. Thirty minutes down I-84, in the middle of a drenching rainstorm, the cat somehow clawed his way out of the carrier. Phil pulled over to the shoulder but found that, from the driver’s seat, he could neither coax nor drag the cat back into captivity. Moving carefully, he got out of the van, walked around to the other side, and opened the door a gingerly two inches—whereupon Billy shot out, streaked unscathed across two lanes of seventy-mile-per-hour traffic, and disappeared into the wide, overgrown median. After nearly an hour in the pouring rain trying to make his own way to the other side, Phil gave up and, heartbroken, continued onward to his newly diminished home.

Some weeks later, at a little before seven in the morning, I woke up to a banging at my door. Braced for an emergency, I rushed downstairs. The house had double-glass doors flanked by picture windows, which together gave out onto almost the entire yard, but I could see no one. I was standing there, sleep-addled and confused, when up onto his hind legs and into my line of vision popped an extremely scrawny and filthy gray cat.

I gaped. Then I opened the door and asked the cat, idiotically, “Are you Billy?” He paced, distraught, and meowed at the door. I retreated inside and returned with a bowl each of food and water, but he ignored them and banged again at the door. Flummoxed, I took a picture and texted it to my landlord with much the same question I had asked the cat: “Is this Billy?”

Ninety minutes later, Phil showed up at my door. The cat, who had been pacing continuously, took one look and leaped into Phil’s arms—literally hurled himself the several feet necessary to be bundled into his erstwhile owner’s chest. Phil, a six-foot-tall bartender of the badass variety, promptly started to cry. After a few minutes of mutual adoration, the cat hopped down, purring, devoured the food I had put out two hours earlier, lay down in a sunny patch of grass by the door, and embarked on an elaborate bath.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 01:10 PM

1. So I've had a cat return home from 10 miles away...

...when we moved we kept her locked in the house for over a week but when she was let out she went back and we found her a week later on the old porch while getting the rest of our stuff. A couple years ago I sold a dairy goat to a lady with terrible fences about 5 miles up the road. The doe was partially crippled with one bad leg, a birth defect. She immediately escaped and was on the lamb for a month and a half before eluding humans and coyotes to arrive back home. She's one of my best milkers now.

Here's the really puzzling one. When you move a beehive to a new location miles away the bees come out and have no problem navigating back to their box in the new place. Beekeepers move the boxes seasonally to pollinate orchards all the time in this way. But if you move the hive just a few feet like across the yard, often the bees will be completely disoriented and form a ball on the ground in the old location where their hive was with the box sitting just a couple dozen feet away. You can usually remedy this by piling some branches at the entrance that they come out of as soon as you move it. The theory is that this new obstacle causes them to take stock of their surroundings before charging off to work. Otherwise they keep returning where it used to be.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 01:43 PM

2. But animals do get lost all the time. Cats, in particular, need a while to get acquainted with a new

location before being allowed outside because they have been known to wander off never to be seen again. That seems unlikely to be a choice for a cat who has lied a long time with a family that treat it with love and affection. Dogs' amazing sense of smell perhaps mitigates against getting lost, but it has been known to happen. My parents lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains and were always taking in lost hunting dogs during hunting season. They usually have a phone number to call on their collar.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 02:14 PM

3. This was fascinating.

Thank you for sharing, brooklynite!

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 02:15 PM

4. We had a cat get out once. She was gone for several days.

Unfortunately she came back no worse for wear. And before any cat lovers get pissed, I LOVE my cats. Just not that one. My wife decided if having two cats was good four cats would be better. Turns out that isn't true...

Currently back down to two, Cheddar and Mozzarella. Usually just Chedd and Mozz.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 02:25 PM

5. question

Maybe I missed something but did Billy stay with you or go with Phil? Either way, that's one loved kitty.

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Response to sheilahi (Reply #5)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 03:09 PM

6. Yes, please let us know what happened to Billy.

Did Phil get him to ride in the car this time or did you inherit a cat?

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Tue Apr 27, 2021, 03:10 PM

7. Great story, and a lovely ending!

On the news last night, there was a story about an eagle that dropped down out of the sky into the chicken pen of this small farm, grabbed a chicken and prepare to eat it. A very sizable eagle, it pulled out a pile of feathers, but was scared off by the farm's dog, who came rocketing into the pen in full fury.

The eagle takes off, bearing the hapless chicken in its talons. The couple who own the place watched them fly out of sight, and were, predictably, kind of sad.

3 days later, the chicken shows up, heading for the food and water. Missing a BUNCH of feathers, and scarred up a little, but still fully functional. No one has an explanation as to how it escaped an eagle's dinner table, found its way who knows how far from Eagle's Nest to home, or how it managed the distance. It was not a great flyer, and was pretty banged up, so it must have either alternated the short hops its wings could managed with walking, or just walked.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Wed Apr 28, 2021, 12:59 AM

8. We had a cat that would sleep the whole way down from the cottage

to the suburbs. He would wake up as we rounded a parkway and were almost home. Every single time. Was it the curve of the road, that we were in a leafy suburb and it smelt different than the highway we were just on? Was it cat radar? The noise outside. Maybe there were a few more birds chirping?

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Thu Apr 29, 2021, 01:14 PM

9. My husband let our Siamese house cat out about a month ago. I put up fliers talked to

neighbors...drove all over without success. I finally accepted that the cat was likely gone...so sad. Well a couple of days ago, I got a call. I had put my phone number and pictures of the cat on a number of sites hoping someone had seen the cat. This nice lady said I think I have your cat. The cat was basically living in the garage of the nice lady's house as the dogs she owned didn't like cats. The house was four doors down from my house. She had been in and out of the garage but apparently didn't know our house or liked the cat treats better at the other house...well she is home again. I couldn't believe it. One poster left me a message he saw the cat in our yard but, I thought he was a crank or had seen some other cat, but he probably did see her. Alls well that ends well!

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