A reunion four years in the making

Photo by Dan Koehler

Rachel Switalski, daughter of Donna McDonald, and their family cat Waffles in the kitchen of their home.

The cat came back, just not the very next day.

This was the case for the McDonald family, who lost their family cat only to have it returned to them four years later.

The cat Puff, renamed to Waffles upon being returned, went missing from the family’s Chatsworth Crescent home in Whitby one night in 2012.

“She was an outside cat, and very tough, so we didn’t worry too much in the beginning,” said Donna McDonald, Waffles’ owner.

As time went by she realized that Waffles might not be coming back.

With coyotes in the area, a common predator to stray cats, the family feared the worst but put up signs around the neighbourhood and posted an ad online.

“We just assumed she was eaten by a larger animal,” said McDonald.  “We played it down with the kids until she had been gone a few weeks.”

It wasn’t until over four years later they were contacted by someone who thought they might have found Waffles.

“We were contacted online by someone who saw her face on a lost and found website for pets,” said McDonald.  “We were all pretty excited.”

The McDonald family wasn’t alone in their struggle to find their missing cat and even though Waffles was returned home, this is not the case for many unfortunate pet owners.

According the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, in 2014 over 80,000 cats were brought in to shelters across the country, and 53 per cent of them were strays.  Out of the 40,000 strays that were brought in, only 4.5 per cent actually returned to their guardians.

The United States shares a similar scenario with 70 million stray cats living in the country.

When a cat goes missing in the Durham Region, they sometimes end up at the Whitby Animal Services Centre.  The centre posts photos of all the animals brought into their care on their website.  To retrieve a lost pet the owner must have proof of ownership, pay the pick-up fees and any pound fees, and must verify proof of an I.D. tag and up-to-date rabies vaccination.

For the McDonald family, they are just happy to have their beloved pet home.

“She is very affectionate so it is nice,” said McDonald.  “Bentley (the family’s other cat) does his own thing and doesn’t really require any attention, it’s a nice change.”

McDonald also said Waffles days of freedom outside are now ‘totally over’.

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Dan is a second-year journalism student at Durham College, who enjoys writing about music, the environment, politics, and opinion pieces. He also hosts a show on Riot Radio and works as a volunteer technician. Dan loves spending time at his cottage and has a wide array of unusual pets, including reptiles and arachnids. In the future he hopes to work for a radio station while doing freelance photography.