Northwest Colorado cat cheats death
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Berry family thought their cat had been dead for months when Sheba returned home.
The Berrys had Sheba for 13 years since adopting her from a “crazy cat lady” who had rescued the cat from a shelter that euthanizes animals in Florida. They estimate she’s about 17 years old, though Lisa Berry jokes that Sheba’s had “more than her share of nine lives.”
About a day later, a neighbor came over and said Sheba had been hit by a car. They had brought over what they believed were Sheba’s remains in a plastic bag.
“I just assumed it was my cat,” Berry said. “There are not that many people living in the area where we live, and my cat hadn’t come home. Of course, I didn’t look in the bag or anything, so that was that. I told my family and the kids, and we mourned the loss of our kitty.”
A few months later, Berry decided to donate Sheba’s bowls, litter box and food to the Routt County Humane Society. While she waited to speak to a receptionist, she noticed a photo hanging on the wall of a tabby cat, Abigail, who was described as a 5-year-old cat available for adoption that was being treated for a thyroid illness. Abigail had been at the shelter for at least four months.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, that looks like Sheba,’” she said. “But it kind of threw me off. I was a little bit freaked out, so I didn’t say anything right then. I left. I dropped my stuff off, and I left.”
Later though, she called the Humane Society to ask about the cat’s age and whether it had a microchip. A while later, Humane Society staff returned her call.
“I had said ‘I think that’s my cat, but she’s been gone, and she’s certainly not 5 years old,’” Berry said. “Long story short, after some investigation, they realized, she did have a chip that I had not updated, which is a key thing here.”
The out-of-date microchip was connected to the Berry’s Florida phone number, which was out of service.
“With her story, we were all just blown away,” said Routt County Humane Society Shelter Manager Mikhaila Hobbs. “We felt bad for her. She was here for a long time. She had a few health issues, but nothing serious, and to see her finally go home with her family, we were like ‘Oh my god!’ That’s just the best story we’ve ever heard. I mean for anybody, it’s super heartwarming.”
While reunions are frequent at the Humane Society — Hobbs said about 90% of animals are reunited with their owners in Steamboat — these reunions between owners and pets that have been separated for months happen a few times a year.
“It was just a weird, crazy story: the fact that I got her back at her old, grandma age, and that once again, she survived another round of cat life,” Berry said.
Now, the Berry family is treating Sheba for her hyperthyroidism. She follows Berry around. She sleeps at the foot of the bed, and even in the middle of the night, if Berry gets up, Sheba will wake up with her to follow her to the bathroom.
“I think she feels like she doesn’t want to get lost again,” Berry said.
Pet owners can take steps to be sure they’ll be reunited with their lost pet, according to Steamboat Springs Animal Control and the Humane Society:
- Avoid letting your pet roam free. Both cats and dogs are not allowed to roam free within Steamboat Springs city limits, explained Steamboat Animal Control Officer Krista Amatuzio.
- Get your pet licensed annually and be sure to keep the tag on their collar. Licenses cost $5 for animals that are spayed or neutered and $25 for unaltered animals. Citations for having an animal at large can result in a $75 ticket, and a ticket for an unlicensed pet will cost you $25.
- Be sure your pet is wearing a collar and tags with its pet license and your contact information on it.
- Get your pet micro-chipped, and be sure to keep the chip’s registration up to date, especially if you move. Some microchip companies charge for upkeep of a microchip registration, so Hobbs suggests registering your pet at foundanimals.org, a microchip database that is free to register, use and update.
- Be sure your animal is up to date on its rabies vaccine. If your animal isn’t up to date on its rabies vaccine, it won’t be released, Amatuzio said.
Beyond just following the law, Amatuzio recommends keeping cats indoors, on a leash on your property or using a “catio” or other outdoor enclosure to protect your cat and other animals. They can create a nuisance for neighbors by stalking bird feeders, digging in gardens or marking territory, she said.
“It’s such a safety risk with cars, traffic, wildlife, especially when it comes to domestic cats,” she said. “Domestic cats are also extremely detrimental to our migrating bird population.”
If you find a stray animal, you can bring the animal to the Routt County Humane Society’s shelter at 760 Critter Court, or contact Steamboat Springs or Routt County’s Animal Control officers by dialing Routt County Communications at 970-879-1110. Officers can help reconnect stray animals to their owners or bring them to the Humane Society.
The Humane Society attempts to reunite animals and their owners using newspaper advertisements, calls reporting found animals to local law enforcement and social media.
If you’ve lost an animal, check the shelter, either in person or online. Hobbs said the Oak Creek Police Department contracts with the shelter located at Bear Creek Animal Hospital in Craig, so if you live in the Oak Creek area, check there, too.
Hobbs also suggests searching and posting in area Facebook groups and putting up fliers in your neighborhood, adding that most of the time, animals don’t stray too far.