Willow the Cat is the Talk of the Town

September 23, 2011 | By | Comments (2)
Willow the Calico Cat From Colorado Who Traveled Over 1,500 Miles to NY

Willow the Cat. Photo from Animal Care & Control of NYC.

Yes it’s true, everyone’s been buzzing and now purring about this calico cat and her cross-country journey of some 1,800 miles from Colorado to New York. She’s not the first creature beckoned by the bright lights of the big city — was she seeking fame, fortune, a book deal? — but boy did she achieve instant celebrity status! Apparently this savvy cat has been well-versed in cross-media strategies as she’s scored coverage in print, television (TODAY, Anderson Cooper’s new show, Anderson), online (Gothamist), social networks (she has a Facebook page, natch!) and the list goes on…

As a native New Yorker, I can’t say I’m surprised the Big Apple was on her bucket list. Mayor Bloomberg quipped, “Now, cats reputedly have nine lives, and he clearly wanted to spend at least one of them here in New York City. I just don’t know what he was waiting for.” OK, so Bloomberg didn’t realize Willow was female. Perhaps he hadn’t met her face-to-face — she’s a femme fatale! The fetching feline appeared to be healthy and to even have put on a few pounds. No “social x-ray” from The Bonfire of the Vanities, she! Must have been the fine dining options and high-quality drinking water of this cosmopolitan locale.

Joking aside, this is a pet parent’s worst nightmare. Willow was missing from the Squires’ home for five. long. years. They thought she was never coming back. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from this initial tale of loss and recent reunification:

1) Know where your pet is at all times. This is especially important when things are different, such as when guests are visiting or work is being done in your house. Ms. Squires says that Willow ran out of their home during their bathroom renovation. There were people coming in and out and the door had been left ajar.

2)  Always have a collar and ID tags on your pet. It’s brutal to hear, and “hindsight is always 20/20,” but according to Dr. Emily Weiss, Ph.D, CAAB and Vice President of Shelter Research and Development at the ASPCA, “Willow might have been home for dinner and not five years later.”

3) Microchip your pet. The Squires were smart to do this. Ms. Squires has said that if she could microchip her kids, she would! (via The Associated Press) In the end, as anyone who has followed Willow’s story knows, the scanner used by Animal Care & Control of NYC revealed Willow’s identification code and thus who Willow’s family was, making reunification possible.

4) Keep your information current with the microchipping service you use. The Squires responsibly made sure to update their information when they moved. I’d wager that most people don’t manage to do this.

5) It’s not over ’til the fat lady cat sings (and I’m certainly not calling Willow fat, just paying homage to an operatic expression to suggest that people not abandon hope prematurely).

The ASPCA recently researched usage of pet IDs and found there was a disconnect between what people think and what they do.  That is, 80 percent of pet owners believe ID tags are either “very” or “extremely important,” yet only about 30 percent report the tags always being in place. “It’s human behavior,” says Dr. Weiss. “We know we should change our smoke alarm battery once every year, and the same with recycling, but unless we make it easy for people, they tend not to do it.”

Dr. Weiss offers the following tips for pet tags:

  • List your cell phone vs. your landline, as you’re more likely to keep that number if you move.
  • List multiple phone numbers, and consider including contact info for someone you’re close with who’s readily reachable.
  • Strive for good contrast between the writing and the color of the tag.

For Willow, the microchip and the kindness of strangers along the way saved the day.

Have you been following Willow’s travels? How do you think she’ll adjust to being back home? And have your pets ever given you a similar scare?