Debbie Auer grabbed her big blue cloth “cat patrol bag” every night for two months to wander the streets of South Milwaukee around midnight looking for her lost cat, Kitty.
Hand warmers, cat treats, extra gloves and a can of pepper spray from her husband, Frank, filled the bag. Auer said cats often were most mobile at night, so she’d search for a few hours and then go home to get some broken sleep.
Auer said “it was scary” going out so late, but she never missed a night. Sometimes she’d go out again the next morning.
Frank Auer said after a few months he was losing hope.
“I was ready to bail on this, but Deb wouldn’t,” he said. “She and others were emphatic about not giving up.”
Recently, Debbie Auer was able to get her first full night sleep in months because on Dec. 20 a Christmas miracle happened: Kitty and Debbie were reunited.
“It was like a dream, like I was in a fog,” Debbie Auer said. “I was just so happy. It’s a miracle especially with all the coyotes around.”
After weeks without a sighting, Kitty started showing up in the area and a neighbor sent pictures via Facebook Messenger of a cat that looked like him. Debbie Auer said she tried to catch him, but he would run scared.
“I was bound and determined,” she said.
Cat carrier in one hand and fresh tuna in the other, Debbie Auer set up the carrier with the tuna inside and hid nearby. Kitty entered the carrier and, when he tried to run back out, the door was “tripped” and he was caught.
The couple first rescued Kitty from the Humane Society
This wasn’t the first time the Auers rescued their furry family member.
Kitty is a 9½-year-old calico black and white domestic cat the couple rescued from the Wisconsin Humane Society when he was just a kitten. There he was known as “Mighty Mouse,” but the Auer’s weren’t a fan of the name. While figuring out a new one they just called him Kitty and eventually that just stuck.
Before he got out — the Auer’s still don’t know how it happened — Kitty had never left the house. Debbie Auer said her husband was up north on Oct. 22 and she had left the house to babysit her grandchildren. When she got home Kitty wasn’t there.
Frank Auer said they made laminated flyers and “plastered (them) all over.” He’s retired and said his wife doesn’t work so they made finding Kitty “a top priority.”
“We really threw our lives into it,” he said.
The Auers put the flyers up in South Milwaukee, Oak Creek and Cudahy. They also put 400 index cards into local mailboxes. Debbie Auer left Kitty’s litter box on the front porch and put some clothing over their fence in hopes Kitty would be able to detect the scent.
Additionally, she checked the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission and the Humane Society every week. Frank Auer said Milwaukee-based nonprofit animal shelter Second Hand Purrs was very helpful and kept them motivated to look for Kitty and hold out hope.
In all, the Auers got about a dozen leads to Kitty’s whereabouts.
“I’d like to thank everyone for all their help and their leads,” Debbie Auer said.
They ended up with a lot more than just leads, however. The couple found many passionate pet owners willing to help and made new friendships. Frank Auer said in the area where Kitty was found, a wooded hillside, “cats have free reign” and they are “somewhat protected and fed.”
“There’s an underground of people I never knew who care for these cats,” he said.
About four days before the reunion, the Auers put up their Christmas tree. It was difficult because it was always “Kitty’s tree,” Debbie Auer said.
“He always sleeps under it,” she said. “He would meow and yell for the tree when we took it down.”
The couple finally decided to put the tree up for their grandchildren. Little did they know, Kitty would be able to enjoy it, too. Frank Auer said it made the kids’ Christmas more magical that Kitty came home.
“(Kitty) lost a lot of weight and he has to readjust,” Debbie Auer said. “We took him to the vet right away and he was OK thank goodness. We’re still getting him to gain weight. I just hope he never gets out again.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: South Milwaukee woman reunited with lost cat just before Christmas