Courtesy of Margaret Kudzma
Throughout her six-year wait to find Mini Max, Kudzma and her nonprofit, The Rescue Business, cared for countless feral and lost cats in her neighborhood. Although she helped countless other lost cats with their owners, Kudzma kept hoping for the call she was longing to hear.
Kudzma was at home in her third-floor condo in Peabody, Mass., six years ago when she heard a rustling noise coming from her bedroom. Even though she quickly ran to the room to see what happened, it was too late. She looked out the open window and saw the fallen screen on the ground. But there was no Mini Max to be found.
"I just went into a full-fledged panic and started immediately searching for him," Kudzma tells Daily Paws.
Kudzma did everything humanly possible to find her lost cat. She put together a list of all the non-profit rescue organizations and clinics in her area, printed fliers, posted on social media, talked to neighbors, ran newspaper ads, and even hired a pet detective and pet psychic to find her lost kitty. Despite all her efforts, nothing worked to bring Mini Max home.
In Kudzma's search for Mini Max, she created a personalized map on Google Maps to track every location where there was a sighting of a gray-and-white cat. She hoped to discover the direction Mini Max was traveling or a specific area to focus her search efforts. But instead of finding her own cat, Kudzma discovered dozens of feral cat colonies throughout her city.
"I was shocked how many cats live right under my nose," Kudzma says.
Upon that realization, she focused her efforts on her nonprofit and began feeding, caring for, and rescuing feral cats in her city as well as educating residents who fed them. Kudzma tells Daily Paws many people who feed feral cats outside their door don't know about cat colonies or trap, neuter, return, a practice to protect and gradually reduce feral cat populations.
Kudzma never truly gave up looking for Mini Max, but she instead channeled her energy into helping other cats through The Rescue Business.
"It kind of helped me get through because I was so devastated by [Mini Max] going missing … I felt so responsible," Kudzma says.
This month, after six years, Kudzma finally received the phone call she had been dreaming of. A veterinarian in a nearby town had treated a gray-and-white cat for ear mites. The vet scanned the kitty and found Mini Max's microchip—connected to Kudzma's name and contact information.
"I couldn't believe it ... I heard her say microchip and gray and white, and I had to put the phone down," Kudzma says.
Mini Max was missing for the majority of his life, so Kudzma isn't sure if he recognized her right away. But the moment the two reunited, Kudzma saw the little black dot on Mini Max's nose and knew it was him.
Kudzma was told Mini Max had been fed by the family who brought him to the vet, but it's unclear how he made it to their neighborhood, which is almost 10 miles from Kudzma's home, or how long he stayed there.
Before Mini Max comes home, Kudzma is having him undergo a full checkup to ensure he's healthy and doesn't have any internal injuries from his initial jump. In the meantime, Kudzma is preparing her condo—where she's currently fostering cats—to safely welcome Mini Max back to his home and his two siblings he was adopted with.
Kudzma tells Daily Paws she hopes Mini Max's story will both inspire pet parents to get their animals microchipped and properly help stray cats in their areas.
"If anyone is feeding a cat at their door, please call a nonprofit so they can scan it and see if it has a home," Kudzma says. "There's a lot of cats out there that need help."