The search for Oscar, the large 11-year-old cat that fell from his owner’s ship in Prince Rupert, lasted a month.
Jack and Judy Cossette, who are from Royalton, Minnesota, took their household cat on their boat trip from Blaine, Washington to Juneau, Alaska. Oscar had never been on a boat before, and on July 16, when the couple were docked at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club, he went missing.
Jack, was chatting with another boater about his electronic navigation chart in the evening, and Judy was below deck with Oscar.
“I was reading and I told Oscar, ‘I’m tired let’s go to bed.’ This is our routine. He follows me into the bedroom. He kneads on me. He’s my baby,” Judy said. Then she fell asleep and Oscar escaped when Jack opened the door of the boat. She thinks that when Oscar was out on deck he was somehow knocked into the water.
When she couldn’t find Oscar in the morning she had a sinking feeling when she saw some of his fur on the deck of the boat. She started searching, asking if anyone had seen her cat.
“I thought, he’s dead. You can’t stay forever, you have to get going. We had a destination to go to. That day, when we pulled out of there it was such a sick feeling that I had abandoned my baby. I cried for two days,” she said.
When the couple went through customs in Ketchikan the officer asked what happened to the cat they had declared to enter Canada. The woman they spoke to was a cat lover, and she had a friend who works for Alaska ferries, and the networking began. The officer got all of Oscar’s information from Judy and then she spread the word across Prince Rupert.
Meanwhile, after a week of Oscar’s disappearance, the harbour master from Prince Rupert called Judy and said someone had seen the cat under a grate at the dock. They had freed him, and thought he’d go home not realizing his home was in Minnesota.
A couple cat lovers in Prince Rupert, Wendy Henley and Myles Moreau, heard about Oscar and went on a mission to help find the missing cat. The couple handed out posters in Cow Bay and made trips to the marina calling for Oscar but there was no sign of him.
Nearly a month passed, and there was little hope for Oscar whose front feet are declawed, giving him less of a chance to defend himself or catch food. Then, on Aug. 13, a post went up on the Prince Rupert Pets Facebook group.
“This cat has spent all day on our porch and he’s still here (5th east across from Lax Kxeen). Tag says Oscar. Belong to you?”
The next day, Henley picked up Oscar and brought him to the BC SPCA where he was offered compassionate (free) boarding until arrangements were made to reunite the pet with his owners. The manager of the BC SPCA Gerry Whittle said that the cat was skinny and had a bladder infection, but it was amazing that this very large yet thin cat survived Kaien Island’s wilderness.
“Oscar is very lovable. He eats up a storm, sleeps a lot and is quite the social butterfly,” Whittle said.
The BC SPCA’s Amy Stacey got in touch with Judy who was beside herself. “He’s declawed, how in the world, just by the grace of God, how he endured and swam, or how he even climbed up there I have no idea, and after all that time,” she said.
With the help of her kids, Judy booked flights to Ketchikan to meet her long lost cat. On Aug. 20, volunteers helped Oscar board the Alaskan ferry in the morning and he arrived in Ketchikan to meet Judy. The customs officer met Judy and made up a sign that read “Oscar is going home.”
A few days after Oscar made it home, Judy said he is doing well and is even putting on a bit of weight.
She is grateful for everyone in the area who helped bring her cat back to her.