ENGLAND/SINGAPORE – Do cats truly have nine lives? Tips the Egyptian Mau was separated from her family for almost two years after escaping from her box upon arrival at Changi Airport. However, now after 21 months of living “in the wild”, she was brought home.
Back in September 2014, the Hager family had been looking forward to settling into Singapore with their two cats, Emmie and Tips, after relocating from all the way from the United Kingdom. But at the time, none of it was meant to be.
Tips the cat had arrived at Changi Airport from Britain, but somehow or another managed to escape from her carrier. Despite an intense search, she remained under the radar.
That tragic day is still fresh in 15-year-old Katie Hager’s memory.
“Dad got a call after dinner, saying ‘We have only one cat.’ They didn’t know which cat it was. ‘We only know where one cat is; she somehow got out’,” Katie recalls. “We got the two carriers (later), one with Emmie in it, the other with the door hanging open – which was pretty awful to see.
“Everything you can think of, we felt it. We weren’t getting information. People weren’t able to tell us what had happened, or who we could ask, who would know, or who was responsible. There was nothing we could do,” stated Katie’s mother, Victoria Hager.
Mrs. Hager recounted that losing Tips was particularly frustrating as she did not know exactly which organizations she could approach. In the end, she sought out animal shelters, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), as well as some animal groups on Facebook.
“We gave them photos, descriptions, and Tips’ microchip number – thank goodness we did,” explained Mrs. Hager, with a smile of relief.
“WE WERE HOPING FOR MONTHS”
The Hagers held onto the hope that Tips might, miraculously somehow, be picked up – but even that began to fade away as time went by.
“We were hoping for months, but it sort of got to the point where we figured that she wasn’t going to come home. We stopped trying – it felt so awful to get so many no’s,” Katie stated.
Mrs. Hager went on to say that the family found out the airport area had been fogged soon after Tips’ escape and just assumed she had been caught in that and died as a result.
Tips’ disappearance hit the Hagers quite hard, but none more so than Katie, who had developed a special bond with her.
“Tips was very, very strongly bonded with Katie. She’d sleep with Katie almost every night – they were a pair,” stated Mrs. Hager.
Katie – who has two brothers, one of whom proudly declares he is truly not a “cat person” – lit up when talking about her history with Tips. One particular memory stands out for them – a faint scar Tips left on her face, barely noticeable until pointed out.
“I was sort of messing around with her one day, and she tends to swipe with her claws, so she got my face,” Katie explained. “At first, I hated it, but when we didn’t have her, it was the only thing I had left – just this little scar.”
A MIRACULOUS RETURN
Then, on Jun 27, 2016, Mrs. Hager got a call from the AVA while driving home. Not knowing who it was who rang, she brushed it aside and simply forgot about it, until she read a text message and email sent by the AVA as well, informing her that Tips had been found.
After making arrangements to pick Tips up the very next morning, both herself and Mr. Hager decided to keep the phone conversation a complete secret from their children until they saw Tips in the flesh.
However, when Mrs. Hager and her pet were reunited, there was no mistaking it – it was definitely Tips.
“Absolutely, it’s her,” Mrs. Hager stated about all the first ran through her mind upon setting eyes on Tips. “She mewed at us, and she just looked so amazing. We expected her to look scruffy, moth-eaten, flea-ridden, dirty – but she looks terrific! She looks the picture of health.”
Apparently, Tips – who is now five – had been well taken care of.
“They said the community feeders in Changi had been feeding her. A disturbance had been reported around that place, pest control was called. They rounded up a bunch of cats and Tips was one of them!” Mrs. Hager explained, with obvious delight.
Katie, on the other hand, was in a state of utter disbelief when she heard that Tips was finally home. “I got up and started crying for 20 minutes,” she admitted. “It felt like a dream. It didn’t feel real at all.”
The only reminder of Tips’ time away is a bit of weight loss. Now back in England, she was “a tear drop shape of a cat”, but Tips is now pretty lean and muscly.
The feline, who was adopted from an Egyptian shelter soon after she was born, indeed seems to have nine lives. Tips wasn’t even expected to survive before her adoption, and now, she has lived to be the centre of yet another miraculous tale.
Tips, who had never been in the Hagers’ Singapore residence, has settled in surprisingly well in her first 24 hours home. She pranced all around the room and climbed up and down the furniture – the table, chair, and bed – with ease, seeking out Katie and Mrs. Hager to try and capture their attention occasionally.
“We opened (her carrier), she walked out, walked onto (Mr. Hager’s) lap, rubbed her face on his beard – which is something she always used to do – turned around, curled up and settled down. Within 20 seconds, she was curled up on his lap,” noted Mrs. Hager.
“We thought she might be completely feral. She remembered him. It was amazing! Usually, you send them to a cattery for two weeks, they come back and ignore you!”
After this incident took place, the Hager family claimed they would be hesitant to put their cats on a plane. “We would be very reluctant to fly the cats anywhere again, but we would if the alternative was to give them away,” added Mrs. Hager.
She also had one takeaway from the whole episode. “This is the ultimate tale of telling people, ‘Get your pets microchipped!” Because without that, we would never, ever have gotten her back.”
The Hagers have declined to name the airline which lost their cat, only saying they are “absolutely delighted” to have the beloved member of their family back with them, even if her cheeky side annoys them sometimes.
Mrs. Hager recounted: “I had one funny moment – she was meowing and meowing upstairs, and she was weaving at my feet, nearly tripping me up. I remembered how annoying she could be.”
“It’s like she never left!” Katie giggled, with a laugh.