COLLEYVILLE, TEXAS – When her father died last year, animal lover Connie Ziegler Stout was only too happy to be able to add his three cats and dog Mollie to her menagerie.
While they were being acclimated to her home, Stout housed the California-reared cats in an upstairs bathroom.
One morning she went to greet them to find the bathroom window that had been cracked slightly to give them fresh air had been forced open by one pet and two of the cats were gone.
What she is now calling “a miracle” with help from an outpouring of support from the community led to the recovery of both cats three nights apart on Rose Street nearly a mile away.
Heidi Rose and Momma Kitty Misty Rose — their new last names were added simply to honor the street where they were found on Jan. 9 and Jan. 12 — were hungry and exhausted when recovered, but both bounced back quickly.
“It was amazing how all these people who didn’t know me helped,” Stout stated. “There were all these people coming out of the woodwork. This whole thing turned out really good.”
It was an amazing journey for the critters which began when their owner, 81-year-old Horst Ziegler, died last year.
Stout, a flight attendant with American Airlines, knew she had to adopt the pets which belonged to a man she said had a soft spot for all animals and taught her to love them, too.
“My dad loved his animals so much that we had to bring them here,” Stout confessed.
Due to some travel restrictions, she and her husband Joe had to make several trips to get them. They went together on the first venture and then brought home Felix the cat and Mollie the dog.
Juggling their efforts with their jobs, Joe went back the next day for one cat and consequently, Connie the next.
All four of the animals celebrated the start of 2016 together. It was a welcoming home where the cat-loving couple had set up for their other pets a game room turned into a cat paradise complete with cat towers, cubes, shelves and toys.
The three new cats were all put in a bathroom while they got used to the household. One Sunday morning, Stout went upstairs with Mollie to visit. To her dismay, only Felix — the lone male cat — was still in the room.
“The window was open really wide,” Stout stated. “My heart went to the ground. I had never lost a cat before and now I had lost my father’s cats. I was supposed to watch for my dad’s animals and here I let them down.”
She assumed that the California cats would not realize to stay near their new home. She even worried that they might take off searching somehow for her father’s home.
Stout had quite a bit of experience to drawn upon to locate the missing cats. For many years, she’s volunteered with Mid-Cities Community Cats, whose mission is to educate the community about the benefits of trapping, neutering and vaccinating cats and returning them to their neighborhoods.
“Animals don’t have a voice so we have to be a voice for them,” she stated.
Stout began calling area animal shelters — many which she knew personally. She also made fliers and posted them. She flooded the Internet, including lost and found pet sites.
One inquiry led her right to Mona Gandy, spokeswoman for the city of Colleyville. And so, she found a fellow cat lover who was eager to help.
“I’m a big cat person,” Gandy admitted.
Gandy helped get traps put out on city sites, including the city’s service center. City employees also began searching for the errant felines.
The notice of the missing cats was even posted on the city’s Facebook page. She said the traffic was huge.
“We had high engagement,” Gandy stated. “It was some of our best numbers.”
Efforts led to a massive online outpouring of support and neighborhood search. Neighbors and even strangers turned out to do neighborhood “walks.” About a dozen people even did walks on a consecutive Saturday and Sunday.
People were calling Stout and even knocking on her door to see just how they could help. Her plea reached people who lived even many miles away.
“All these people were looking,” the flight attendant stated, adding that she spent every waking hour — and there were a lot of them because she couldn’t sleep — looking for Misty and Heidi.
Stout used some traps from her charitable organization. As the days passed, they trapped five cats which were neutered and even a fox.
But none of them were her calico and her light gray “muted torti” cats.
A “random call” from a man who had learned of her plight from a flier said that he saw a calico cat wandering around his home eight-tenths of a mile from Stout’s home on Janet Lane. He also agreed to let her put a trap on his porch.
When she went back to check on the trap, voila! Her calico cat was there!
“I said, ‘Oh my God. It’s her. I can’t believe it,’<TH>” Stout stated. “It was just a miracle.”
People told her that she should be happy one cat was at home but Stout responded that was “not good enough for me.”
Encouraged by the luck of finding one cat on Rose, Stout then found people who let her set up three of her 12 traps on that street. She put those all out in the early evening on a Tuesday — almost leaving off the last one because she was so exhausted.
Then, because the forecast showed it was going to get extremely chilly that night, she went out to “close” the traps for the night so an animal wouldn’t get caught and freeze during the night.
It was 10 p.m. when she finally got to the last trap on Rose.
“I heard a rustling and thought it was a feral cat,” Stout stated.
She used the light on her cellphone and saw that the coloring looked like that of her other missing cat, but was afraid to be too optimistic. She called her husband and said to him, “Joe, I’m not sure.”
Stout brought the trap home and took it right to the bathroom, where the window was now securely locked.
Mollie came in to check and immediately began sniffing and showing some signs of recognition. Stout let the cat out. Misty and Mollie began bumping heads in excitement to see each other and Mollie gave her old friend a good licking.
Stout now plans to microchip her new family and get them collars with their names and identifying information.
“I told them they were not going to get lost again,” she stated.
There was, however, a bright note to the scary ordeal.
“I got to meet a lot of wonderful animal people,” Stout admitted.
Gandy said that the search united animal lovers far and wide.
“The reach on the two posts for those missing kitties was 13,520 and the posts were shared 237 times,” Gandy stated. “Watching those numbers go up [after the first cat was found] was like watching people’s hope go up.
“Heidi came home, maybe Mama Kitty would, too — with just one more share or one more ‘like.’ People were really pulling for her to come home. And, it really did work.”
Gandy said that absolutely everyone was thrilled with the outcome.
Said the city spokeswoman, “We’re just so happy they’re home.”