Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cat came back: 14 years later

Tattoo helps return wayward orange tabby to its family

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The cat came back. They thought it was a goner.The cat came back the very next... Well, not exactly.

Fourteen years ago, the Kerger family's three-year-old orange tabby wandered away from their Lockport-area house.

Last week, she arrived at their new home in Winnipeg.

It's hard to know how many lives Tiger Lily used up during this meow miracle.

"We thought a fox got her," Ingrid Kerger said Monday. "She just disappeared. We put up posters but she was never returned."

The cat spent time both indoors and out. She was a wanderer, says Kerger.

The cat liked to cuddle with Mark and Richard, Kerger's now-adult sons. She's got a picture of eight-year-old Richard sleeping with his face next to Tiger Lily's.

The family has no idea how the cat spent her 14 years on the lam.

"If only she could talk, what a story," laughs Kerger.

She marked the day of the cat's disappearance (Oct. 12, 1996) in her Bible.

Tiger Lily didn't track the Kergers down on her own. She had considerable help.

Ingrid Kerger made sure her cat was spayed and had an ear tattoo. The puss was essentially carrying ID.

That didn't help her get reunited with her family, not in 1996 and not after they moved to Winnipeg. The happy ending required the kindness of strangers.

Last week, Kerger got a call from the Oakbank Animal Hospital. They wanted to know if she'd ever lived in Lockport. A staff member had found an elderly tabby and checked her tattoo. That led them to Kerger's old address.

They then tracked her down in Winnipeg.

"I was just in shock when they called."

She sent her 23-year-old son, Richard, to claim Tiger Lily. He carried a picture of boy and cat taken when he was eight.

"My sons were just incredulous."

The clinic rescued Tiger Lily, gave her IV therapy for dehydration and took care of her until the family could be found.

She was thin and smelled of diesel fuel. The clinic gave her a bed and started feeding her.

They didn't charge for their services.

Since she's been home, Tiger Lily is eating everything in sight.

Kerger said a Good Samaritan may have accidentally moved the cat away from its home.

"Sometimes people will pick up a stray and drive it somewhere else. They don't have any idea where they are. If I'm putting up posters in Lockport and she's somewhere else we'll never be reunited."

Kerger credits Tiger Lily's survival to the fact she was spayed.

"Imagine if she'd been out there all this time having litter after litter. She wouldn't have lasted."

She's pretty sure the cat knows she's back with family.

"I'd like to think she does. The very first night (back with the family) she did sleep with Richard."

Tiger Lily knew she had a good thing going when she first lived with the family.

"She was a real favourite. In the country, strays come and go. She would want to sleep with the boys and so she was nice."

Tiger Lily might be the star attraction but she's not the only pet in the house. Kerger's got two other cats, one 18 and the other 15, as well as an aging diabetic dog.

But this is one special, well-travelled tabby.

Why? Because the cat came back. It just couldn't stay away.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2010 B1

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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