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How Technology Helped Track A Wandering Cat

When Caroline Paul’s kitty reappeared after a long month away, she decided to figure out where he had been spending his time.

The trajectory of a tale involving missing pets involves a million harrowing emotional ups and downs–from despair to hope that everything’s okay. If you’re lucky enough to be reunited with your pet, the scene concludes with pure, unadulterated joy. The end. Right?

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Caroline Paul‘s beloved kitty Tibia took leave at a particularly tough time, when the San Francisco-based writer was in the midst of a shaky recovery from a serious accident–ankle shattered, full of morphine–while simultaneously navigating the highs of a new relationship. Then, five long weeks later, Tibby showed up again. Huzzah!

For Paul and her partner, illustrator extraordinaire Wendy MacNaughton, however, that was just the beginning of a high- to low- to no-tech quest to discover where the feline had been spending his time, all recounted with love (and a little desperation) in Lost Cat.

Though the search started with old-fashioned paper fliers and chatting with folks around the neighborhood, it should come as no surprise that the Internet played a pivotal role in sourcing their various, somewhat unconventional solutions.

Paul emailed with a psychic. She ordered a small plastic GPS device no bigger than a fun-size candy bar from a strange site “made by one man, in his garage, for cats” that traced her cat’s staccato path back and forth through the surrounding streets. And she bought a similarly makeshift CatCam, which captured blurry pics obscured by whiskers. But it wasn’t until MacNaughton overlaid the collected data into one master map that the investigation went analog again–back to paper fliers and chatting with folks around the neighborhood, this time more directed and, ultimately, more successful. Tibby just needed some space. It was nothing personal.

McNaughton says the response has been overwhelming, especially from others who have experienced the same pangs in similar circumstances. “It has sparked a huge debate between indoor and outdoor cat people,” MacNaughton says. “We had no idea there was such a rift.” The book is filled with some seriously heartbreaking (and heartwarming) moments, but is ultimately a testament to adoration in all its human and animal forms.

Check out the Lost Cat site for tons more shared lost cat stories and purchase a copy of Lost Cat for $13.99 here.

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