Forces rally to capture Charlie, the accidental fugitive

From whence he came and back again. That’s the short story of a cat named Charlie.

The longer version is one full of love and kindness: The love of his human companions, and the kindness of Annex Cat Rescue volunteers who went above and beyond.

Charlie was rescued off the streets five years ago and was living with Kirsten and her husband until this June, when, during an attempted trip to the vet, he escaped from the carrier and fled into a forested area around the Humber River near Kirsten’s house.


Distraught over Charlie’s escape, Kirsten reached out for help.

“My mother knows the ladies from the Annex Cat Rescue,” Kirsten said, “so within an hour Liz was there with four humane traps.”

Liz, a long-time ACR volunteer, stayed with Kirsten and her family for “hours,” providing information on what types of foods to use, how often to check the traps and, in what turned out to be the most important lesson, what to tell her neighbours.

“It was in the following days that our neighbours told us he was in the backyards, and he was slowly making his way back home,” Kirsten said.

Knowing where Charlie was, however, was only half the battle. He was petrified, and any effort to capture him using standard traps went frustratingly without result.

“It was really disheartening,” Kirsten said, “because he was so close to home but we couldn’t get him inside.”

Some ingenuity was needed, and that came in the form of Brenda and Don, who recently joined the ACR fold after doing volunteer rescue work for other Toronto agencies. The couple, in conjunction with Kirsten’s father, helped set up a manual “drop trap” that could monitored by a remote camera on a smart phone and triggered by pulling a pin out by a string. But despite Kirsten’s efforts day in and day out, Charlie remained stubborn.

“He was so slippery,” she said. “Sometimes we would see him just about to enter the trap and then something would scare him off, and then we’d have to close up shop because it was getting dark. We had a lot of close calls.”

And the stress was taking its toll on Kirsten.

“It was killing her,” said Brenda. “She wasn’t sleeping, she wasn’t eating. She was stressed right out.”

Then finally, four weeks and four days after his escape, it was mission accomplished. Charlie was finally caught and brought back into his loving home.

“When he came in from the trap, he was only disoriented for a couple minutes,” said Kirsten. “As soon as he started eating, something switched and he realized he was home and safe. He was maybe even a little extra affectionate.”

Charlie back home
Some of that affection can be shown to Liz and Brenda firsthand, when the pair will be welcomed into Kirsten’s home for a dinner to celebrate Charlie’s safe return, and to say thank you for the efforts of two special volunteers.

“The commitment from Liz and Brenda was really touching,” Kirsten said. “Despite exhausting ourselves, I was really doubting we would get him back, and I was feeling a lot of guilt that the whole thing could have been prevented. But they were very reassuring… and it was lovely that they both checked in almost daily.”

A little extra effort is all in a day’s work for ACR volunteers. And it makes it all the better when it results in a happy ending.

“Those kids, and their parents, are just really nice people,” said Brenda. “So it was great to be able to help them.”

–Edward Fraser

If you’ve lost your cat, we hope you find our what-to-do tips helpful.

Always double check the fasteners on your cat carrier are secure before leaving your home. The plastic ones can often lose the snappy bits and a frightened or stressed cat can sometimes break through.

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