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Hurley the cat, missing for nearly a week, makes 2.5-mile trek home to Easthampton

The 8-year-old cat’s owners, Shawn and Helicia Forest-Ussach, had been searching for him since Friday, when they said a neighbor admitted that he had taken him to the end of Olive Street in Northampton and letting him go.

Shawn Forest-Ussach said he was out in the Meadows from 3 to 5 a.m., looking for Hurley and came back to take a nap. Just after 9 a.m., he and he wife heard a familiar meow.

“He was standing in the driveway,” Forest-Ussach said. “He looks great. He lost a little weight, but there’s not a scratch on him.”

Forest-Ussach said he worried his cat was “a goner” after their constant searching yielded nothing. But he said his 17-pound, indoor/outdoor cat is tough, and once survived getting caught in a leg trap in Southampton.

Dr. Maureen Ricksgers, a veterinarian at the Cat Hospital on Damon Road in Northampton, said cats who are used to being outdoors are pretty good at finding their way home, even if they start miles away. They rely mostly on their sense of smell, following familiar smells until they are home, she said. “What was helpful (for Hurley) was that he was an outside cat, so he has navigating skills,” Ricksgers said. She learned about Hurley when Helicia Forest-Ussach posted an appeal to keep an eye out for him on the Cat Hospital’s Facebook page.

The Forest-Ussachs first noticed Hurley was missing Wednesday or Thursday of last week. When they asked around the neighborhood, a neighbor told them a nearby farmer had come by to ask if the large, gray cat he had trapped belonged to him. The man said the cat was eating his cat’s food, Forest-Ussach said.

They confronted the man, who admitted he had taken the cat to the end of Olive Street and released him there, the couple said. They decided not to report the trapping to the police, although they alerted the animal control officer, because they wanted to maintain a relationship with the farmer and his family, Forest-Ussach said.

Since then, in addition to searching the area repeatedly, they have used Facebook and other websites to appeal to the public for help finding Hurley. On Wednesday morning, Helicia Forest-Ussach announced the good news on the 137-member “Bring Hurley Home” Facebook page — and Hurley’s Internet supporters rejoiced.

“People have been so great,” Shawn Forest-Ussach said. “It’s been amazing to see the community help out. I never expected that.”

Hurley wasn’t wearing a collar when he was trapped because he often loses them while adventuring, he said. “We’re going to try to microchip him, at least,” Forest-Ussach said.

Ricksgers said outside cats find their way home “all the time, but house cats are a different story.”

“They get disoriented quickly and they don’t know the smells,” she said.

She said that she tells clients whose house cats are lost to put things outside that will smell familiar to the lost cat, such as a litter box or a blanket, to draw them home.

While Hurley may have relied on local smells to get home from Northampton, there are numerous cases that have baffled experts where cats who lost their owners hundreds of miles from home made it back somehow. On Dec. 31, a 4-year-old indoor cat named Holly turned up in her hometown of West Palm Beach after escaping from her owners’ RV 200 miles away nearly two months earlier, the New York Times reported.

“Maybe they have an internal GPS,” Ricksgers guessed.

Hurley, she said, just seems to be a survivor. “He seems to have nine lives,” Ricksgers said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.


Share your stories about lost pets with the Gazette

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We're inviting readers to submit short stories about dealing with the loss of a pet. Inspired by the fantastic return of Hurly the cat, who was trapped and relased 2.5 miles from home, we want to hear more about what happens when pets get lost. Share your story: How did it happen? What did you do for a search? What …

Easthampton couple searches for cat they said neighbor trapped and relocated in Northampton

Monday, August 19, 2013

EASTHAMPTON — Shawn Forest-Ussach said his cat, a 17-pound Maine coon named Hurley, is tough. In the eight years he and his wife, Helicia, have had him, he’s had many adventures on Mount Tom, which is in their backyard, and survived a dog attack. Once, when they lived in Southampton, he came back from a wander in the woods dragging …

Legacy Comments6

I am glad that Hurley the cat has returned home despite the attempts of a Farmers attempt to interfere that. Now the next big question will Easthampton's Animal Control officer be filing charges against the Farmer ( who remains unidentified ). If he chooses not to bring charges then our Animal Control officer needs to submit resignation or be fired by Mayor Tautznik.

Who would ever want a cat. Besides it should be illegal to have an outdoor cat. Think of all the birds and chipmunks they kill. Now parakeets - those are worth keeping. http://www.kxly.com/news/northwest/stolen-parakeet-reunited-with-owner/-/101246/21612382/-/9j7286z/-/index.html

Agreed, who needs a cat, when we can all enjoy you as our pet troll.

Glad he's back!! :)

Animal cruelty and theft are both crimes. There must be a resolution that can keep the "relationship" peaceful but where something can be learned. Microchipping Hurley is a start, but a chip isn't a GPS. And "that's OK, neighbor" is not an acceptable ending to this horror story. It's great that Hurley found his way home. All of us who lived this event for days are thrilled. How would we feel if he had not returned? Would that still be "OK, neighbor"? Not in my view.

I have to say, I was strangely moved by this whole thing, and am very happy that they got their cat back. But what really got me was how forgiving and tolerant the owners were to their neighbor. I admire that so much, I know I wouldn't have been that generous in their situation! But yes, I think that their neighbor has earned whatever fine he has coming for interfering with wildlife and / or pet theft.

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