Meet the York pet detectives who stop at nothing to track down missing cats

Back home after a 100-mile trip: Charlie. Photographs: Missing Cats In York

This is Charlie, a three-year-old black and white cat from Wakefield.

Last August, Julie Redfearn and her family travelled to Sheriff Hutton near York for a caravan holiday without knowing that their pet puss had crept in the back.

They arrived, opened the car door – and were shocked when Charlie leapt out and was chased by her and her friend’s dogs into the bushes.

“I kept thinking we would never see him again,” Julie said. “My daughter said he’s probably dead.”

Desperate to find him, Julie and her family took to social media – and astonishingly, ten months on, he has been found.

Missing Cats In York

Another success story from the group – Whisky reunited with his family after disappearing for days in Huntington
Another success story from the group – Whisky reunited with his family after disappearing for days in Huntington

This is just one of the remarkable stories being told thanks to the Missing Cats In York Facebook group, which was founded last year.

Bev Dixon, 43, who lives in Acomb, set up the page after her nephew’s cat when missing.

The page now boasts more than 900 members and 12 administrators. They offer help, from reuniting lost cats with their owners to breaking the sad news to owners that their cat has died.

It is estimated that the group has so far helped 150 cats in and around York.

Kathy Bowerman, aged over 50 and from the Stockton Lane area, is one of the administrators of the group. She told YorkMix that finding Charlie was one of her fondest success stories.

She said:

Bev and the owner met up just before Christmas and delivered literally hundreds of leaflets – one to every house in Sheriff Hutton about Charlie.

A lady kept thinking she had seen him, eventually gained his trust and got him inside.

His owner was on holiday at the time but she contacted her grown up daughter who picked him up and that was that. A lot of very happy people!

Pyjama-clad cat tracker

Kathy's cats. L-R:  Felix, Flossy and Roxy
Kathy’s cats. L-R: Felix, Flossy and Roxy

Kathy works around 60 hours a week on all animal welfare matters unpaid, in addition to her job.

She currently has three cats. One is Felix, saved from being put to sleep by the Missing Cats In York group.

“Felix was meant to be a temporary foster but it looks very much like he might be with me for the rest of his days as he is absolutely adorable and any home offered would have to be very special indeed,” she said.

Another of her cats is Roxy, adopted from York RSPCA.

She didn’t have a home, was involved in a road accident and was not given veterinary attention which has resulted in one of her legs being quite deformed.

It could be fixed but as she manages really well as she is, it would be purely cosmetic and not worth putting her through any pain or discomfort.

Kathy’s job in the group is to go out and scan cats who are found, whether that means they are alive or dead. She is often out late at night, scanning cats in her pyjamas.

I think that Missing Cats In York has been helpful to many people in and around York because the page has grown and grown.

Of course it’s better having several hundred pairs of eyes looking for any missing animals than just the eyes of the owner.

Many people with missing cats have said that they have really appreciated the support given to them by both admins and others on the page. We all try to keep each other’s spirits up.

Edwina Sykes, aged over 50 and from Dringhouses, is another administrator in the group.

She is a qualified implanter and so goes out and microchips the cats that have not been chipped in the hope that they can be reunited.

“I love every minute doing what I do whether it is in the middle of the night or very early in the morning,” she said.

“We are sometimes very busy and it does take some of your precious time up but it is worth it for the cats.”

Two amazing cat stories

Charlie

Julie and Charlie
Julie and Charlie
When Julie Redfearn and her family from Wakefield lost their cat on a Sheriff Hutton caravan holiday, they turned to Missing Cats In York.

The founder of the group, Bev Dixon, helped Julie and her husband deliver leaflets to local pubs and shops just before Christmas.

“We got a phone call in February time, and this lady from Sheriff Hutton noticed a cat coming into her garden frequently.

“She rang me, and said I don’t want to build your hopes up but we’ve seen this cat. I took her number and kept in touch with her.”

When Julie was away in Whitby, her daughter received another telephone call from the lady to say they had managed to get Charlie in the house.

“My daughter drove up to York at about 10pm at night and tried to get him in a cat box but he wouldn’t go in. They managed to get him in the car and they drove him home and we’ve still got him.”

Charlie returned to Julie’s family home in Wakefield earlier this month, 10 months after he originally went missing. She said Charlie had probably been surviving on rabbits.

“We met up with the Missing Cats In York group with my husband. They are a lovely bunch of people and really dedicated to it.

“It’s quite amazing.”

Barney

Safe… Barney
Safe… Barney

From a litter of feral kittens, Barney was chosen from a cat rescue centre by Gemma Montgomery and her family.

“I loved him immediately,” she said. “Despite him being very shy and him hissing and spitting at me.”

Barney would go out for hours at a time, but would always return when the feeding bowl was rattled.

But in January Gemma put the food in his bowl and he never came.

“I went to bed, thinking he was hiding from the bad weather. The next day, he still didn’t return. After a week, I put up posters in the local area and posted on several Facebook groups that he was missing.

“Our two little boys were missing him, as was I.”

Worried and confused, Gemma joined the Missing Cats In York group.

“The ladies that run the group were fantastic, sharing my post many times and commenting that Barney was still missing.”

After six long months and a few false alarms, Gemma received a telephone call from Parkhill Vets in Wetherby to say her cat had been handed in.

“Barney has settled back in very well and has just recently started to go outside again. He now has a collar as well as his microchip, but always comes back for his dinner – just like old times!”

New website

Some of York's missing cats featured on the website
Some of York’s missing cats featured on the website

The group recently set up their own website and are offering to come out and chip local cats for £10.

They are accepting donations to help raise money for missing cats, with all the money being raised going to the group.

A crowdfunding campaign set up by administrator Jo Holloway-Green, 37, from the Leeman Road area, has allowed the group to get an extra two cat scanners.

Jo said:

We scan deceased cats and try and let the owner know which is a horrible job, or try to find them through the Facebook page.

We have now started keeping a spreadsheet so hopefully we will have a better record.

The £1,157 raised will also go towards crates for found cats, some vet treatment for a cat that was rescued from being put to sleep and is hard to rehome due to age, cat food, flea treatment and fliers for missing cats.

Cat delivered to Leeds

Another cat returned to their York home – this one's Stampy
Another cat returned to their York home – this one’s Stampy

Bev, who founded the Facebook page, told YorkMix about a cat from Walmgate that she believes ended up in Leeds after jumping into a delivery van.

Bev said:

The cat in Leeds wasn’t chipped and neither was the missing cat but the photo was exactly the same.

The missing cat whose name I forget now used to sit sort of slouching on his front right paw and the photos matched exactly.

It was in fact the missing puss and we believe he jumped in a delivery van and somehow ended up in Leeds.

Bev said she gets a lot of pleasure out of finding missing cats.

“I’m a big cat lover but only actually own two – Milly who is 16 and Bailey who is six in September,” she said.

She said the success of the page lies with its members and the administrators. “If they didn’t alert us to cats that have been found we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” she said.