Owner, cat reunited in story of pain, relief, anguish, joy
JANESVILLE Monday was a day of joy for one family and lingering pain for the woman who made that joy happen.
The odd mix of feelings revolves around a cat that escaped from a Virginia family in September when they stopped in Janesville.
The cat, named Misty, apparently was on the loose until earlier this month. That’s when Janesville resident Gail Kinyon trapped it and endured a series of rabies shots after Misty bit her.
Both Kinyon and Tracy Brown of Woodbridge, Va., expressed relief Monday that their ordeals were over.
“Hi sweetie. It’s her,” Tracy said, her eyes filling with tears as she looked into the cage at the Rock County Humane Society. She and her 14-year-old daughter, Cierra, hugged. Both had made the trip from Virginia to pick up the cat.
Tracy had not allowed herself to be sure that it was the right cat, even though the numbers on the tags matched.
Misty did not appear to be overjoyed as Cierra held her and her mom took photos to be sent to Cierra’s older sister, Larissa, back home.
“She’s not the most social cat. She likes attention on her own terms,” Tracy said.
Cierra had grown up with Misty. The cat and its brother, Smokey, had joined the family as kittens from a shelter when the family lived in Texas 10 years ago.
Last September, the Browns had stopped for the night at the Hampton Inn in Janesville. The motel doesn’t allow pets, so the Browns put them in the van for the night.
Sometime during the night, the mechanism that held one of the van windows in place failed, and the window dropped into the door, Brown said. Misty escaped, while Smokey, who has health problems, stayed behind.
The Browns contacted police and the Rock County Humane Society to register their lost pet and continued on to Duluth, Minn., the home of Tracy’s parents.
“As the weeks go by, you just start losing hope,” Tracy said.
Cierra, who was bursting with joy Monday, said she had never given up hope.
Misty must have done something to survive the winter.
“I knew she’d be able to find food. She’s a mouser. She brings us a ‘gift’ once in a while,” Tracy said. “But I was afraid of predators.”
Misty apparently found a way to cross Milton Avenue and Highway 14 to reach Kinyon’s neighborhood. And the cat was tough enough, crafty enough or lucky enough to avoid foxes, coyotes and birds of prey.
She also spent nights under the deck at Kinyon’s house on North Wright Road, Kinyon said.
Misty is middle-aged for a cat, said Jim Hurley, executive director of the Rock County Humane Society. If she had been older, or very young, she might not have survived the winter.
Kinyon had been live-trapping squirrels, but on April 2, she found the gray, longhaired Misty in the trap.
Kinyon brought the trap into her garage, and she was checking the tags when someone walked a dog past the house, the cat went crazy, and the trap’s door opened, as it has done on occasion for the squirrels.
The cat attacked, Kinyon said.
Kinyon, 74, said bites and scratches covered her forearm.
“I was bleeding like a stuck hog. Blood was running off my elbow,” Kinyon said.
Misty also got underneath Kinyon’s bathrobe.
“I could not get her out. She just used me for a tree,” Kinyon said.
“I have scars a foot long or more,” Kinyon continued. “I’m chewed up.”
The bites meant rabies shots. Kinyon said she received 20 rabies shots the day she was bitten, several shots around each bite.
The shots are about as painful as any other shot, Kinyon said, but she hates shots.
“I’ve gone through hell,” said Kinyon, who has other health problems and cares for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis.
If she hadn’t re-captured Misty, she would have had to get more shots, she said.
Hurley said his staff saw the cat-bite report in The Gazette, which included Kinyon’s description of a pink collar and tags from Virginia. They recognized the details, checked records and, sure enough, they matched the Browns’ story. He called them.
They were excited but had to wait to see if Kinyon could trap Misty again.
Kinyon reported catching Misty on April 8.
“Police called to say, ‘We have her in custody.’ So we were all ‘yay!’” Tracy said.
Hurley said when someone is bitten, the humane society holds the animal for seven days. If the owner doesn’t claim it, the animal is euthanized so its brain can be checked for rabies.
Even if the owner shows up, the animal must be examined and certified as disease-free, Hurley said. In this case, Dr. Steve Servantez of the Badger Veterinary Hospital came in Sunday to complete the exam after the quarantine so the Browns could pick up their cat, Hurley said.
Hurley said finding the owner of a lost animal happens perhaps once a year.
“Once an animal has been gone for a week, two weeks, it gets narrower and narrower, the chance of us reuniting them,” Hurley said. “So six months is just astounding to me.”
As for Kinyon, she is feeling better after talking to an apologetic Tracy Brown on the phone. Nevertheless, Kinyon said she has never liked cats and likes them less now.
“I prayed hard: ‘Lord, don’t let it be rabies,’” she said. “And it wasn’t.”