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Glen Ellen woman reunited with missing cat 3 years after North Bay fires

During the harried early hours of the 2017 wildfires, Mordecai Jones went missing.

Three years later, he would be found across the street from a medical office in Santa Rosa bearing his name, Mordecai Chiropractic (but no, there is no relation).

Mordecai Jones’ human, Deb Hennessey, a longtime employee of Sonoma Ecology Center, said she is grateful for the microchip and the organization – Forgotten Felines – that reunited her with her cat. She is grateful, too, to the people who fed Mordecai over the past three years.

“When they called I didn’t really believe it. I got so many calls all the time, someone seeing a cat like him,” Hennessey said of her three-year search for the orange tabby cat. “I went on so many wild goose chases.”

“I never knew if he was alive,” she said. But in her heart she figured he would come back to her through the connection to her and her cat’s microchip.

Mordecai Jones, who was lost for three years. (Submitted photo)
Mordecai Jones, who was lost for three years. (Submitted photo)

Forgotten Felines was working with an elderly woman who cares for a colony of “unowned” – or feral – cats in the area and noticed that Mordecai’s ear was not clipped, a marking that identifies unowned cats that have been spayed or neutered. Unable to trap Mordecai herself, a Forgotten Felines volunteer got Mordecai and took him in on Monday, Nov. 30 – 1,148 days from the day Mordecai disappeared.

“Every single cat that comes to us we scan for a microchip,” said Pip Marquez de la Plata, executive director of Forgotten Felines. “And it had the owner’s name and phone number,” which is a reminder to folks who have microchipped pets to keep their contact information up to date, he said.

Mordecai is home again with Hennessey, Lucy the dog and Hennessey’s other cats, including Mordecai’s best friend, Coleridge, another cat. Feral cats are in Hennessey’s heart, she said, and some years ago, she and like-minded cat-lovers once cared for more than 100 cats over time in a feral cat barn. During that time and even with some of her current critter crew, Hennessey said she has relied on organizations such as Forgotten Felines for low-cost neuter and spay surgeries and microchipping.

Marquez de la Plata said the importance of spaying, neutering and microchipping cannot be overstated. Doing the math of one years’ worth of spaying and neutering, Marquez de la Plata said the area that Forgotten Felines oversees would have more than 11,000 additional cats were it not for the surgeries they provide.

Cat couples that are not spayed and neutered produce an average of two litters per year with “2.8 kittens per litter,” he said. Do the math, he said: “Think about that over five years if organizations like ours didn’t exist.” The practice benefits “everyone” he said, because without it communities would be overrun with unowned cats.

While spaying and neutering is one of the organization’s main focuses, Marquez de la Plata said microchipping is a modern-day savior, one that helps reunite families with their beloved pets time and time again. Of the multitudes of pets considered missing during the last few years of fires, they were able to reunite 99 percent with their families thanks to a microchip, he said.

Microchipping, he said, “it makes a giant difference.” Without a microchip, Mordecai Jones and Hennessey may have never found one another again.

Named for a character played by George C. Scott in the film “The Flim-Flam Man,” Hennessey’s Mordecai Jones leaped out her car window that was rolled down to give some fresh air to Lucy, Hennessey’s now 14-year-old cat-loving dog. Hennessey was unaware that Mordecai had clawed his way free from his carrier inside her car.

She and her partner fled from the fire in separate vehicles from their Glen Ellen home in the wee hours of Oct. 9, 2017, with multiple cats – Hennessey is a self-described “cat lady” – and Lucy in tow not quite knowing where to go or what to do. They first went to a family member’s home in Santa Rosa and sat in the driveway all night trying to figure out where to go and what to do with their critters.

They found a place in Cotati where they could house their pets for the time being, and on the way there, Hennessey noticed Lucy panting and rolled down the window so she could get some fresh air. Mordecai pounced over the dog and out through the window, now loose in the area of the Santa Rosa police station, near Sonoma and Brookwood avenues.

Hennessey looked and called for Mordecai, but he didn’t respond. She never gave up looking for him and for the following three years she returned to the area multiple times a week calling and searching.

But she was looking in the wrong place, she said, though she was just blocks away. Mordecai Jones wound up in an area where feeding colonies were, Hennessey said, not along the creek where she thought he would be and in the direction she saw him run that night.

Back home and happy, it’s clear Mordecai was fed over the three years, Hennessey said. He’s a “fatty watty” now after being a “regular-size cat before.” The extra weight probably came about from the kind-hearted people who put out food for unowned cats and Mordecai’s ability to eat whenever he wanted and in uncontrolled portions.

Hennessey said she was initially concerned that cats she’s adopted since Mordecai’s absence might adversely affect his return, but he’s settling down nicely. There are a couple of cats who don’t particularly like him just yet, but his old buddy Coleridge seemed to be happy to welcome home Mordecai.

Mordecai has always been a sweet cat, she said, and in addition to the weight he’s gained he’s found his voice, too.

“He talks a lot,” Hennessey said. “He did not talk that much before. He has so much to say.”

Mordecai was “semi feral” when “he came to her” and is still a bit stand-offish with others, but he seems to remember his home and shows affection Hennessey, his long-lost human.

“It’s kind of magical that now he’s back,” she said.

Contact Anne at anne.ernst@sonomanews.com.

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