CHICAGO — It’s unclear how many of its nine lives it used up, but one Chicago cat survived more than 50 days alone before returning to its owners.
Meghan Bautista, 33, of Portage Park, said she and her husband Andy adopted Mo, a 9-year-old black cat, in January 2015. Less than a year later, Meghan and Andy were searching feverishly and holding out hope for the return of their newest family member.
Meghan told WGN that she and Andy took in Mo from a friend and former roommate of Andy’s who had developed an allergic reaction to the cat.
“Andy was really fond of Mo,” Bautista said, adding that her husband had become well-acquainted with the animal before. The move was a no-brainer; they were both cat people and already had two others, Monty and Lily.
“The only anxiety I had was that the other two got along with him,” said Meghan. “Other than that I was pretty excited about it … we knew we could provide him a good home.”
Nearly 12 months later, the couple were ready to spend their first Christmas with all three pets. But the night of December 22, Mo went missing.
“I realized I hadn’t seen Mo in a while,” Meghan recounted. “I got up and did a preliminary search that evening.”
After an unsuccessful attempt, Meghan assumed the cat was simply hiding; she and Andy had guests over for the holiday, and Meghan figured Mo was trying to escape the strangers, among whom was Meghan’s sister, Amanda Roshan-Rawaan.
“The next morning I got up and asked my sister,” said Meghan. But her sister said she hadn’t seen her. It quickly became clear Mo wasn’t just hiding.
“Having never lost a pet, it was kind of horrifying,” Meghan said. On Christmas Day, the two opened one of the gifts that was meant for Mo, a cat tree they had bought because Mo was the only one who liked heights.
“We were crushed,” Meghan said.
The next several weeks, with the help of Roshan-Rawaan and her husband, Meghan began printing and posting fliers, contacting animal shelters, and reaching out to other residents in Meghan’s apartment complex.
“As time went on, we expanded that out to going door to door,” Meghan said. “We also put up a listing of a missing cat on Craiglist.”
At one point Meghan and Andy got a call from someone who said he’d seen a cat. But then the call disconnected
“It was a loose lead in that sense,” Meghan said. People from other neighborhoods also contacted the couple, but their efforts proved to be fruitless.
But the couple never gave up hope. By February 2016, they were still trying.
“I knew I was probably months still from giving up any hope,” Meghan said. “We couldn’t believe a cat as smart and tenacious as Mo would have given up.”
On Feb. 16 the couple’s patience paid off. Meghan got a call from her landlord that a neighbor had found Mo and was keeping her at her place. Meghan rushed home, only to find that there was a misunderstanding. The neighbor had found the cat, but was unable to snatch it.
Thankfully for Meghan and Andy, the cat had not left the complex again. The two began searching a back stairwell and a crawl space they had spent weeks searching before.
Using her phone, Meghan shone a light on two eyes staring from the darkness. They belonged to Mo — a cat that before wandering off weighed 10 pounds now only weighed three. Mo was emaciated, dehydrated and weak.
“I started crying, both because we had found the cat but also because we realized that it was critical,” Meghan said.
The pet needed immediate care, which cost $2,500 just to keep it alive. As more time went on, more procedures were needed. As of this week the medical bills peaked at about $9,000.
The necessary treatment got so dire that on more than once occasion veterinarians at Premier Veterinary Group brought up euthanasia to Meghan and Andy.
“He didn’t survive this long and make his way to back to us just to be put down,” Meghan said. The couple agreed to have a gastric tube inserted into Mo, the latest procedure needed to keep the cat alive.
Now, the cat is back home with the couple, and Meghan said that was a testament to both the veterinarians at Premier as well as the strength of Mo.
“They were never judgmental in the way we wanted to keep going,” Meghan said of the staff.
Meghan’s family has set up a GoFundMe page with a fundraising goal of $2,500, which was the original bill Meghan and Andy had to pay up front to keep Mo alive. As of Monday the page had raised more than $1,700.
“Mo is a miracle, and any pet parent in Chicago likely will feel uplifted by Mo’s story,” said Meghan’s sister, Amanda Roshan-Rawaan, in an email to WGN.
Mo spent 55 days alone after leaving home, with little or no food or water, but now, he is making an extraordinary recovery, and is back with his owners.
“Never give up or doubt the survivability of your pets,” Meghan said. “Or if you find someone else’s pet, it might be an animal to you, but it’s likely that’s someone else’s family member.”
“Mo is the real deal, and he’s a living testament to never giving up on the ones we love,” Roshan-Rawaan said.