Hamilton

How Fuzz the cat ended up 70km away from his family, and then found his way home

Fuzz the cat survived falling out of a tree face-first and sleeping through a house fire, but it's his most recent adventure that has his owners thinking about that myth about nine lives.

The black and white feline has survived fire and a fall that cost him his nose

Fuzz the cat was missing for two months before he showed up in Dundas, almost 70 km from his home in Selkirk, Ont. (Shelley Bentley)

Fuzz the cat survived falling out of a tree face-first and sleeping through a house fire, but it's his most recent adventure that has his owners reflecting on that myth of nine lives.

Two months ago, he disappeared from his home in Selkirk, Ont. His owners, Shelley and Rick Bentley, searched high and low, but Fuzz was nowhere to be found.

They figured it was possible the little cat's nature —and maybe a coyote— had finally caught up with him. This wasn't the first time Fuzz went missing, you see.

Then on Friday he turned up in a cage at Hamilton's Animal Services shelter, almost 70 kilometres away, hissing at the other animals and none too happy to be there, but all in one piece — except for the ones that were already missing of course.

Watch as Fuzz is reunited with his owners.

Shelley and Rick don't even like cats. Ask them and they'll tell you they're dog people.

But one day Rick's daughter brought home a little black and white kitten, so they tried to find a way to make it work.

Rick stuck to what he knew, training Fuzz to act like a dog.

Fuzz was just a tiny black and white fur ball when the Bentley's met him. (Shelley Bentley)

"He sits. He begs. He'll give you his paw just like a dog," he said. "But he's a nuisance cat. He's got his own mind."

Shelley and the little bundle of fur managed to form a connection too. Fuzz used to curl up in her hair and sleep on the top of her head.

"He was a pretty ugly kitten at that time," she recalled. "He had a curly tail. We took good care of him, so he fattened up a little bit."

Those days are long gone now.

"Now the only time he wants to be loveable is when HE wants to be loveable," Shelley explained with a chuckle.

Shelley says Fuzz used to curl up and sleep on the top of her head when he was a kitten. (Shelley Bentley)

'King of the forest'

The couple lived on a 10-acre property at the time and Fuzz had the run of the place. In the end his personality turned out to be as wild as the woods he'd spend afternoons roaming through.

"He's a little cat and he heads out like he's the king of the forest," remembered Rick.

"Like he's a lion," Shelley echoed.

"He played with everything, the deer, the turkeys. He was quite comical."

Here's what Fuzz looked like before he lost his nose. (Shelley Bentley)

Rick says Fuzz just has a mind of his own. 

"He's out there on the porch and there's a massive possum out there, eating his cat food and he's like a foot away, just sitting there looking at him, like it's his best buddy," said Rick. "I'm thinking 'Fuzz, get out of there.'"

The kids call him Voldemort

It's not that Fuzz is a fighter. Shelley will tell you the cat heads out the door thinking he's "the mighty hunter" every day, but never catches anything. Instead he ends up stealing from Jack, the couple's other cat.

That lack of fear and an aggressive nature may have played a part in the episode that lead to Fuzz's most recognizable feature — his missing nose.

Shelley found him at the base of a tree one day, his face covered in blood and a large portion of his nose torn off.

Rick figures he was attacked by another cat and chased up the tree. When he fell out he landed, nose-first, on a stump. The injuries were so bad the couple feared they might have to put him down, but a vet friend begged them to wait and managed to save him.

Fuzz has a tendency to fall asleep in unusual places, like on boats, or in trucks. (Shelley Bentley)

The cat lived and the Bentleys's kids took to calling him Voldemort after Harry Potter's noseless nemesis.

For most, that might have been enough excitement for one lifetime, but Fuzz was far from finished.

About a year-and-a-half ago the Bentley house caught on fire. The building was fully engulfed but Rick, who still swears he doesn't like cats, ran back into the flames to search for their pets.

Jack managed to make it out, but true to form, Fuzz was impossible to find.

It turns out he slept through most of the fire in his favourite cardboard box upstairs. As the house burned around him, Fuzz finally ventured out where he was scooped up by a firefighter. He was knocked out again, but after hours of oxygen and about five days of coughing, he came out alright.

Great escape might have been a just a solid snooze

Fuzz's tendency for deep sleep has fooled the Bentleys into thinking he was missing before. He once disappeared for hours until Rick's brother found him sleeping in a boat, about two feet from where Rick had been bellowing his name.

That ability to sleep "like nothing could hurt him" might be to blame for his great escape too.

In the week before he went missing, the couple had a contractor friend from Dundas over at their house, changing all of their windows. Rick figures the cat "foolishly" hopped into the back of the truck, rooted around until he found a comfortable spot, then passed out, only to wake up about an hour's drive away.

After searching all over their property, Rick contacted his friend and asked him to search the truck, but there was no sign of Fuzz.

"We were very upset," said Shelley.

The Bentleys say Fuzz spent the past few weeks running around the woods in Dundas, about an hour's drive from their home. (Shelley Bentley)

Rick says Jack spent every night of those two months outside searching for his friend.

Then came a call from another friend. She'd spotted a photo of Jack online and recognized the face only the Bentleys could love in an instant.

The couple drove down to Hamilton Friday and were finally reunited.

Rick says his buddy's shop backs onto a ravine and golf course in Dundas. They were told Fuzz had spent the past few weeks rambling around the bush and bugging golfers.

"The lady at the animal shelter said 'Oh thank God you came to get him, because we were worried about how we were going to adopt him out,'" said Shelley with a laugh.

Animals and owners reunited almost every day

Hamilton Animal Services helps reconnect owners and pets almost every day, according to Karen Edwards, but Fuzz's story was a little different because of how far he travelled.

"Micro-chipping cats and putting breakaway collars with identification tags will help get the cats home faster," she added. "The Animal Care Assistant that helped this family was all smiles when she saw how happy the cat and his owners were finding each other. Our team loves these happy endings."

That said, while about 67 per cent of dogs at the shelter end up going home with their owners the same is true for only about three per cent of cats.

The couple says Fuzz has a mind of his own. They're not worried he'll wander off again because even if they tried to stop him, he'd just do what he wants. (Shelley Bentley)

There are so many cats living in the wild that people often don't try to catch them and find their owner, Edwards explained, so it's not unusual for months to pass without a missing cat being found. Still, some circumstances do stand out.

Edwards said city staff once helped reunite a cat and owner 10 years after he became lost.

Despite Fuzz's peculiarities and his history of heading out on the lam, the Bentleys say they're not too worried about him wandering off again.

Shelley says no matter what they do, Fuzz is going to go his own way anyway.

"He's always done whatever he's wanted to do."

About the Author

Dan Taekema is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: daniel.taekema@cbc.ca