Cat accidentally hitches a ride to the U.S., gets back home thanks to a trucker with a big heart

A very lucky cat from Redvers, Sask., took an unexpected trip to the United States this week — and made it back home thanks to the help of truck driver Jack Shao.

‘It's amazing that he was able to ... survive,’ says owner Chylisse Marchand

Truck driver Jack Shao with Chylisse Marchand and her daughters Shay Urschel (holding Spooky the cat) and Alli Urschel. (Submitted by Chylisse Marchand)

A very lucky cat from Redvers, Sask., took an unexpected trip to the United States this week — and made it back home thanks to the help of truck driver Jack Shao.

Chylisse Marchand said she had let Spooky the cat outside along with her two other cats Wednesday night. 

"I just kind of assumed that in the morning … they would all three come running the way they normally do," she said. "And my other two cats did but Spooky did not." 

As the day progressed and Spooky had not returned, she started to grow nervous. She posted on social media that the cat was missing but no one in the community of about 1,000 had seen a black cat wandering around.

Then, at about 11:30 p.m., her phone rang. It was the cat's veterinarian.

"And she said, 'Chylisse, this is Christine Hill, here. I have a Jack Shao, he's a trucker, he's in the U.S. right now, but he has your cat."

Alli Urschel with Spooky the cat. (Submitted by Chylisse Marchand)

Sometime during the night, Spooky had managed to crawl into the engine bay of the blue Peterbilt semi. Luckily, he found a safe spot to sit while the truck travelled about 790 kilometres — first to Tioga, North Dakota, then to Cromer, Manitoba, then back to North Dakota.

Shao was doing a routine check at the Robinson Lake Gas Plant when he found the cat.

"I was scared," Shao said. "At that time, it was dark, his eyes were really bright; I thought, 'What is that? It kind of scared me and I was afraid to see anything hurt. I thought, he's hurt because there's not much room underneath the hood."

He asked another truck driver to help and that driver pulled Spooky out — and surprisingly, the cat was fine.

Shao called the number on the cat's collar — the number for the vet clinic. After he connected with Marchand, he made the cat as comfortable as he could and gave him water.

'Jack's got a big heart'

As it turned out, he was coming back through Redvers the next day via North Portal. Shao said he was a bit worried about crossing the border with a cat but Marchand had called ahead to the border office to explain the situation.

Shao and Marchand arranged to meet at the Co-op in Redvers.

Marchand brought her daughters Alli Urschel, 11, and Shay Urschel, 14, along with her.

"We all pretty much had some tears in our eyes as we were, kind of, approaching the truck," Marchand said.

Alli said when they got Spooky home, he went straight to his food and water.

"I'm just so grateful that Jack found him and not somebody that would just throw him on the side of the road and keep going," Urschel said. "I'm really happy that … he jumped onto that truck."

"Jack's got a big heart," Marchand said.

Marchand is an artist, so she gave Shao one of her paintings — of a truck — and a thank-you card.

"I think he realized that he made three three ladies pretty happy that day," Marchand said.

1,000 kilometre trip

Marchand and her daughters said they're going to continue to let the cats outside, but not without supervision.

"If Spooky is going to be outside, I'm going to be outside with him, watching him to make sure that he's not jumping over the fence at all," Urschel said. 

"Because now I'm very anxious that he will get over the fence and hop on another semi. Hop on a semi, travel the U.S., and that semi will not call the number and just leave him."

All told, Spooky the cat took a 1,000 kilometre round trip with the driver.

"It's amazing that he was able to ... survive," Marchand said.


Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan.