Losing a pet is an experience I don’t like to relive, but I am sharing my trauma in the hopes it will relieve your drama if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Here’s the story of how we lost our cat in Berlin – and got her back.
At first, we were puzzled. We couldn’t find our cat anywhere, but as we live in a 6th floor Dachgeschoss (attic apartment) there was no obvious exit route. Examining our abode closely we found that there was only one escape – the window. Poking our head out we saw that she could have nosed her way out and done a rooftop stroll before entering any one of the many apartments that share our roof line. I was terrified, but hopeful – how far could she go?
We formed a plan to retrieve our lost pet in Germany.
Put Up Lost Cat or “Katze entlaufen” Signs
My first action was to plaster our building’s many entrances with signs of our cat’s disappearance. If a random cat showed up in your top-floor apartment you’d check for signs, right?
- Her name & description
- Our name, street, phone number & e-mail
- When & where she was last seen
- Details of her escape
In my anxious state, I actually got two digits of our phone number reversed making any helpful leads a dead end. Definitely don’t do that. Double check your info before posting, and check your signs the next day to replace the inevitable removal of some, and find helpful notes like “your phone number doesn’t work!” if you are an idiot like me.
As the search continued, I added bright pink highlights to draw attention to old signs and chatted up the local shop-owners.
Expand the Search
Unfortunately, our hopeful assumptions that she could not have gone far didn’t account for the allergies of a neighbor.
This was game day for the first German game in the World Cup and we had plans to meet friends that evening for the game. Reluctantly, we left home eagerly clutching our cell phones and hoping for a call. And halfway through the game we received it. Our neighbor had found the cat and as she was allergic, she removed the cat from her house and dropped her in the Hof. Our small American house-cat, without collar (but microchipped), who didn’t even speak German (my husband weakly joked) was somewhere out there in the wilds of Wedding in Berlin.
It was time to expand the search. I printed an armful of new flyers, grabbed a can of treats and set about re-marking our neighborhood with flyers. We entered any open door and pitifully called her name. We saw more of our block in the next few days than we have the entire time we’ve lived here.
But no cat that night.
Contact the Authorities
We returned to our flat feeling exhausted and desperate. I contacted:
- Tierheim (animal shelter)
- Local Police
- Posted an ad on craigslist
- Asked people on twitter to keep an eye out
- Registered her as lost through her registration on petlink
- Local vets
- Cat pensions
I sent the flyer to any e-mail I could scavenge and pleaded my case. Though I didn’t hear back from some, many wrote back with tips and promises to post my flyer and spread the word.
What I also found is that the Tierheim is the official authority for lost pets and lost or found pet should be reported to them (take note allergic neighbor). I was thankful to find instructions about what to do in case of a lost pet on their website, including contact info (Tel. (030) 76888-201 or 203; e-Mail: email@example.com). They were extremely responsive, immediately checking any found pets for her microchip number and updating us after every worried e-mail – but she wasn’t there either.
If our neighbor had followed official protocol and called the Tierheim, we might have had our cat back that first day.
Put out Food and Get Creative
By day three, I was internally saying good-bye to the little cat we had adopted in West Seattle and then flew over an ocean to join us. I was reading lost pet tips pretty incessantly at this point and realized that while our cat had no way to return to our flat, she could get back to the Hof. It is a sadly uninviting space so I tried to make it more welcoming by finding the quietest corner and setting out a box with our old smelly clothes and an open container of food. Sites recommend searching at night when most of the noisy daily life has quieted down, so I varied my searches by going out multiple times between 6am and midnight. With my frequent rounds, I hoped I could coax her back and find her.
On one of these evening rounds, I sent my husband as I went to check the still empty box of clothes and called her name. Suddenly my husband called out, “I see her!” from the stairwell and he bounded down the stairs to the hole beneath a dumpster where she had disappeared. As I leaned over the grate with my heart in my throat I saw her eyes and heard that kitty voice I knew so well. We had found her! I coaxed her out and held her to my chest, joyfully breathing in her garbage-perfumed coat.
Though I managed to lose my cat on the 6th floor, there are a few things we did right that could help you if you ever lost a cat in Germany.
For more posts on pets, refer to:
- Taking Dogs or Cats to Germany (with personal story from GW Blogger Jessica “Moving with Max )
- Adopting a Pet in Furry Love
- For the Expat Pet People
- There’s a Dog in the Pub
This edited GW Expat Blog post was originally published on July 7th, 2014.