I lost my mind when my cat left

Samerah Begzad,

Our indoor family cat Simba, a Tabby mix, had been with us for 13 years when he went missing on March 10. We noticed he was missing in the morning and assumed he escaped from the balcony of our Union City townhouse — where his litter box is — because there were two cats that always meowed to him from a small flowery lawn below our balcony. Because he’s an indoor cat, his jumping skills are not great, so getting back up to our home would have been impossible.

Everyone in our family was devastated and sad. For days, we went on searches around the neighborhood, but could not find him and found no clues. My family gave up — all that searching makes you tired and sad — but I’ve continued searching anyway.

Three weeks later, I hired a so-called “pet detective” named Jackie for $400 from her business named “The Social Pet” that I found on Yelp. She had bad Yelp reviews, but I still wanted to give her a shot because I love my cat and missed him dearly.

Right when I met her, I got negative energy and bad vibes. Before the search, she already gave hints that she wasn’t going to find my cat. She gave common sense information that anyone would already know: she said I should put up fliers, and visit the Tri-City Animal Shelter and the Hayward Animal Shelter, all things I had already done.

Jackie took me all around Union City with her dog, whom she trained herself to be a scent dog, and said my cat had been here and there, based on the dog’s alleged scent. She was only in our townhouse area — Contempo, where I live for a little amount of time — which confused me because indoor cats strictly stay close to their owner’s house, even if it’s a few blocks or a street down. But this lady took me to parts of Union City that I have never seen. She ended up being a scam and a fraud and she didn’t find my cat.

I felt taken advantage of because I was vulnerable and she knows that people like me are desperate to find their missing pets. When my time with her was done, I cried from disappointment and asked her if we could keep searching. She said she would charge me another $400 for another four hours. I told her I was a student and don’t have much money but in the end she wasn’t willing to work with me and showed no sympathy towards my situation. So my search for Simba continued on my own.

A nonprofit called Missing Pet Partnership, founded by Kat Albercht this year, plans to launch a membership program that will include a set of national standards for the evaluation, training, and certification of missing animal response search dogs. This won’t stop pet detective scammers for setting up shop, but it will create a national listing of professionals and volunteers whose search dogs have passed a rigorous training and testing process for people like me to choose from.

There are currently only three pet detectives in California with trained search dogs, and they are all in Southern California; however, Missing Pet Partnership hopes to develop training programs in the Bay Area, according to Albercht. The partnership recently launched a program called “Mission Reunite” to train animal shelter staff and volunteers in how to develop lost pet recovery programs and how to coach pet owners in how to find their missing dogs and cats. They’ve held these trainings so far in San Jose, Phoenix, and at the end of this month will host a training in Contra Costa County. California requires a private investigator’s license in order to search for lost pets, so there’s a good chance the pet detective I hired is actually in violation of California State Law, Albercht said.

After what happened with the pet detective I was emotionally, mentally, and physically tired from searching for my missing pet. I hired a pet psychic named Hilary Renaissance from Calmpet, who I found on Google. She charged me $100 to give me clues and hints over the phone of where my cat was. She communicated with him and let me know what kind of area he’s by, what kind of person’s backyard he was in, and why he was scared to come home.

For three days I followed her clues and hints and went to the townhouses across the street because those were the ones she described. And on April 14, 2017, I found my cat Simba. He had lost so much weight and was starving. He was sitting there scared and lost meowing in between the fences of the backyard that the pet psychic had explained to me.

My mind was blown when I found my cat. Everything the pet psychic said was true. I had to jump inside to get in between the fences to get him. Once I did, he started purring. I took him to the pet hospital to get him checked and everything was okay except he was malnutritioned. But now he’s home safe and sound.