The idea of being lost and alone in nature for six weeks — within close proximity to bears, cougars and wolves — is terrifying to think about. But one Quebec resident has done just that, and he's lived to tell the tale. He also happens to be a one-year-old tabby cat named Lewis.
When Lewis's owner Khristine Lahaie and her boyfriend set-off for a summer road trip through Alberta, she said they decided to bring their two cats along with them: Mighty and Lewis.
Their plan was to harness and leash the cats during the day and then take off their leashes at night, Lahaie told MTL Blog.
But when they woke up one morning at Tunnel Mountain Village in Banff National Park, Lewis was gone.
"I was the last one to close the door of the van. But we were on a slope. So the door didn't really close," Lahaie explained.
"I was freaking out. I was crying . . . My boyfriend went to the reception of the campground and they told him that our cat was most likely eaten by wildlife and we shouldn't keep our hopes up."
But the pair didn't give up — even though authorities told them the park has strict rules against using cages to catch pets because this could attract other wildlife.
"They said we should put up posters and hope someone catches him, which was probably impossible . . . because it's impossible to put the cages," she said.
When the 11-day trip was over and Lahaie had to go home, which she described as "heartbreaking," she enlisted the help of friends to hang posters all over Banff.
Back in Quebec, Lahaie got to work online — joining lost pets and animal rescue Facebook groups for the Alberta area.
She said her posts got hundreds of shares, likes and comments from people wanting to help out.
A member of one of the groups even went so far as to go on-site to the campground and talk to everyone there.
He said people were trying to find Lewis at night and that a few people had spotted him, Lahaie recalled.
"I even had text messages from people telling me they saw him," she said.
With this information, she said she called Banff's animal rescue authorities.
Armed with Lahaie's tips from the internet sleuths, the animal rescue team — which had the authority to place cages in the national park — successfully caught Lewis on August 27.
He had been gone for six weeks.
A few days later, Lahaie arranged for a friend to put him on a plane and send him back to Quebec.
This is Lewis! 🐱 He was lost for 6 weeks around the Tunnel Meow-tin area! Our team was able to successfully find L… https://t.co/SGZXxIENRa— Banff National Park (@Banff National Park) 1600095699.0
Since returning home a few weeks ago, Lahaie said Lewis has been doing great.
"He didn't have injuries. He didn't lose much weight," she said.
She said the woman who found Lewis speculated he might have eaten squirrels. But Lahaie thinks, "maybe he was eating what the campers were eating on the ground."
Lahaie is equally thrilled to have him home.
"He has such a nice personality. He's such a good little cat to be around," Lahaie said. "[He's] the most cuddly thing."
Lahaie warned other pet owners to keep their pets on a leash when they're travelling and to make sure all doors are securely fastened.
"Make sure you know where they are at all times," she said.