You may have noticed the Korean lost cat ad I posted in the blog. That’s because I had set up a Facebook ad targeting people in my neighborhood, and it helped to have a URL to link to.
The last few days have been weird, and I am afraid there will be more. Basically, my cat is missing, and it’s my fault. I stupidly propped the door open while taking out the Thursday trash and didn’t even think that the skittish afraid-of-her-own-shadow cat would be brave enough to venture out into the wild dangerous stairwell. The thing is, none of us noticed it. We, for once, got a full night’s sleep unbothered by 4 a.m. meows. EJ woke up at 6:30 to do her morning jog. Jian woke up and got ready for class. She mentioned she couldn’t find our cat Quti. I assumed she’d found another place to hide. Because hiding is this cat’s oeuvre. Hiding and hissing at me.
I had to rush out because we had an important meeting with a government agency. In the middle of the meeting, EJ Kakao’d me.
EJ: Joe~ I can not find out Quti
I have been searching, I can`t find out
Me: Jian said that too. Oh no
I heard her use the litterbox last night
When was the last time you saw or heard her?
EJ: I could not hear anything
Before going to sleep
I saw her
Me: Check all the verandas and the closets
EJ: I checked closets
Me: How poopie is her litterbox
Should I come home?
EJ: When you go out last night for picking up did you check the door?
Me: AH! She may have gone out during then
I propped the door open when I was taking out trash
Turns out that she was locked out. Around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, neighbors two floors above us complained about meowing. The guard came by and tried to get rid of her, but she hissed at him. That’s her hobby. He got a cardboard box. Note it was trash day. There was a glut of cardboard boxes. He boxed her up and let her out. Didn’t bother thinking that it may have belonged to someone in the building. He somehow assumed that a street cat had sauntered into the code-locked building, wandered up a few flights of stairs, and started meowing her heart out.
The killer is that EJ was calling his guard shack around the same time he was retrieving the cat. WE WERE SO CLOSE!!!
After my K-Gov meeting was over, I called EJ. She told me what happened. OH CRAP!!! I immediately told my office what had happened and excused myself from work.
I rushed home and joined EJ in a post-ear-beating search for the cat.
This was Friday. We scoured our apartment complex and its surroundings. I looked up info on finding lost cats. I had to sift through pet detectives who were trying to scare people into buying their books to find anything useful.
That evening, I set up a box with dirty smelly clothes under our building, along with an open can of her favorite food. I walked around the apartment complex until it was time to record my weekly podcast. I then went back out until 3 a.m.
Got up at 6:08 a.m. Continued the search.
This time I baited trees with canned cat food to tempt her back to our area. I also made some posters and printed them up while making ads for social networks. I targeted our area with hashtags, even targeting people just looking for cafes in our area.
I had a Dark Side of Seoul tour that night, so I did that while the girls posted the posters in every building’s elevator and on local businesses. Returned around 11:30. Recovered a bit, and then continued my search until 2 a.m.
Got up at 6:08. Weird how the body does this. Searched again.
That afternoon, my friend and boss Taeyang (whom you may know from posts like this) came with family in tow to help search. We found a LOT of cats on that hunt but not the one we were looking for. I bought a couple of high powered Energizer flashlights. That helped us out a lot. I had gotten in so many steps that weekend that I believe Google Fit accused me of lying. Taking off my socks, toes on both of my feet were bloody.
Got up at 6:08. (This is getting freaky.) Hunted again. It was Monday, so I went to work, kinda zombified. We had been closer to hiring a pet detective. EJ suggested we get up and search when Quti usually tries to wake us up–3 a.m.
So at 3:00 the alarm rang, and we ventured out for two hours. OMG! We have become great at finding cats now! I’ve even started naming them. We also have been getting a lot of leads from callers who’ve seen our fliers. We rush out there with kennel and flashlights and temptation food, only to find a cat who sorta looks like ours but isn’t. I personally take this in stride in thinking that people are actively trying to help us, and we’ll eventually find Quti. EJ is more pessimistic. So we hunted for a couple of hours and went back to bed.
Today, we went to the apartment main office. EJ had done so on Friday, but at the time, she had assumed a different time frame. She looked at CCTV at the wrong time. We now know when the eviction took place, and we requested to look at the CCTV. The official showed me how to work the system, and we started our detective work. Honestly, I wish I had full access to this system at home. I found so many interesting human and street cat behaviors during our searches. We did find the exact time that Quti was evicted and saw that she hadn’t wandered across the street but had stayed within our apartment campus. That said, we couldn’t find her in any other footage. Again, if I had the luxury of viewing these at home, my chances of finding and tracking her would have been better.
The thing I like about where we live also makes it difficult to track down a cat. We’re on the edge of city and country. Our neighborhood was a farming village that became light industry and is rapidly becoming a bedroom community for west Seoulites exodizing from the city’s Praxis-level home prices. (I just noticed that people were tossing around the bridge before the wheeled chairs were.)
This nexus (another Star Trek movie reference) creates a ton of places for cats to hide. Apartment basements, wooded areas, rice fields, factory warehouses, cemeteries. A woman we talked with said she’d hired a pet detective for her lost cat, but the detective stated that our area was too difficult.
In the meantime, I’ve really gotten to know the nooks and crannies of our complex and its feline denizens. I’ve even named them. Please meet…
Momma ‘Stache, who looks like a black & white cat with a Hitler mustache, along with her kittehs…
Kitty-‘Stache, Kitty-Panther, Kitty-Gray, and Kitty-Patches (not pictured)
Momma ‘Stache and her kittehs live at the factory outside our complex. They wander a bit, and Kitty-Patches is curious about us. I’d adopt him if we could.
Oraenji, the orange cat
UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15TH
We’ve contacted two pet detectives. They’ve each told us to do more searching before hiring them. We discovered this morning that most of the apartment basements are unlocked. Now, you know how badly I want to find our cat when I venture into these bunkers straight from the set of the “Saw” movies. Effing spooky as hell. EJ and I scouted each and every building to find which ones had ajar windows, so we’d investigate their basements later. I saw one with a wide open window, so I went inside and spelunked.
THE CREEPIEST THING EVER!!!
I thought someone was actually living in there. But I think the janitorial staff was using this as a hangout.
Just–I could charge admission and make a super Halloween Haunted House in our apartment basement. It’s so CREEEEPEEEEE what lies underneath our houses as we shit on our toilets.
I’m going to keep updating here on our progress. I’ve scoured all the advice, as has EJ. We’re doing the best we can. Our alcove under our building has Quti’s spent litter (to keep other cats away) with her favorite food, water, and dirty human clothes. I’m continuing to bait our area to attract her. I’m just doing my best. She ain’t the smartest of cats. I’m hoping she’ll figure things out and show her face.
We’ll continue to hunt and do our rounds. EJ is suggesting that she’s been spooked outside of our immediate area. But I’m not going to open that can. That would mean combing rice fields and bars. I’m the only one checking the perimeter outside our complex on a regular basis, though.
UPDATE: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH
On Thursday, we hired a pet detective, who came over at 5 p.m. She and EJ scoured the area for five hours while Jian and I systematically checked under every above-ground single parked car in our complex. Still nothing. Hiring the pet detective was fine. She gave us a lot more information about how to search for Quti. But she wasn’t doing much anything different than what we’d already been doing. Just a net and a flashlight, checking crawl spaces and bushes. We’d originally contacted this guy who’s famous on YouTube, and he directed us to his colleague. The guy, in the end, blamed US for them not finding the cat because we’d waited too long. This was the same guy who suggested that we wait longer.
Early Thursday morning, EJ and I ran into the guard who had thrown out our cat. He sheepishly asked if we’d found the cat. EJ started asking him questions, and then it got heated. He was making excuse after excuse and then started moving the blame to us. With EJ, you just don’t do that. It really set her off. She scheduled to have a sit down talk with him in the management office at noon. I got ready and went to work.
The story I got after I got home was epic. The guard is a small older man who you’d kinda feel sorry for. The problem is that he had changed his story four different times. EJ sat down with him at the management office. Here is my re-enactment of what happened, according to what I was told.
EJ: “Do you have something you need to tell me?”
GUARD: “I don’t think so. I’m sorry, if that’s what you mean.”
EJ: “No, there is something you have left out of your story. I’m giving you a chance to confess.”
GUARD: “I’ve told you everything. I swear.”
EJ: “Are you sure? This is your last chance.”
GUARD: “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
EJ: “Before you entered the building with a box, you had entered the building carrying a stick. Why?”
GUARD: “Stick? I didn’t carry a stick.”
EJ: “I have three witnesses who saw you carry a stick into the building on CCTV. Me, the pet detective, and the CCTV operator all saw it.”
GUARD: “I swear on my parents I didn’t walk in with a stick.”
EJ then took him over, and they showed him the video of him walking into the building with a stick.
GUARD: “I don’t remember doing that. I swear on my parents.”
EJ: “Do you have Alzheimer’s or something? How can you not remember? It’s right there on the CCTV. Why did you go in there with a stick?”
GUARD: “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
EJ: “Are you trying the ‘I was drunk and don’t remember’ defense? Listen, you’re older than me, so I should so respect. But you keep changing your story. I want the truth from you.”
GUARD: “I swear on my parents I didn’t hit your cat.”
EJ: “I don’t know your parents, so that means nothing to me. If you had just knocked on a few doors to ask if anyone was missing a cat, we wouldn’t be here. You keep changing your story. If we find the cat and see she’s been hit, we’ll sue you.”
By then, the general supervisor started to get involved. EJ described him as an arrogant old Joseon Dynasty ajosshi. She turned to him.
EJ: “And likely none of this would go this far if you had made an intercom announcement like I asked.”
SUPERVISOR: “We don’t do that for missing animals. If we did that, then everyone would come here to make an announcement. We’d get complaints.”
EJ: “You’d get complaints, eh? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GETTING NOW?? I know you’re older than me, and I don’t want to do gapjil, but it is you who is looking down on me. You are acting like you are above me. I am not your employee. I am one of your tenants. We depend on you. Do I pay apartment fees for your salary each month so that you can talk down to me? You are apartment guards, not prison guards. Stop treating us tenants like your prisoners!”
The supervisor didn’t respond.
Anyway, I kinda feel sorry for the guard. Pity, really. I know what it’s like to be on the business end of EJ’s verbal rifle. He seemed kind of simple minded, so I feel there’s no reason or satisfaction to get him in trouble. I was trying to get that through to EJ before her meeting. I asked her what her goal was in confronting the guard and management. Did she want them to participate in helping us? Or did she just want revenge?
EJ: “I want revenge.”
So yeah, I’m distancing myself from that and am concentrating on finding the cat.
I’ve narrowed my search area, but I’m searching more thoroughly and more aggressively. I’m going into the basements and opening the doors that say “KEEP OUT.”
Insomnia has been a killer this week. Each evening I’ve searched. Then I go to bed, but I can hardly sleep. Then I look at my watch.
“Screw it. Let’s go look.”
I get out of bed and hunt for the cat until the sun comes up. And then when I head back to get some sleep, EJ greets me outside, so I go searching another two hours with her. Then I go to work.
By Friday, I’d had a total of four hours sleep over a three-day span. My nerves were raw. My filters and buffers had thinned out. EJ and I started Friday by trying to get some stuff done, but the smallest things set us off into arguing. I realized we were both trying to function on little sleep, so I separated us to cool down. Or rather, I holed myself up in my office.
Friday night was the first time I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and hunt for the cat. Shawn and I recorded an episode of “The Dark Side of Seoul Podcast” a little earlier than usual that night. I slept out on the sofa in the living room–next to the tent where Jian prefers to sleep these days. For some reason, I tend to sleep more deeply on the sofa. I had to recharge. I was becoming useless and ornery with this lack of sleep. I had just get in a full night.
So, we’ve tried almost everything. We’ve stopped putting out Quti’s bed and stuff. We only have her used litter in a cardboard box under the steps of our building. The experts have all said that doesn’t work, but whatever.
EJ and I have truly spelunked the underground of this complex. We discovered one basement towards the center of the complex that carries all the central cables and leads even further underground, accessible by a rickety ladder. We found old cat droppings near there. We guess that’s where the feral cats shelter during the winter. I started going down the ladder, but EJ forbade it. Too dangerous.
I’m now trying to get my hands on a cat trap or two. I found some online. I’d ordered one, but I got a notice late last night that they were delaying shipping until a week from now. As in, they won’t even process and start shipping for another week. It’s the Chuseok holiday, so everything stops. The thing is, our cat doesn’t recognize Korean holidays. I’d rather not wait two more weeks to even start setting up a cat trap. So I’m asking around online for resources.
Another improvised cat trap I’m considering is using the basements. I’m considering setting some of them up using the roach motel model. I’ll open a window of a basement. Inside, I’ll put in water and some really odorous tuna. I’ll even create a scent trail to the window. I’ll block all the other escape routes. The window is set so that a cat can jump in but can’t jump out. I’m also thinking of getting some white powder (flour, talcum) and spreading it a bit in the basement and other areas for tracking purposes. I’m setting up these cat motels in three or four basements in our area.
I have tours both tonight and Sunday. But I also need sleep. So today, I’ll set up the cat motels. After the tours tonight, I’ll do a couple of hours of searching. But I’m not waking up at 3 a.m. to hunt. I need sleep.
UPDATE: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH
After I got home from the tours, I set up the cat trap in the wooded area near where Quti was first tossed out. Baited it with tuna, and I also have a bowl of water. I also set up a trail of tuna to the trap and secured it to a tree with a bicycle lock. Partially covered it with towels.
I then set out and made my impromptu cat “roach motels” in the basements of four buildings in that area, sprinkling the ground next to the bait with baking soda to detect tracks.
It was 3:30 when I showered and went to bed. My clothes and body reeked of tuna. I actually slept in Jian’s tent in the living room. She slept with her mom in the master bedroom. Both girls are super depressed, spontaneously breaking out in tears. Quti really affected them deeply. I hope we find her.
I got up at 9:30 and checked the traps. So far, caught nothing but ants. I’m thinking I should replace the tuna with dry food and use the tuna to create a trail to the trap.