HUNTINGTON — On the 11-hour ride from North Carolina back to Indiana University Bloomington, Gray Smiley totaled his car and lost his cat Puccini, all in the same three-car collision on Interstate 64 near Pea Ridge.
As Smiley’s vehicle was crushed between the two other vehicles, the rear windshield broke, allowing Puccini to escape from the vehicle onto the highway around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, directly across Baker Road.
“Please help me find my cat,” Smiley said in a Facebook post asking for the community to help find Puccini. “She is far from home and undoubtedly afraid.”
Puccini is gray with a white stomach and white feet. She is wearing a red reflective collar with two tags on it: one with Smiley’s name, number and the cat’s name, and a blue rabies immunization tag. The cat’s left ear is clipped.
Smiley believes Puccini ran toward the river but doesn’t think she would cross.
“I got right out of my car, because I was concerned because I saw her jump out and I was like, ‘I need to find her right now,’ but we were unable to do that,” Smiley said.
He said after a few hours of talking to the police and the other drivers in the collision, he was allowed to search for his cat.
Smiley tried to look in the immediate area, but it became too dark. He stayed at a local hotel both Saturday night and Sunday to continue searching for Puccini, but he had to leave Monday afternoon for the start of his spring semester.
Although Smiley won’t be able to travel back to Huntington to pick up Puccini, he has family in Cincinnati who plan to help when she is found.
Smiley said Puccini was out of her crate to allow her to use the litter box during the long trip.
An animal control officer searched the area for Puccini on Monday morning. The Tri-State community has been sharing Smiley’s posts to local Facebook groups and creating their own fliers for the cat.
“I’ve helped other people, locally, find their missing cats, but especially when they have someone who is not familiar with the area, I feel like somebody’s gotta help him (Smiley),” said volunteer Teresa Atkins, a member of the One By One Animal Advocates group. “If it were me and I was traveling and I lost one of my cats, I would hope someone would do the same for me.”
Atkins said she has gathered pieces of clothing from Smiley to entice the cat and plans to use a drone to view the surrounding area.
Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter is also searching for the missing cat.
“We just hope someone finds the kitty. It is a horrible feeling when your pet is missing,” said Courtney Proctor Cross, the shelter’s executive director. “We really feel sorry for her person, and it’s cold. We know all the things that are stressful for this. We want to reassure him that we are going to do everything that we can and try to reunite him with his cat.”
Proctor Cross recommends to not chase the cat, but to trap it in a crate or box to not allow the cat to get out. Puccini can be dropped off at the shelter until she can be reunited with her owner. A reward will be offered to the person who finds Puccini.
For local help, call Atkins at 304-417-2841 or Proctor Cross at 304-544-5891.
To contact Puccini’s owner, email FoundPuccini@gmail.com or call 252-864-1134.