A Loose Cat That Evaded Airport Staff For Three Weeks Was Finally Caught After An All-Hands Hunt

There’s a ruckus inside Logan Airport, and it’s been going on for weeks. An elusive beast has been running amok in the building, and nobody seems to know what to do to stop it. But just what is this creature? A bear? A lion? No: it’s just a regular cat, using all of her wiles to stay one step ahead.

Sneaky cat

But don’t be fooled. Just because she’s a small creature, that doesn’t mean this animal can’t elude staff at the Boston-based airport over and over again. This cat is sneaky, an expert at avoiding capture. Even with a bunch of people in pursuit, she always manages to get free. And she’s been outfoxing humans for a while now.

Perfectly lovely

Staying true to her tendency to cause trouble, the cat aptly goes by the name of Rowdy. She’s four years of age, with black fur covering her body and eyes colored a beautiful shade of green. In many ways, she looks just like your run-of-the-mill housecat. If she didn’t cause so much difficulty, most people would say she’s perfectly lovely.

Run of the place

But somehow, Rowdy managed to infiltrate the tight security of Logan Airport — and it really seemed like she didn’t want to leave once she was there. She was so effective at avoiding capture, in fact, that nobody could lay a hand on her for three whole weeks. She had the run of the place for all that time!

Expert escape artist

All kinds of airport workers ended up getting involved in the chase for Rowdy, but nobody could manage to catch her. She always appeared to escape them all. And by that third week, it may well have seemed as if nobody would ever be able to get this cat out of the airport. Yep, she was that good.

How did she get there?

But how on Earth did Rowdy manage to even get into the airport? Did she just waltz in off the street and start causing trouble? Well, not exactly. If you want to get the real lowdown on this bizarre saga, you need to turn to a post on a Facebook group called Massachusetts Lost Pet Locator.

Rowdy makes her journey

First uploaded toward the end of June 2022, the post came from someone named Patty Nolet Sahli. Patty and her family had been living in Germany until recently, but now they were making the journey back home to the United States. When they eventually touched down in Boston, however, they discovered that something terrible had happened.

A truly desperate situation

Patty wasn’t moving home alone — her cat Rowdy was coming along, too. That meant caging Rowdy up and putting her into the cargo hold, which isn’t terribly unusual. Lots of airlines offer that service for pets, but on this occasion it all went wrong. And as Patty’s Facebook post illustrates, this was a truly desperate situation.

Lost at Logan Airport

Patty wrote to the Massachusetts Lost Pet Locator group, “Lost at Logan Airport! We miss our baby girl, Rowdy! We are moving back to the U.S. from serving with the U.S. Army overseas in Germany. We flew from Frankfurt to Boston... [but the airline] didn’t know where she was when we went to pick her up.”

Please help

Clearly in some distress, Patty claimed that the airline had no idea where Rowdy had gone. “She escaped her cage in the cargo bay, and they said she went to chase birds and they couldn’t catch her. She must be sooo scared. She has a chip, and we registered it with MSPCA and ARL. Please help us!” Patty pleaded.

Everyone gets involved

This quickly led to an all-out search for the fugitive cat. Everyone was keeping an eye out for Rowdy, but she turned out to be an elusive beast. Even when folks used their best cat-catching skills, she somehow managed to elude capture. Would Rowdy ever make it back home to Patty and her family before something bad happened?

Hi-tech assistance

The rescue efforts became more complex as they dragged on, with hi-tech gadgets employed to help catch the cat. A bunch of specialist cameras were deployed around the airport, in the hope that one would catch a glimpse of Rowdy and alert the search party to her whereabouts. When she was picked up by the cameras, though, would anyone get to her in time?

Captured on camera

Sure enough, reports claim that the cameras did, in fact, capture footage of Rowdy on the run around the airport. But that still made it no easier to actually grab the beast and bring her back to her owner. After a week of searching, the folks at Logan Airport were still no closer to catching the cat.

Traps set

In an update on Facebook a week into the debacle, Patty explained what was going on. “I met with the deputy director of Logan Airport facilities today. They have traps set with food and water and my clothes items in the basement where they believe [Rowdy] ran. We are also sending them voice recordings from family. We also have her favorite treats being placed with the cages,” she posted.

Loves her treats

Patty elaborated on what those treats were, saying, “[Rowdy] loves Temptations treats. She will open cupboards to find them and even chew through the bag to get them. If she isn’t in the secure area anymore, she should show up somewhere... Hopefully, someone will pick her up and we will identify her with her chip. All we can do is keep up hope.”

Still evading capture

As the days wore on, Rowdy continued to evade capture like a pro. She was, however, showing up in the footage recorded by the cameras dotted around the airport. That, at least, was a source of hope for Patty. For the time being, the cat was alive and well — but she still needed to be rescued for her own safety.

Patty stays cautiously optimistic

By the second week, things were looking increasingly bleak — but Patty hadn’t yet given up hope. The airline that had lost the cat had agreed to fund a tracker to help in the search, and Patty was cautiously optimistic about this. She even updated the Facebook group with the words, “We might get her back soon.”

Finally captured

Sure enough, Patty wouldn’t have to wait much longer. A couple of days on from that update — almost three whole weeks after she’d first gone missing — Rowdy was taken in. After all that time fighting to keep hold of her freedom, the cat may have been just too tired to go on. Finally, Patty’s ordeal was over.

Looking good

Patty naturally updated the people who’d been following the story on Facebook. “Rowdy is found!” she posted jubilantly. “She was trapped early this morning... She looks great, is happy to be with people, and I am sure will be happy to be reunited with us. Thank you everyone for your support!” It was hard not to feel relieved for the worried cat owner.

A happy ending

Best of all, photos would emerge of the cat being reunited with Patty at last. It was a happy ending to a story that just could have gone the other way. After all, Rowdy had gotten herself into some real trouble in that airport. But, after a lot of time and effort, it thankfully all worked out in the end.

Ebi returns

Rowdy isn’t the only cat to have evaded capture for a considerable period of time, though. Joe Drnec’s cat, Ebi, had been missing for years when got a phone call in early 2022 telling him that the animal had finally been found. The Knoxville resident had been called by an Animal Services employee who wanted to know whether he wanted his lost cat back, and he was initially lost for words. The strange part? The last time he saw Ebi was seven years before and on the other side of the country… in Riverside, California!

The Drnecs are shocked

The shocked Drnec told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “It was quite a surprise to get that phone call. It brought my whole family to tears.” In truth, Drnec and his wife Leanna had resigned themselves to the fact they’d never see Ebi again. He admitted, “We went through the whole process of mourning. We thought she was gone forever.”

Going above and beyond

Now, it’s one thing to be told your lost cat is alive and well, but it’s another to find out she’s been found more than 2,000 miles away! Any kind of reunion would be a difficult thing to organize — not to mention costly. Amazingly, though, a good Samaritan then made an incredible gesture, going above and beyond to ensure a man and his beloved pet were reunited.

Elusive kitties

When it comes to getting lost, cats have got it down to a fine art. Think about it — how often do you find yourself wondering where your kitty has gone, only to eventually find them hiding in the back of the closet? Or how about when they go wandering for hours on end and you’ve no idea where they’ve been? They’re elusive creatures when they want to be.

A natural urge

In truth, the hiding is fairly easily explained — it’s a coping mechanism. Vicki Jo Harrison of The International Cat Association explained to Newsweek, “The most basic reason cats hide is to feel safe, and to protect themselves from things they perceive as dangerous or stressful.” In truth, their natural urge is usually not to fight if they feel threatened — it’s to run and hide.

Reacting strongly to change

Now, you may think you’ve done nothing to scare your beloved pet. But cats respond strongly to any kind of environmental change, be it a new child, a house move, or even another pet in the home — and it may make them want to hide. Harrison believes, “It is important to respect the time they need to take to feel safe and adjust to a new home or environment.”

Why do they wander?

What about the wandering, though? Well, there are many reasons why a cat might wander off to explore its local area. Interestingly, if it’s feeling stressed or scared it can get the urge to wander instead of hide. Sometimes, if there’s upheaval in your home, the cat may run away for some peace and quiet!

The hunter

Another reason for wandering is a cat’s natural aptitude for hunting. While your fluffy kitty might look cute as a button to you, it’s actually a predator with a strong instinct that tells it to hunt and kill! So, if you haven’t seen your cat for a few hours, it’s probably out tracking down some unsuspecting prey — maybe a rodent, or even a small bird.

In heat

On top of that, cats have been known to disappear if they’re in heat. This process happens a number of times a year, and will see your cat becoming more affectionate, raising its hind legs, and maybe even urinating to mark its territory. The animal will also be in a frenzy to get outside because it desperately wants to track down a mate!

The spaying option

If you want to avoid this — like most pet owners do — you could have your kitty spayed. It’ll save you the worry of your female cat becoming pregnant with a litter of kittens, but it will also remove one potential reason for a cat to go missing. After all, if it has no interest in finding a suitor, that’s one less reason to wander.

Picking up scraps

Finally, your cat may have gone missing because it’s found someone else. As in, a person — maybe a neighbor or a kind restaurateur — who will feed them scraps if they come around! The hungry animal will remember where they have easy access to food and keep going back there. Hey, kitty’s got to eat, just like anybody else!

Getting lost

This is where things get tricky, though. While most outdoor cats love to wander if they get the chance, there’s every possibility they could wind up getting lost. Sometimes they encounter danger and sometimes they just get distracted by something and run off. This could lead to them becoming disoriented because they suddenly don’t know where they are.

Super hard to find

Now, because most owners know their furry bundles of joy can sometimes go missing for days and still return home safe and sound, they don’t tend to worry immediately. But here’s the thing — because of their agility and propensity for hiding in hard to reach areas, missing cats are super hard to find. So, if their time away stretches on, some owners then fear they’ll never find them.

High numbers

The Lost Cat Finder agency’s Kim Freeman told the Bored Panda website this attitude can lead to trouble. She explained, “Not only do cat owners rarely report the incident — if the cat is not chipped — many owners simply assume the worst and do not perform a valid search.” Freeman believes this means missing cat numbers are actually much higher than what is officially reported.


Freeman continued, “Complicating matters ever further, when people do notice a new cat, they usually assume the cat is either dumped, abandoned, or stray — as opposed to the very likely category of lost.” She added, “Dogs run out in the open where people see them and worry. While cats hide, and even if seen, no one thinks twice about a cat out and about.”

The homing instinct

But what about the cats who manage to find their way home? How do they do that? According to PetMD, it’s all about their “homing instinct.” This is an innate ability to navigate back to their home territory and it’s something all cats have — even indoor ones. But here’s the kicker — some homing instincts are more developed than others.

Not all the same

If your cat is used to going outside, for example — and has had lots of experience exploring the area in which it lives — it should have a great homing instinct. An indoor cat, on the other hand, will certainly have some level of the instinct built in. But it will be nowhere near as finely honed as that of an outdoor cat.

How does it work?

Unfortunately, science hasn’t really come up with exactly how a cat’s homing instinct works. It’s mostly assumed to have something to do with their incredible sense of smell, which is even more developed than a dog’s. But research has suggested it could also have something to do with the geomagnetic fields of the Earth!

The maze experiment

In 1954 German scientists created an experiment in which they put cats in a maze. They quickly found most of the felines escaped the labyrinth at the exit closest to where they started — their “home” location. But after having magnets placed onto them, the cats couldn’t find their way home anywhere near as efficiently!

Memorizing routes

Interestingly, it’s also believed that cats have the ability to memorize routes they travel regularly. As they’re very territorial, they don’t usually stray too far from home either. So, this means many cats find their way home because they’ve got their local area — and the paths they use to navigate it — firmly etched in their memory banks. Cool, huh?

Old home vs new home

All this vaguely odd science is to say: yes, a cat may be able to find its way home if it gets lost. Studies have even found that, when cats go missing after moving to a new house, 30 percent of them will make their way back to their old house. That’s because they’ve spent the most time there and associate it more strongly as their home.

Time to adjust

This is why it’s always a good idea to keep your cat inside when you move house, at least for the first month. The animal needs time to adjust to its new surroundings and conclude that this is where they live now. Some younger cats or kittens can seem fine with their new space within a few hours, but older cats may need days to fully imprint on the place.

Ebi is returned

Speaking of moving house, this brings us neatly back to the Drnecs. The couple was so convinced Ebi was gone back in 2015 that, soon after she disappeared, they moved halfway across the country to Knoxville. Then, when the cat they last saw as a tiny kitten was returned to them, Drnec remarked, “She looks healthy and happy. She doesn’t look war-torn, like an outdoor cat.”

How was Ebi found?

So, what gives? How did Ebi wind up back in the Drnec’s arms over 2,000 miles away from where she got lost? And who had been looking after her for seven years? Well, when the kitty was brought into the Riverside County Animal Services by a member of the public, she had been found wandering in downtown Riverside.

John Welsh enters the picture

John Welsh, the public information officer for the shelter and a very important figure in this story, told Newsweek that Ebi was being cared for by — direct quote — “a mysterious individual.” That’s about as much as is known about who was looking after her, unfortunately. Welsh did add that Ebi was very affectionate, but quite skittish.

A thrilling little ‘beep’

Welsh knew less than two percent of lost cats were ever reunited with their owners. This is a horrifying statistic, but it didn’t deter him from scanning Emi in the hope she was microchipped. Thankfully, she was. He beamed, “We’re always thrilled when we scan the animal and get a little ‘beep.’”

Knowing what to do

When the chip revealed Emi’s owners had moved to Knoxville, Welsh knew what he had to do. He chuckled to Newsweek, “My brain went into automatically thinking I’m going to probably fly this cat to Tennessee.” He told WATE-TV, “It took us some time to figure out what we’re going to do… The logistics were basically me asking my wife, ‘Can I do this?’”———

Above and beyond

Amazingly, it wouldn’t be the first time Welsh had gone above and beyond to get a cat back to its family. In 2021 he had flown a cat to Oklahoma City to honor the wishes of an owner’s uncle. He even used his own funds to do it, as it’s against the law for an animal shelter to use taxpayer money for such a thing.

Welsh and Ebi go on a trip

So, on February 16, 2022, Welsh and Ebi caught a flight from Ontario, California, to Knoxville. He then hired a rental car and drove to a town called Bearden, which is where Drnec works at a Bike & Trail store. All in all, between the flights, car and hotel costs, Welsh spent around $1,000 on the trip — and he felt it was worth every penny.

The reasoning

Welsh told the Knoxville News Sentinel about the reasoning underlying his incredible gesture. He said, “I am using my personal time and money for this trek in the interest of promoting microchips and pet reunions. It’s not something we could do every day, obviously. But this was important because it’s a good way to promote microchipping, particularly for cats.”

Advertisement for microchipping

Welsh is right, to be fair — Ebi’s story is a great advertisement for microchipping your pets. It’s a simple process which involves implanting a small microchip under the animal’s skin. It can then be scanned by a veterinarian, who then receives a code linked to the owner’s address details on the microchip company’s database.

The stats

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association conducted a survey of 53 U.S. animal shelters in 2009. The results — as Welsh alluded to earlier — showed that less than two percent of cats without microchips were ever reunited with their families. By contrast, more than 38 percent of microchipped cats found their way back into their owners’ arms.


Fittingly for a man who cares so much about animals, there was another more personal impetus for the trip. Sadly, Welsh’s own cat had passed away not long before Ebi was found. He told Newsweek, “I know how much a cat means to people. My wife and I really took that hard. We don’t have any children and the cat was like our child.”

Ebi vs being indoors

Indeed, Ebi had also been like a child to the Drnecs — she was only three months old when they adopted her. The shelter they got her from had microchipped her, but they were told she had been feral for much of her start in life. This meant their attempts to turn her into an indoor cat were met with — putting it politely — some resistance.

Too much energy

“She had a lot of energy, too much energy for being in the house,” Drnec told Knoxville News Sentinel. “She was bouncing off the walls and kept meowing to go outside.” They began taking her outside — under strict supervision — and eventually started to let her go out alone. It seemed to be working out — until one day she just never came home.

Hoping for the best

The couple were distraught, but eventually began to accept what had happened. Drnec told WATE-TV, “We really hoped and prayed that she found a good home. That’s kind of what we thought in the back of our minds — she must have found a good home. I think that’s what people do just to kind of cope with it.”

No more risks

Drnec knew he and his wife had a very different cat on their hands when Ebi was returned, though — and they’d treat her accordingly this time. Drnec said, “Back then, she was just full of kitten energy. Now, I think she’ll make a much better inside cat. I’m not about to risk losing [her] by letting her outside again.”

A period of adjustment for Ebi

In truth, it seemed like Ebi, as much as her owners, would be in for a period of adjustment after such a long time away. Not least because the Drnecs still have Eunice, the 14-year-old cat they’ve owned since long before adopting Ebi. Drnec revealed the plan was for Ebi to stay with his parents — who live next door — while they reintroduce the cats to each other slowly.

A timely reminder

Overall, though, the couple said the experience had been a welcome reminder of the inherent goodness in people. Drnec told WATE-TV, “When you see so much bad on the news and in the world… You see something like this, it reminds you of the goodness in humanity and just there is so much goodness out there still.” Well said!