It was summer 2017, and the neighbor knew the building in the Northeastern English village of Coundon Grange should be empty. The people who had lived there had left years ago, and the house had been boarded up for a whole week. But unless the neighbor was very much mistaken, something had just moved behind one of the upstairs windows. Suddenly they saw the eerie presence again – no mistake this time – and knew they had to call someone to help.
This is when the RSPCA came in to the story. The organization’s acronym stands for the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and it operates in England and Wales. Since founding way back in 1824, it has become one of the biggest charities in the U.K. It is also the largest animal welfare organization in the world.
Thanks to donations from the public and its royal patron, Queen Elizabeth II, the RSPCA is a trail-blazing success. Not only does its campaigning work take its members across the world, but it has also inspired animal lovers everywhere. Many similar organizations have been founded world-wide as a result of its example.
But it was an RSPCA helpline in England that got a call from a concerned citizen on July 12, 2017. The RSPCA receives more calls about cats than any other creature – at a rate of about one every three minutes. The good Samaritan in this instance was contacting them from the small settlement of Coundon Grange, near Bishop Auckland, in County Durham. They had seen something unsettling in the neighborhood that needed the RSPCA’s expert attention.
Apparently, the caller had witnessed some movement in an abandoned house in the village. The building, which had allegedly been standing empty for years, was boarded up a week prior to the sighting. Nevertheless, there was someone – or something – trapped inside the otherwise vacant property.
The neighbor had seen a shape at one of the building’s upper windows, and was surprised by what they saw as they looked a little longer. There was a cat sitting at one of the windowsills in the supposedly empty house. The neighbor realized the cat must be trapped, and immediately rang the RSPCA helpline for assistance.
It wasn’t long before the organization sent out Gemma Lynch, who works as an inspector for the RSPCA in Northeast England. Lynch went out to look at the Coundon Grange property for herself, hoping it would be a straightforward job and she could free the trapped cat on her own. But, when she got there, it seemed to the inspector that the caller was right to be worried.
Curiosity hadn’t killed the cat this time, but it had led to it being well and truly stuck. The house in question was tightly boarded up, and Lynch was unable to find a way in to the property. “It’s lucky that a neighbor spotted [the cat] at the window and called us,” Lynch told animal interest website The Dodo in August 2017. “I couldn’t gain access to the house right away.”
Not only was the building inaccessible, but there was a further complication. “We didn’t know who the owner of the property was,” Lynch explained. As a result, the RSPCA inspector called the local fire service to ask them to try and gain access to the house. Lynch pushed some cat food through the mail box and then investigated the property while she waited.
During her walk-around, Lynch discovered a way of how the adventurous cat may have managed to get into the property. “The house has been vacant for several years, according to the neighbors,” she told cat lovers’ website Love Meow in August, 2017. “There was a smashed window at the back where [I think the cat may have] crawled inside.”
“Then [the house] must have been boarded-up whilst he was still inside, so he was stuck,” Lynch surmised. However, that situation was about to change for the poor pussy. The firefighters arrived in their red truck, and the crew unbolted the wooden boards from one of the windows. But the petrified tabby cat refused to move.
“I had to coax [the] poor [cat] out,” Lynch told The Dodo, “but he was very scared.” As a result of his solitary ordeal, it took a while for the RSPCA woman to win the frightened cat’s trust. Eventually, when the bewildered cat realized that Lynch was trying to rescue him, he was more than happy to follow her.
With the cat now safe and sound away from his housebound imprisonment, Lynch now had to try and identify the inmate. Initially, she was out of luck – the mystery moggy had no microchip identification. Despite this setback, however, the cat and his owner were soon reunited. The feline’s human father got wind of the rescue, and linked it to his missing furbaby.
“Thankfully his owner only lived around the corner, so when he was told by a neighbor that there was a cat being rescued down the street, he soon realized it was his missing cat,” Lynch told the Dodo.
With Lynch’s help, T.J. not only had an emotional reunion with his human, but also his kitty sibling. “[The owner] was delighted to be reunited with T.J. as was his other cat. They had both really missed him.”
To prevent a similar incident, T.J.’s dad has stated that he will be getting his five-year-old furbaby microchipped for any misadventures in the future. Pet owners microchipping their pets doesn’t just stop the animals from being lost for too long, it can also help lighten the load for animal welfare organizations such as the RSPCA.
According to U.K. broadcaster ITV News, animal welfare groups currently have their hands fuller than usual. In 2016, there was a worrying increase in animal cruelty cases investigated by the RSPCA in England and Wales. In fact, in T.J.’s territory of the North of England there was an increase of almost six percent recorded.
But that’s not all – in County Durham alone, the RSPCA received 3,388 complaints of animal cruelty in 2016. With these kinds of staggering statistics, anything an animal lover can do to lessen the workload for the RSPCA will make a difference. Also, inserting an identifying microchip might save a lost pet’s life.
Alice Potter, resident cat welfare expert at the RSPCA, concurs with the importance of microchipped identification. “Microchipping your cat is the most reliable way to identify them,” she told Love Meow. “[It] gives you the best chance of being reunited if they become lost. Make sure your cat is microchipped and registered with your current contact details.”
Of course, it is not just moggies who should be microchipped – the same goes for other furbabies with an adventurous streak. It was a lucky escape for T.J. and thankfully he had a happy ending. Now the tabby is getting all the belly rubs and affection his owner owes him, safe in his own home.