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'Never gave up hope': Missing house cat returns home after spending 54 days in Kananaskis


When Jody Hudey set out for a camping trip with her son and their pet cat in August, never did she think it would turn into a tale of epic feline survival and an experience of heartwarming partnerships between strangers.

It was late August when Hudey and her 10-year-old son Dolphis drove from Winnipeg to Kananaskis for a camping trip at the Spray Lakes West campground, about 16 kilometres south of Canmore. The pair had their cat Gustophe, who they adopted four years ago, along for the camping trip.

But on the fourth night, the cat escaped his harness and ran into the wilderness. It wasn't until 54 days later that Gustophe was found.

"We had a nice sleep and we woke up in the morning and the harness was empty and he had stretched out a little tiny hole in the screen of the tent door," Hudey told CTV News.

"I guess he decided to go on his own little adventure at night time."

The mother and son extended their trip for four days to search for Gustophe, walking past the signs warning of bears in the area and yelling out the cat's name for hours on end. They couldn't find him, so they returned home.

Hudey posted on dozens of Canmore and Calgary community Facebook pages about the lost feline, urging people to keep an eye out for the black cat. It was one of those posts that caught the attention of Lisa Young and Diane Venner, and the Canmore residents jumped into action.


Young set up two trail cameras near the campsite where the family had stayed months prior and the pair, who had never met before they started searching for the lost cat, ended up spending hours together looking for Gustophe.

"The first night I went and stayed in my truck in the dark. It was three kilometres back from the road and there's nothing there. There's nothing, it's pitch black," said Venner.

"Lisa was going to meet me up there and I'm wrapped in a blanket because we're trying to be quiet and we don't want to start the car, don't want to turn any lights on. It was kind of unnerving."

Young and Venner made countless trips back to the area, driving or biking up to the campground to check the trail cams and search for the cat. Hudey even mailed Venner clothes that her and her son had worn so they could be left at the campsite, hoping to lure Gustophe out with their familiar scent.

Dolphis, Jody and Gustophe their cat

"I wasn't super optimistic. I was trying to give (Jody) peace of mind by putting the cameras up there," Young said.

But it was near the end of October, more than three weeks since the cat was last seen, that Young checked the trail cameras once again.

"I pulled one of the cameras -- I had two up there -- and I'm like 'oh my god, there is something on this camera! What is it, is it a fox? What is it? It's a cat!' Then I was just jumping up and down," she said.

She raced back towards cellphone reception and called Venner and Hudey right away.

"Lisa called me and she said 'I got pictures of him, he's at the campsite!' And I was just like 'no way!' So we were both jumping for joy," Hudey said.

"I was just ecstatic. I was crying, actually. I was crying a lot during those couple of days, just out of pure happiness," said Venner.


While the family made the drive back to Alberta from Winnipeg, Venner set up three animal traps around the campsite. Days later, Hudey made it back to area where the trail cam had caught images of a cat. They sat in a car nearby and checked the traps every hour as the snow started to fall.

"I lift up the towel (draped over one of the traps) and sure enough, 'meow,' and he was looking right at us and both of us jumped for joy and we were screaming and yelling and were so excited," Hudey said.

Gustophe at night

"We put (the cat) in the back seat with Dolphis and pretty much as soon as we opened the kennel, he was immediately snuggling with him.

"I never really gave up hope because I said it's not impossible. Everyone was telling me it was impossible and I knew that it wasn't."

It was just before midnight on October 21st when Gustophe was finally reunited with the family, nearly two months after escaping from his harness.

"It was the best feeling in the world. When we went over Saturday morning and met with Jody and her mom and her son and saw how happy they were, it was just wonderful," said Venner.

Despite the time alone in the wilderness, Hudey said Gustophe looked healthy and unharmed. They're not sure where he hid out or what the cat ate, but Hudey said he'd been a stray before they adopted him years ago.

Still, that's the end of camping trips with the cat, Hudey said.

"I think he's had enough adventure for his entire lifetime, for how ever many lifetimes he has left now," she said. Top Stories

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