IOWA DERECHO 2020

Lost and found: Derecho a blessing and curse for pets

Four kittens find new home, but Violet still missing

From left: Memphis, 3, mother Molly Rocarek, holding Periwinkle, Oakley, 3, holding Tinker Bell, Colton, 7, holding Bows
From left: Memphis, 3, mother Molly Rocarek, holding Periwinkle, Oakley, 3, holding Tinker Bell, Colton, 7, holding Bowser and Maverick, 5, holding Flash pose for a photo Friday at their home in Mount Vernon. The Rocarek family took in two kittens found after the Aug. 10 derecho. The family later adopted two more kittens. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — For four little kittens, last month’s devastating derecho paved the way for them to find a home.

Molly Rocarek and her four children were outside playing Aug. 10 at their Mount Vernon home when the sky went dark. Having received word from a friend in Des Moines and a phoned-in warning from her husband that a bad storm was approaching, Rocarek hurried her children — ages 7 and 5, plus 3-year-old twins — into the house and down to the basement.

When the storm finally cleared, damage wasn’t all the family found outside.

“It was the night after the storm, and we found these two kittens — one male and one female,” she said. “They were just wandering around … behind our shop, and then the day after the storm they came on to our patio and just started following us all over.”

The kids were instantly smitten, Rocarek said, and it was obvious the animals needed care.

“They both had mites and lice,” she said, “and the female had an infection that made her sneeze and her eyes were goopy.”

All were things that could be fixed with antibiotics, vaccinations and a little love.

“The kids loved them right away, and I couldn’t imagine making them give the kittens up,” Rocarek said.

But two kittens were not enough for four kids.

“The kids were fighting over the kittens, so we decided we need to adopt two more so each kid could have their own,” she said.

The two kittens that were found in the storm were dubbed Tinker Bell and Flash. Their adopted siblings were named Periwinkle and Bowser.

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For these four kittens, the storm could be considered a blessing. But for other pet owners, the storm downed fences and broke windows — making it easy for their panicked pets to escape.

According to Ronnie Schlabs, director of the Cedar Rapids Animal Care & Control and Care Center, the shelter took in 24 dogs in the two weeks after the storm. That’s nearly double the 13 dogs that were taken in the two weeks before.

Several area animal rescue groups — including Last Hope Animal Rescue and Fur Fun Rescue — said they didn’t see a surge of displaced animals after the storm.

Of those dogs that found themselves in the hands of Cedar Rapids Animal Care & Control, 18 were returned to their owners, two were adopted and two went to other rescues — one of which was injured in the storm.

Additionally, 33 cats were taken in following the storm, 12 of which remain at the shelter.

“A lot of people showed up at the shelter after the storm looking for their animals,” Schlabs said. “In many cases we were able to reunite them that way. But in some cases it was the animal’s microchip that enabled us to find their owners.”

Unfortunately not all the missing animals have found their way home.

Tempted by all the open windows, Violet the cat pushed through a screens the day after the storm and hasn’t been seen since.

Violet is a black-and-white “tuxedo cat” who lives indoors and is typically skittish around humans, “but she loves our children,” owner Leslie Marquez said.

“She is the children’s cat,” Marquez said in a Facebook post asking people in the Marion area — where the family lives — to be on the lookout. “The kids are devastated after all that has happened.”

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Marquez said the family has done all the things pet owners would normally do when a pet gets lost — put up signs, post in Facebook groups and check with shelters and rescues. But Violet was nowhere to be found.

“We didn’t know what the heck to do,” Marquez said. “This has never happened to us before. We put out her favorite bed, food, water and slept in the living room with the front door open so we could hear her if she showed up. At one point, she did show up, but she ran away when my husband called to her.”

That’s when the family decided to put out a trap hoping to catch the elusive feline. Instead they ended up catching more than they bargained for.

First they caught a feral cat they initially mistook for Violet. That mistake was realize once they let the cat loose in the house. It took days to catch the wild feline again and remove it.

Next they caught an opossum.

“That’s when we gave up on the traps and decided to just wait and hope she comes back,” Marquez said. “It breaks my heart for the kids, though. They are so saddened. My 4-year-old keeps asking why Violet doesn’t like them anymore — his thinking being that she left because she doesn’t like them.”

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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