A cat lost in Yellowstone National Park in August has been returned to her family in Houston with the help of some West Yellowstone residents. Philip Wattenbarger and his family were camping in a trailer in the West Yellowstone area when their long-haired tabby, Fluffy, went missing on Aug. 1.
Elizabeth Ayers said the family figured the cat had been caught by a coyote. Her three young daughters, 6-year-old twins Tamara and Evelyn and 8-year-old Marisa, were sad about losing the cat.
"Tamara in particular had been very upset," Ayers said. "Every day she'd say, 'Mom, is Fluffy coming back?"
Fluffy somehow survived for about three months despite the coyotes, foxes, owls, hawks, eagles and grizzly bears that frequent the West Yellowstone area.
"It's pretty amazing," said Rick Armstrong, a West Yellowstone school guidance counselor, whose family lives north of town. "There's plenty of predators that would want to eat a little cat."
Residents in the Horse Butte area, about a mile from the campground, noticed the stray cat and started leaving food out for her. She had a harness and tag, but wouldn't let anyone get close enough to her to read it, Armstrong said.
Fluffy was apparently finding shelter in a garage.
With cold weather approaching in mid-November, Armstrong's parents, Norval and Shirley Armstrong, borrowed a live trap and baited it with cat food. Fluffy took the bait on Nov. 15.
"Five minutes later, my mother called the people in Houston," Armstrong said. "They couldn't believe it."
Ayers says Fluffy "wasn't the smarter of our two cats, so we were quite surprised. She has more skills than we expected."
Anne Kinney, a Horse Butte-area resident and retired Delta Airlines flight attendant, volunteered to accompany Fluffy home.
On Nov. 18, Kinney and Fluffy flew to Houston and met Ayers, who paid the cat's vet bill a $150 air fare.
"We were all thrilled when she got home," Ayers said. "She's my snuggle-bud. She loves to be held like a baby. She snuggles down and purrs."