Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Staff writer 

Lost feline found

Salem escaped from the car during a fuel stop in July.


December 6, 2017

Courtesy photo

Wayland Labhart holds the family cat, Salem, after being reunited with the pet that had been missing for more than four months.

Against all odds, a family has been reunited with its cat after she was lost in Tucumcari in July during a move from Washington, D.C., to Arizona.

"It may be due to good fortune and the good nature of the residents of Tucumcari, but Salem is back with her family," said Wayland Labhart, of Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Labhart said he was contacted on Thursday by Kathi McClelland, director of the Quay County Paws and Claws Animal Rescue Group, about his lost cat Salem. He said the family lost the cat in Tucumcari in July in the back half of their move.

"The microchip in our cat was not registering and there was no collar, but Kathi described certain mannerisms that convinced me it was Salem," Labhart said. "For one we nicknamed the cat 'Bitey' due to her unique way of showing affection."

Labhart said he and his son left Arizona at 12:30 a.m. Friday and traveled 581 miles to arrive in Tucumcari. He said when they got to the clinic, he and the cat had a momentary stand off, but after a while the cat recognized him. With the help of a birthmark in the mouth, Salem's identity was verified.

"My family and I have to thank Kathi, Shaula Steele and the community for all of their support and not giving up," Labhart said. "From the very beginning of this ordeal they, the community has shown so much support."

McClelland said the capture and safe return of the cat was made possible with the help of Steele and a live trap donated by Linda Sills. She said Steele had reported seeing a cat matching the description around her residence.

"It was a long shot, trying to catch one certain stray cat, but it paid off," McClelland said.

Labhart said Salem escaped from the car while the family had stopped for gas at the McStop fuel station on South First Street. He said the family tried to chase the cat down but was unable to capture Salem.

"We stayed overnight in the hopes that we could find and catch her," Labhart said. "There was one sighting at a fast food restaurant but by they time we got there she was gone."

Labhart said the family eventually had to leave for their new home, hoping that someone would find Salem. He said Salem has been part of their family for more than five years.

The cat has moved frequently with the family, with Labhart recently retired from miltary service.

Labhart said his wife Nissa Labhart initially came back to Tucumcari to search for Salem and put up signs offering a reward for her return. He said there were several sightings but after three days she had no luck and returned to Arizona.

"My daughter had found the Tucumcari rescue group on Facebook and kept in touch with them and the reports of Salem's sittings," Labhart said. "After all of her vanishing acts, we finally have Salem back in our family."


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