Last weekend Garfunkel didn't come home. We waited a couple of days, in case he'd been locked in accidentally and then started looking for him. We couldn't see him and were suspecting the worst. On Thursday I printed out some little missing posters for him, but didn't get around to putting them in the neighbours mailboxes until today. My last stop was the neighbours immediately next door and as I got out of the car, my neighbour walked over to chat. I greeted him and told him we had lost a cat again (he was the one who told us where he'd seen Attila on the side of the road) and had he seen him. "What colour" he asked, so I described Garfunkel. "Come with me" he said. By this time his wife had joined us. "Oh, he's been living with us for a week" she laughed. My neighbour came out of his house with our cat in his arms and put him in the car. Turns out he'd been spending his days around with the neighbours, sleeping on all the beds, going outside with their cat and coming back at night. Rotten sod. Several times I had a feeling that he'd been sleeping on Charlie's bed but I told myself that I was imagining things because he was probably gone. I also hoped that he'd maybe gone a bit feral and was sneaking in for food during the day while we were all out. I suspect now that he was.
He is microchipped. But neither the vet nor the pound could get a reading off it. The RSPCA said sometimes it happens, which doesn't help much. So now he has a lovely red collar and will soon have a tag with his name, address and phone number on it. I did consider getting him a diamente collar in the hope that he would be too embarrassed to go outside, but at $4.92 I suspect the diamentes would have fallen off pretty quick.
So he is back home now, I can stop feeling guilty that I adopted him and not someone who would have kept him inside, and will be staying in for at least another week. I do wonder if eventually he will just keep returning to the neighbours place and we will end up handing him over. We will see. At least we will know he has a good home. And the moral of the story: talk to the neighbours. If we'd told them we had a new cat when we went to borrow an egg we would have saved ourselves a week of misery.