The night of the Orange Cyclone brought stillness to the air. Barely a leaf stirred in the towering century-old cottonwoods, Douglas firs and cypress trees.

Even the crickets and tree toads were silent, buried deep underneath the mulch and fallen leaves of the walnut tree, for they knew before any learned weatherman could predict, an early frost was coming. A light show of stars cascaded across the sky, lighting up the pasture grass. A faint glow at the side of the barn carried with it a sharp reminder that dinner was late for the barn cats and occasional strays; hours behind schedule due to a hectic day. One of the regulars, doubtlessly tired of waiting had triggered the motion detector by jumping on the feeding platform. Perhaps this impatient four-legged diner hoped the beacon of light would attract my attention. Who am I? To the barn cats, I am their two-legged food dispenser, purr monitor and human can opener. I quickened my pace.

Nearing the feeder, I paused. A cat sitting on the platform looked unwell. It was hunched over the food tray, head down. I did not recognize it as one of the regulars who came to feast nightly. Most of those cats were black or mackerel tabbies. This one was orange and white. As I approached, I expected a reaction, but other than raising its head, the cat did not move. Switching on the flood lights by the barn, I turned back to the feeder and gasped. This cat was in a bad way. It was pencil-thin, with hollow, sunken eyes. You could count every bone on its body and his back-end protruded awkwardly. Heavy discharge flowed out of its nose and it was open-mouth breathing. I noticed within the soiled coat, certain distinct markings of gold and white on the face. Something clicked in the back of my mind; something was familiar about this cat. An image of long-ago started to form and I advanced to the cat slowly, speaking nonsense softly, assuring this poor creature that it was safe now. No one would hurt it or scare it. The cat watched me approach and as I drew closer, it raised its head and gave one silent meow and collapsed. Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle slid into place. I knew this cat, but how was it possible? How could this cat be Cyclone?

Incredulous, I spoke his name softly -“Cyclone?” His orange tail thumped once weakly then stilled. I quickly gathered him in my arms. He felt so light - his skin hung in folds over my arms. He was a far cry from the muscular tomcat who first visited our property nine years ago! I hugged him close, my tears fell on his dirty fur as I carried him into the barn. Checking to see if he was still breathing, I laid him on a pile of straw. He did not stir, but he was alive. I gently petted his head, alarmed to feel only bone beneath my fingertips. All fat and muscle had vanished. What in the world had he endured since he vanished from our place back in 2003? Although it was freezing outside, I shrugged off my coat and laid him in the centre of it. I gently wrapped the folds around him and carried him to the house.

“Whatcha got Babe?”  My husband Mike asked as I came into the kitchen with my special cargo.
“Mike, do you remember Cyclone?’ I asked.
“Remember him? Heck I will never forget him!” Mike responded. “I miss that boy!”
“Well, I can’t explain right now, but he is here and I need to get him upstairs. We will talk later.”
“What!” Mike exclaimed, but he was talking to my retreating back. I needed to get Cyclone upstairs, get him warm, give him food and warming fluids and bring him out of shock. Mike and I could discuss later about this cat’s homecoming.

Under better lighting, I unwrapped Cyclone from his cloth cocoon. We were now in the kitten room and thankfully, the large cage was empty and had been cleaned earlier. It was stocked with everything a cat needs. I placed Cyclone on the heated cat bed - turned the unit on, and shut the door. He barely stirred.

Hustling to the storage cabinet, I gathered fluids, needles, and syringes and hurried back to Cyclone. Opening the cage door, I gently dragged the blanket he was sleeping on forward. Cyclone watched me but didn’t attempt to move. 

“Stay here boy,” I whispered softly. “I’ll be right back.” I needed to warm up the fluids and the microwave was downstairs.

Back again at his side, I was relieved he hadn’t tried to hide but sad that he hadn’t budged at all. My thoughts were whirling - did he get hit by a car? Locked in a barn? Where in the world had this feisty boy been for nine years?  As always, before I made the plunge under the skin, I prayed to God that he would keep my hands steady, my mind focused and that nothing would go amiss. I pressed the needle under Cyclone’s skin and pushed the plunger - water squirted out of him at an alarming frequency! I had just turned this golden boy into a sprinkler! Several more attempts were made each resulting in him being a kitty sprinkler. I realized that his transparent skin wouldn’t hold the fluids without breaking the skin. I gave him small amounts of water throughout the night with feeding syringes and kept vigil over this cat I wasn’t sure if he would see the light of day. He stayed with me, drifting in and out of exhaustion driven sleep.

First thing in the morning we were at the vet where Cyclone was diagnosed with UTI, URI, anemia, dehydration, malnutrition and parasitic invasion. I left home with cat and medicines in tow. Over the next few weeks Cyclone would eat everything put in front of him. I had to be careful to feed eight small meals and not three large ones. I put him in our large enclosure off the back porch so he could have the room and the solitude he needed to get better. 

As I write this, he is still out there only now, he also has his own man-cave outside - an enclosed porch where he can be outside but not get hurt or go missing. He continued to drop weight even when eating all put before him so additional tests were run. He was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and put on a special food. He is now thriving.

I do not know what transpired in the years he went missing. Sometimes, I wish they could talk to us and let us know - but in this case, I am grateful he can’t tell me.  He has filled out and is no longer boney. I can finally erase that vivid first moment of the reunion where he appeared again in our yard this time not to eat food but to find help. Our first years together were turbulent until he learned he could trust me and I am thankful that he remembered the small acts of kindness and the love that surrounded him back then and came home. It is said that cats have nine lives. Cyclone has certainly used all of those and more. He will be here with us until the end of his days and he will never experience cold, terror, trauma or neglect again.

Mary Anne Miller

22 March 2013 

Mary Anne Miller is the Founder/President of CATS Inc., in Oregon. Her passion is taking in stray and feral cats working with them and finding them good homes. Donations to Mary Anne’s sanctuary can be made via paypal to  or you can contact her via email at  for other much-needed donations. To catch up with her clowder check out her blog 

Sadly, not long after Mary Anne wrote this wonderful story about Cyclone, he had to be put to sleep on 3rd April 2013. He lost a lot of his body weight and cancer was suspected.






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