“I was constantly searching; I was not stopping at all. I was so determined to find him that I decided to spend every waking moment that I possibly could. It was just this constant emotional rollercoaster.”
When Brandy Miceli was in sixth grade, her family picked up Simba, their big orange tabby, for $5 from a trailer park. Although Simba was soft-spoken and tame as a kitten, he soon became the dominant “alley cat” and even began to pick fights with dogs.
“He really holds his own ground,” Brandy said. “I've seen other cats get in fights near him and they just know not to mess with him. He's like the leader of the block.”
In February of 2018, Brandy’s dad moved from San Jose, Calif. to Boise, Idaho, taking the cat with him. Because Simba is very adventurous, curious, and independent, Brandy, then 23, naturally assumed that he would want to explore his new territory.
But when he didn’t return for a few days, she began to worry, especially since Simba had never seen snow before. She was scared that her cat wouldn’t be able to sniff his way back home.
“I was starting to get very depressed thinking that my dad was alone now that the cat had run away,” Brandy said. “Simba was the only connecting factor to our family that my dad had in this new place and being so far away [in San Jose], I felt really hopeless.”
Unable to focus on anything else, she bought a plane ticket and flew to Idaho to help her father look for Simba. The two began making posters and hanging them up all around town. They joined Facebook groups for missing animals, posted on NextDoor (a community social media site) and even paid for a robocall to go out to every house in the vicinity. Every day, they would check local animal shelters. Days went by, yet Simba was nowhere to be found.
With each false lead, Brandy became even more disheartened. Having tried everything she could think of, Brandy began looking into ulterior methods to find Simba. Eventually, she found an animal psychic communicator with a 97 percent success rate at finding lost animals and decided to call her.
Although Brandy was skeptical, she became reassured when the psychic was able to describe Simba’s personality; also, the locations the psychic pinpointed for Simba matched up with the leads Brandy and her father had followed earlier.
“I was just so desperate to find him that I would have tried anything, Brandy said. “I was just going down every route that I possibly could. I definitely had doubts and thought she could have been making it up, but she gave me hope in the moment and that made me feel better.”
From 6:00 a.m to almost midnight every day for 12 days straight, Brandy and her father would post online, check social media messages, consult with the psychic, and walk the streets looking for Simba, taking breaks only to order food from fast food restaurants. Brandy said that imagining a life without Simba (who had been a part of their family for 12 years) was absolutely devastating.
“I was constantly searching; I was not stopping at all,” Brandy said. “I was so determined to find him that I decided to spend every waking moment that I possibly could. It was just this constant
In the process, Brandy neglected to take care of herself and soon became completely exhausted — both physically and mentally — due to the lack of sleep, excessive amounts of processed food and ceaseless stress. One night, after another day of tears and minimal progress, she became extremely nauseous and dehydrated.
She tried to drink Gatorade and coconut water to fill her body with electrolytes, but nothing seemed to help — she couldn’t keep any fluids down. Between throwing up, she called her mom, who suggested going to the emergency room; Brandy couldn’t remember ever being that sick in her life.
After getting fluids pumped in through an IV and getting a prescription for anti-nausea medication at the hospital, Brandy promised herself to prioritize her health more. Yet, her anxiety remained.
On the plane back to San Jose, she couldn’t stop thinking about Simba: was he getting enough food, was he lost, would they ever see him again?
“I was starting to doubt myself and the money that I had spent trying to find Simba,” Brandy said. “I was starting to doubt that it was going to be worth it.”
Three days after Brandy returned home, while she was washing dishes after eating dinner, she got a call from a number with an Idaho area code. Quickly, she answered and without wasting time on introductions, asked, “Is this about Simba?”
The woman on the phone told Brandy that while driving home, he had glimpsed a flash of bright orange fur in a grassy alleyway between two houses. He had seen the missing cat posters, and was now trying to keep Simba from darting out of the alley.
“I was literally crying and screaming and jumping for joy,” Brandy said, “but even in that moment, I was nervous because there had been many instances prior to that where we would go out and hope that it was Simba that somebody had seen but it wasn't.”
She called her dad, who immediately ended the call he was on with his sister (Brandy’s aunt) and drove to where Simba had been spotted. He jumped out of the car and rushed to the cat, scooping him up in his arms while murmuring, “Simba what were you doing? What were you doing?”
Although the cat was skinny and ragged, Simba’s unmistakable orange fur could be seen underneath the dirt.
Brandy felt like “a huge weight was lifted” when Simba was in her father’s arms. She hadn’t been fully present in anything else she was doing and could finally move on with her life.
“It's like you're losing a family member when your cat runs away,” Brandy said. “I'm very much obsessed with my cat so I'm glad that I put that much focus on [finding him] because I knew that every moment counted. Having him back with my dad, with the person who loves him and takes care of him, was really special.”