ROSSVILLE — Now that Mr. Perry has "head butted" his owner twice, life seems to be getting back to normal for two cats who vanished after escaping a house that was collapsing on top of them during the late April tornadoes.
Nancy Pettitt, an information systems specialist at Mohawk Industries in Dalton, was away from her home atop a ridge in Rossville when a tornado picked up a 100-foot oak tree, slammed it into the house and knocked it five feet off its foundation.
Feline brothers Boots and Mr. Perry — also known as "The Biker Boys," according to Pettitt — decided it was time to clear out. After almost three months, they have returned home.
Pettitt had gone out to meet relatives for dinner on the evening of April 27 when she got an uneasy feeling.
"There was a lot of thunder and lightning, and halfway over to meet them I thought we needed to go home," she recalled. "But something told me not to go home."
When the whirling winds hit the house, built in 1935, it took the front porch, a bathroom, laundry room and most of the living room with it. There were 14 trees across the only access road into the neighborhood, and when Pettitt finally arrived three days later Boots and Mr. Perry were nowhere to be found.
"I would go up there every couple of days and call and call to them," said Pettitt, who is living with a relative since her house will have to be demolished. "I put ads in the paper and went to the animal shelter in Walker County and called them so many times they were sick of me."
Both cats are skinny but healthy now with no evident injuries.
"I had to trap Boots with a 'have-a-heart' trap, one of those that won't hurt the animal," she added. "Whenever I would go to him he would come toward me and when he would get close he would begin to yowl. I believe he was looking for Mr. Perry, who is the dominant being — not just the animal — in the house. So Boots was hunting for him. Before the storm, Boots would sit up on top of the chester drawers and Mr. Perry would go prowling through the house searching things out. It was like Mr. Perry was the general and Boots was his major domo."
Pettitt's neighbor noticed one of the cats around the house in late July and called her.
"When they came back they were staying under the house, but where they were we'll never know," said Pettitt. "I don't know how far they ran that night, but they had to have been terrified."
She said the head butt is the "behavior of a dominant male cat."
"He was telling me, 'Yes, I'm back' and 'Yes, I'm still in charge,'" she believes.
Pettitt was asked if the cats have displayed any behavior changes since the storm.
"They're more vocal," she replied. "Both of them always talk to me because I talk to them. But they're very vocal now, I guess they had to be to survive. (While they were gone) I would put comfort in the fact that I knew they were together — they're four years old and they've only been apart about three weeks in their lives. I knew together they were a formidable force and I prayed daily."
Pettitt was joined in those prayers, she said.
"I have a group of friends I call my 'prayer warriors,'" she explained. "They're people I have met over the years — I used to travel a great deal in my work — and I have friends all over the eastern United States. And when someone calls me or emails me for a prayer request, I send it to my prayer warriors. Well, I felt kinda guilty about asking them to pray for my cats, but they're God's creatures, too. I know the prayers helped, and I think God just got tired of me begging for them to be safe and back with me. He kept them together for two-and-a-half months.
"It feels so good to finally be able to cry tears of joy."
Information from: The Daily Citizen, http://www.daltondailycitizen.com