For the last decade, Fifi has been on a mysterious journey, one that ended mere miles from where it began. But it is a journey that will likely remain unknown.
Because Fifi is a cat. And even if he could talk, he might not tell you anyway.
All you need to know is that he — and yes, Fifi is a “he,” which is another story — improbably left owner Mara Briand’s Port St. Lucie home ten years ago. But through the wonders of luck and technology, as well as the hard work of the staff at the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast, he’s back at home with Briand and her family.
And while the story of where he’s been all this time is a mystery, the story of how he came home seems miraculous.
“They called and (a relative) answered the phone and said, ‘You won’t believe who they found’ and I was thinking it was a person, so I was like ‘OK, who’s dead?’” says Briand. “But he said, ‘No, they found Fifi.’ I said, ‘There’s no way. There’s no freaking way.’”
But there was.
Fifi, who Briand initially thought was a girl cat until after the name had stuck, had been micro-chipped back in New Hampshire, where the Briands originally lived. But after the family moved to Florida, Fifi and fellow household cat Mimi escaped from a door believed to be left open during a robbery attempt.
Fast forward to 2017, when animal control officers found Fifi wandering around a Port St. Lucie mobile home park, skinny but alive.
The humane society staff did some sleuthing, and connected the name on the cat’s microchip with Briand, but didn’t have any current contact information for an owner they figured lived up north. Still, they ran her name through their internal system and lucked out because “she had come in and looked at animals at some other point,” says Tracy Steffan, adoption counselor at the Humane Society, who has gone as far as tracing old owners on Facebook to reconnect them to lost pets.
Fifi has been lost before.
His life with the Briands began when “we were driving one day in New Hampshire, when it was snowy and cold out, and I saw him stuck in a snow bank,” says Briand. “We grabbed him up, brought him home and cleaned him up. We attempted to (contact his owners), but there was no Facebook or anything at the time.”
Briand moved to Florida in October 2006. Months later, she says, “I believe someone broke into our house and left the front door open. Someone came in while we were sleeping.”
While nothing appeared to have been taken, Briand did lose two important things - her cats, Mimi and Fifi.
“A year and a half later, I got a voice mail from a woman who said ‘I think I have your cat,’ meaning Mimi,” she says. “I can’t remember the whole conversation, but she thought the cat was neglected, and it took her so long to contact us. By that time, she was so persistent that this was now her cat, we said ‘Just keep the cat.’ It was not the happiest conversation.”
While there would be no reunion with Mimi, at least she knew where she was. Fifi, however, was nowhere to be found.
Until she got the “no way” news from the Humane Society.
“When we brought him home, it was to the exact same house. When he saw me he started purring, and rolled over onto his back. He used to do that to have his belly rubbed. One of my biggest questions was ‘Can an animal really remember you that long?’ But he automatically meowed and I thought ‘Yep, he remembers me.’”
Briand’s son Miguel, 7, is just getting to know Fifi. For daughter Natalya, it’s a reunion with the cat she used to cuddle as a little girl. For Briand, finding “my New Hampshire cat” ties her “to a lot of great memories, a reminder of my life there.”
Steffan says that while Fifi is keeping the secrets of the last ten years, she believes “that most likely a neighbor had that cat, and, if you think about it, that neighbor is now missing their cat. I’m kind of looking to see if someone comes in.”
She adds that this “wonderful happy ending” is also a lesson for owners to microchip their pets and keep their information current, as well as for people who find lost pets to “report them to a local shelter and let them know you found a (pet) that matches their description. There are so many people who say, ‘Hey I found a cat,’ and keep that cat.”
Wherever Fifi was, his family is happy to have him back, and Briand says he seems to be, as well.
“He’s super affectionate, almost borderline needy,” she says. “When his name is called he comes without question…It’s very exciting.”