By Janet McAfee

On May 26th, John Finley was home in Seaback, Washington, casually checking emails on his computer.  He was shocked when he received one from HomeAgain Microchip stating Animal Samaritans Veterinary Clinic in Thousand Palms identified a cat belonging to him from its microchip.  The animal was caught in a trap by Loving All Animals and brought in to be spayed.  Shock quickly turned to elation as John never expected to see his beloved cat, Backpack, again.  Tears of joy streamed down his face as John quickly made preparations for the two day drive back to Palm Desert to retrieve Backpack. Within two hours, John was on the road heading for Southern California, eagerly anticipating a reunion with his treasured 10-year-old Tabby cat.

Back in February, John made a 4-day stop at the Emerald Desert RV Resort in Palm Desert.  The first night there, his beloved cat went missing.  John spent the next 3 days frantically searching for Backpack, on foot and by bicycle.  He finally had to return to Washington, heartbroken and never expecting to see his best “furfriend” again.  John recalls, “I’d given up.  I assumed something happened to her or perhaps she’d found another home.  It was a big surprise to find out Backpack was alive.  I left within the next 2 hours to get her.”

On May 25th, Palm Desert resident Kathy Faria spotted the same gray Tabby cat in her yard for the fifth day in a row.  Kathy contacted Mary Ewing at Loving All Animals for assistance.  Mary told her about the agency’s Trap/Neuter/Return program (TNR), and provided a trap along with instructions about getting the animal sterilized.  The bright kitty initially scurried away when she first saw the trap, but Kathy woke up the next morning to see the animal secured inside.  A 6:15 am phone call to volunteer Norma Smith brought Norma racing over to meet the 7:30 am spay/neuter drop-off deadline at Animal Samaritans.  Norma was amazed when the clinic vet told her their scanner revealed the stray cat was microchipped.  She also had a scar indicating she was spayed.

Mary Ewing is actively involved in the TNR and cat rescue efforts.  The Coachella Valley has thousands of stray cats and kittens, many of them feral and unsocialized. Others are lost and discarded pets.  The cat overpopulation crisis is such that 80% of these beautiful felines don’t make it out alive from our nation’s public shelters.  Few of the cats entering shelters are microchipped and only 2% of them are reclaimed by their humans.  Mary reports, “I’ve been involved in the TNR of about 750 cats, and this is the first one that turned out to be microchipped.”


On May 28th, an ecstatic John Finley scooped up a somewhat thinner Backpack, and the cat purred happily when reunited with her human.  Other than losing weight and acquiring a small scar on the nose, Backpack was in relative good condition after her ordeal.  John states, “You MUST microchip your pet.  Otherwise, there is no chance to get them back if they go missing.  Secondly, you must find the right group of animal lovers to network with.”

Backpack’s story was nothing short of miraculous.  It’s a story that highlights the importance of microchipping, Trap/Neuter/Return programs, and a community working together for the welfare of our companion animals.

A microchip is a tiny glass bead the size of a grain of rice embedded with a unique number registered with the owner’s contact information in a database.  Insertion between the shoulder blades is relatively painless.  Contact your local veterinarian, or one of the low-cost spay/neuter clinics that offer low cost microchipping.  When a stray animal comes in contact with a shelter or veterinarian, they routinely scan for a microchip.  Keep the microchip company updated on your contact information.

For more information about TNR programs for “community cats” go to the website for Alley Cat Allies at  For more information on how YOU can help homeless cats and dogs, contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000.  If Backpack could talk, this lucky feline would surely tell you, “If you love your pet, please protect them with a microchip.”