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ST. CLOUD — It started with a desperate plea posted just before midnight Jan. 18 on a St. Cloud community Facebook page.

"I'm a trucker from Arizona and my cat ran out of my truck," wrote Angel Anthony Garcia of Yuma. "I don't know anyone here in St. Cloud [and] I have cash in hand."

The post had two photos of Tom, a sprightly 1-year-old gray cat with a white stripe between his golden eyes and a heart-shaped nose tucked between bright white whiskers.

After searching unsuccessfully for hours, Garcia had to continue his route but his post was shared across Facebook and to a lost and found pets page, where it gained traction. Concerned central Minnesota residents even started a "Tom the Lost Trucker Cat" group that garnered more than 600 members, including Sauk Rapids resident Jennifer Andrews.

"Especially being a cat mom, you worry about it all the time — where could he be? Did someone find him and keep him?" Andrews said. "Everybody's rooting for that little cat."

Then, early Tuesday morning came another Facebook post: "Could this possibly be him? Had a blue collar with a bow."

The post, shared by Tabatha Bunyea, showed a scraggly cat with the same yellow eyes and white stripe of fur, dirtied from about 40 days of unknown adventures.

The cat was indeed Tom. And his owners, Garcia and Mari Sanchez, are now en route to St. Cloud after finding a shipment headed to Michigan. They're hoping to pass through this weekend.

"He's really, really attached to us and that's why I was so worried with him being out. He is not an outdoor cat," Sanchez said Wednesday on a phone call from Washington. She said she and her husband often take Tom out on a harness at the same time as their dog during pit stops. The night Tom escaped, it was too cold for an outing, but Tom jumped out, then got startled and ran into the darkness.

A social media post from Tuesday shows Tom the "Lost Trucker Cat" after he was found by a welder at a Sauk Rapids business.
A social media post from Tuesday shows Tom the "Lost Trucker Cat" after he was found by a welder at a Sauk Rapids business.


"I am so stunned by Tom surviving. It was 6 below that night," said Jan Peterson, who helps run the "Trucker Cat" page and made several signs posted in the area to raise awareness.

"Then it went to 11 below for the next two nights. It was bitter cold," she continued. "All I could think of was this poor Arizona cat who is used to a nice, warm desert or a nice, warm cab."

Tom was scooped up Tuesday morning by Bunyea's boyfriend, Jeremiah Moe, who works at C4 Welding in Sauk Rapids, about nine miles from the the Pilot truck stop on the south side of St. Cloud where Tom escaped.

Moe said Wednesday he first saw Tom in a dumpster outside the business two weeks ago. Tom appeared inside the business Monday, setting off motion sensor lights, and "walked through the shop liked he owned the place." Moe cornered Tom in a utility closet and outstretched his hand, which Tom gently leaned into, allowing Moe to finally nab the lost cat.

"He was very skittish but he was real friendly. He was all skin and bones," Moe said.

Peterson said Tom was checked out by a local veterinarian and is now at a foster caregiver's home. He lost about half his body weight and has a broken tooth. But he seems in good spirits — and was meowing loudly when Garcia talked to him through the phone on Tuesday.

"We need to get [the tooth] looked at and do some fundraising to cover any costs associated with that," Peterson said. "Otherwise, it's going to be feeding and cleaning and love and care."

Garcia said she plans to post a video of their reunion on social media and will likely create a social media page about Tom — who is named after the cat from the cartoon "Tom and Jerry" — so his new fans can follow along on his future (and hopefully less worrisome) adventures.

Peterson, who lives about 20 miles from St. Cloud, has helped people find missing pets in the area for the past few years, mostly by making signs and going out to search for cats at night when they're most active.

"None of us will ever find a cat or a missing animal without the help of the community," she said.

Peterson said she took in her first stray animal at 11. She called dozens of shelters and veterinary offices, one of which gave her the number of a family who lost a dog with similar characteristics.

"It was a little kid who answered the phone. He said, 'Ask her if her name is Frida.' And I went out to the dog and said, 'Frida!' and she went bonkers," Peterson said. "She had been missing for two months and was 40 miles from home."

Peterson, whose grandmother lost her life trying to save her dogs in a house fire on Christmas morning, is already on the hunt for another missing cat named Peep who escaped from his family's St. Cloud apartment during a fire last weekend. And she still has hope she'll find Achilles, a cat who went missing two years ago at an Avon rest stop.

"I've never stopped looking for him."