Leo the cat, missing since Juneau’s record flood, is safe

a man holds a cat
David Albert holds Leo, a cat that went missing went missing during last month’s record glacial outburst flood. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Leo, a cat who went missing during Juneau’s record glacial outburst flood last month, is home safe.

Leo’s owner, Elizabeth Wilkins, rented the white house on Riverside Drive that fell into the river. She said reuniting with Leo has provided a break from the stress of the last several weeks. 

“Yesterday, we couldn’t stop laughing,” she said. “It just felt really good, like this release. Like this is the best thing anyone’s heard in at least a month. It’s nice to have some good news.”

David Albert, who adopted Leo with Wilkins during the pandemic, said Leo seems relieved, too.

“He slept hard last night,” Albert said. “He was just a little snuggle bug. Every time I’d sit, he’d come over and sit on my lap and sleep on my chest. He’s just so happy to be among family again.”

Wilkins and Albert were both out of town during the flooding, but they watched the viral video of the house collapsing into the river. They think the sound of the river and the collapsing house made Leo run away before it fell in.

“I watched the video of the house over and over again, just to figure out what it was like to be in it, and is it possible that he’s ok,” Albert said. “It was hard to imagine that anyone would be ok.”

Nevertheless, Wilkins spent the next few weeks scrolling through photos posted by Juneau residents trying to help people find their missing cats. Then, on Thursday, someone posted a photo of a black and white cat in her yard in a Juneau Facebook group.

It had a distinctive black spot on the back of his right leg.

“We’d been analyzing all these black and white cat photographs, and this time it was him for sure,” Wilkins said.

Leo was rescued from an abandoned house. He spent the pandemic wandering through the woods. “He’s a good hunter,” said his owner, Elizabeth Wilkins. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Wilkins teaches at Montessori Borealis and Juneau Community Charter School. After school on Thursday, she went looking for Leo at the woman’s house, less than a mile from her former home. She called his name, and Leo came running out.

Leo is no fraidy-cat. He and his brother were rescued from an abandoned building, where they slept in a pile of insulation. When Wilkins and Albert adopted him, they were living at a cabin out the road, where Leo spent a lot of time in the woods. Wilkins thinks it served him well this last month. 

“I think he has been using his best survival skills,” she said. “He’s a good hunter. Cats are also incredible athletes. I think he’s been hiding out where it’s safe, coming out when he thinks it’s safe and then hunting.”

Still, Leo seems to have lost some weight, Albert said.

“He’s on an all-you-can-eat diet now,” he said.

Leo was “just a little snuggle bug” during his first night back indoors, David Albert said. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Wilkins is house-sitting for friends downtown while she looks for a more permanent place to live. She’s considering all her options, including a camper van, a tiny home or even a sailboat.

“Right now, I don’t have a steady home,” she said.

Wilkins said she feels hopeful something will work out. Leo purred on the couch next to her and Albert.

“This is a little glimmer of hope – a little tiny bit of good news in an otherwise really sad and catastrophic story,” Albert said.

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