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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

The little cat that could: feline's accidental 76-kilometre road trip across the UAE

After an hour's drive in an engine bay, a week missing, and a Dh3,000 reward for his safe return, Smudge found his way into an Emirati villa where a surprised family contacted his owner

Jon Edwards with cat Smudge at his villa in Al Ghadeer Village in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
Jon Edwards with cat Smudge at his villa in Al Ghadeer Village in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

A cat, 76 kilometres of open road, and one engine bay not fit for a feline.

This is the story of a cat who disappeared from his Al Ghadeer Village home, and resurfaced almost a week later at a villa in Al Shamkha.

Smudge had gone days without being seen before, after all - he was the neighbourhood feline walkabout, frequenting several houses for company or a meal.

But after he'd been missing almost a week, concerns began to grow.

"He's not shown up for a few days before, but he might go missing for three days and then he will show up. He has three or four other houses he visits," owner Jon Edwards told The National.

"After three days we contacted all the other people who know him and they realised they hadn't seen him either - at that point we started to get concerned."

On day six, Mr Edwards took to Facebook and dubizzle, asking for information on Smudge's whereabouts and offering up a Dh3,000 reward for his safe return.

By pure coincidence, his phone rang thirty minutes later.

"It was 12.30am at night and this guy speaking poor English was trying to talk to me. Initially I was thinking it was just a call offering to go look for him [for the reward].

"I gave the phone to an Emirati and he turned around and said 'Yeah, he's got your cat'."

But the men who found Smudge hadn't seen any of the social media posts, nor did they know about any reward.

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Mr Edwards immediately got in his car, and drove to Al Shamkha, where Smudge had approached an Emirati family's house in a sorry state.

Salah Ali was with his brother near the back door of the house when he noticed the small black cat approach them, and then run away.

The pair then managed to coax the cat into their house, where they then set about finding his owner.

"My brother noticed the ring around his neck, so he tried to let Smudge feel comfortable so he could see the number," Mr Salah said.

"Smudge was afraid and we tried to calm him down by offering milk and tuna for him."

The brothers waited up with Smudge until Mr Edwards arrived at about 2.30am, to reunite with his, by now, "quite stinky" cat. Mr Edwards said he was "incredibly grateful" to the pair for the compassion they showed his cat, when they quite easily could have just shooed him away.

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , DEC 10  – 2017 :- Jon Edwards and his wife Shiro Edwards with their cat Smudge at their villa in Al Ghadeer Village in Abu Dhabi. Cat Smudge was missing for one week and later found in Shamkha area. (Pawan Singh / The National) Story by Ashleigh Stewart
Jon Edwards and his wife Shiro Edwards with their cat Smudge. Pawan Singh / The National

Mr Edwards believes Smudge had climbed into an engine bay and fallen asleep, and bailed out of the car somewhere near Al Shamkha.

Cats have been known to crawl into engine bays seeking heat as the days get cooler. Many aren't as fortunate as Smudge though, and are frequently killed trying to jump from moving cars on busy highways.

But Smudge might have learnt from experience, as it's probably not the first time the feline has opted for this mode of transport.

"He came to us at five-weeks-old after being separated from his mother, probably because he took another journey in an engine bay.

"Hopefully he's learnt his lesson now."