From Iceland — Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

Published May 22, 2014

A lost cat is returned to his owner, seven years later

Jonathan Pattishall
Photo by
Nanna Dís

A lost cat is returned to his owner, seven years later

In 2007, Iceland’s economy was still in its pre-crash boom days, cruising along to an eventual 4.9% GDP growth rate. Eiríkur Hauksson, the country’s Eurovision ambassador, failed to qualify for the final round of the contest entirely. “Eyjafjallajökull” was not yet an unpronounceable byword for “air traffic nightmare” among global jet setting types. And one fall day, in 105 Reykjavík, Birkir Viðarsson’s cat Örvar went missing without a trace. 

To say that Iceland has seen some changes since 2007 would be a reckless understatement. At least one thing, however, has gone back to the way it was, the way it was meant to be. This past February, Birkir got a call from Kattholt, a local shelter: Örvar had been found, and now he was finally coming home. After reading about the reunion in Icelandic media outlets, we thought we’d reach out to Birkir so that our readers could enjoy this incredible cat story too. Besides, it’s been a while since the Grapevine’s last major cat-related story, “Police Break Up Cat Party,” went viral. Let’s see if Pee-Wee Herman reposts this one as well. 

When did Örvar first go missing? At what point did you realise that he wasn’t coming back?

It was autumn. Örvar had been staying out progressively longer than usual. Normally he’d come home every night, but then there would be periods where he’d stay out for a few nights in a row. This worried me, but I hoped it would blow over. I’d read a lot about cat behaviour, though, so when he didn’t come home for two or three weeks I figured he’d moved on. But I always hoped he’d change his mind and come back. Weeks turned into months and months into years and I began to assume that someone had taken him or that he was dead. It was always a painful thing to think about. 

How much effort did you make at first to find her?

The same as most people who lose cats do. I sent out notes on message boards, Myspace and Facebook, hung up flyers in the neighbourhood and let Kattholt know.

Did your postings on social media and other attempts to find Örvar turn up any leads? 

No. We got nothing on that front. I’m really surprised that no one asked about him or claimed him when he ended up in Kattholt a couple of months ago. People are stranger than cats.

Had you ever lost a pet before that?

Never. I’d had cats before, and the one I had before Örvar, named Jósep, moved three times within Reyðarfjörður, moved to Reykjavík and moved twice within the city with no problems. He was a brainy motherfucker for sure—a legend far and wide.

If Jósep was a legendary cat, and Örvar has returned home to you after seven years, doesn’t that mean you have two legendary cats? How did that happen?

No doubt! Fuck if I know. I’m good at spotting special kittens, for sure. They’ve all been rather special and had their own things going on. I’d say Jósep was the equivalent of Thom Yorke and Örvar would be Dave Grohl. Both respected, well liked, cool to their friends and full of integrity, but quite different in ways too particular to get into here.

Tell me about the experience with Kattholt. 

The Kattholt people are great. The ear tag and computer chip in Örvar carried obsolete information about me so it took them a long while and hassle to track me down. They could have given up, but instead they pressed on and for that I’m eternally grateful. They also kept Örvar for a considerable amount of time. Örvar is old and old cats are the least popular adoption options at Kattholt, so their window of opportunity was very limited. It’s a tough racket. Fortunately, Kattholt is clean and they put great care into handling this difficult situation. On that note, I urge people to give old shelter animals a chance. They are great and deserve great last days.

What do you imagine Örvar was doing those seven years he was missing? 

I imagine he was lounging hard in some place where a kind person let him in. As an outdoor enthusiast, he can probably go out and come in a window at his own behest. He’s a cat: eat, rest, stretch, patrol, pee on things and mark shit, fight, hunt, repeat.

Has Örvar’s personality changed in the seven years since you first lost him?

Not really. He’s got the same adorable characteristics that made him so popular with my friends in the first place. He still understands loud metal and the art of keeping it together on the couch although people are moving about and changing sitting positions. He’s a calm dude with a penchant for hanging out and not being too clingy. What’s changed though is that he’s meowing like a senile and confused person in the middle of the floor, for seemingly no reason. This happens from time to time, but considering his age and the shit he may have been through I think he’s earned the right to be senile.

How has your own life or situation changed in those seven years?

My situation has changed for the better on all fronts and Örvar is benefitting from that. We’ll see what he’ll get up to next. Life is an ever-changing beast.

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