Missing for two years, Rosco finds his way home

Amy Hillman tends to her cat, Rosco, at her Uncasville home on May 8. Rosco was returned to her after being missing for two years.  TIM COOK/THE DAY
Amy Hillman tends to her cat, Rosco, at her Uncasville home on May 8. Rosco was returned to her after being missing for two years. TIM COOK/THE DAY

Rosco may seem like a gentle, pampered housecat - he's friendly, declawed and an estimated 13 years old - but the humans familiar with his story know that he's actually quite fierce.

"He's a survivor," said Amy Hillman, his owner, who was thrilled when she discovered that Rosco was still alive after disappearing from her home two years ago.

Somehow, the cat traveled approximately 15 miles - all the way from Hillman's Uncasville home to the area surrounding Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic.

Brenda Pawlak of Niantic saw Rosco "just strolling down my driveway, and I knew he didn't belong there."

She noticed that he was startlingly skinny and wanted to feed him, so she brought out a cat carrier. She was surprised when he walked right in, and even more surprised when he didn't shy away from her dogs.

Because Rosco was declawed, she didn't want to let him back outside, but she was sure he belonged to someone. So she posted a picture of him on Facebook, which was reposted by various organizations-including Waterford-East Lyme Animal Control, which is how Hillman came to see the photo as she scrolled through Facebook, waiting for her daughter to get home from school.

She contacted Pawlak, who told her not to get her hopes up because it would be a miracle if the cat she found was Rosco. But the more Pawlak described the cat, the more convinced Hillman became that it was her pet.

His behavior - the fearlessness, the friendliness - was exactly as she remembered. She said she called Rosco her "cat-dog" because he would wait for her at the door, unlike any cat she'd ever known.

And when she went to pick Rosco up at the shelter, Hillman said she "knew right away." Rosco came right up to her and a shelter employee, impressed, told Hillman, "He remembers you."

"It's been two years, I couldn't believe it," said Hillman, who has been trying to fatten Rosco up by feeding him kitten food and tuna fish.

He's been a tough cat from day one, said Hillman, who rescued him from the Montville Animal Hospital after he was hit by a car and broke both back legs. She had had him for five years when she moved to a new house, and Rosco, apparently bothered by something in the new environment, stopped using his litterbox.

The behavior became so bad that Hillman began letting him outside. She was hesitant to do so because he was declawed, but there was little else she could do to control his behavior.

And Rosco seemed to adapt to the outside well. He brought home his kills - not only small rodents but once a scary-looking weasel with sharp teeth. He also visited the neighbors' houses, where he learned he could get treats.

Then, one day, he didn't come home. For a few weeks, Hillman searched the area and called shelters, but had no luck. Eventually, she assumed Rosco was dead, but was sad that she never got the closure of finding his body.

Her boyfriend, however, never gave up hope. He told her the cat was too smart and too quick to be dead, and Hillman found herself occasionally believing that she'd pull up in her driveway and find Rosco flipping his tail.

Now that he's home, Hillman said he's never going out again-unless he's on a leash.


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