Family Reunited with Cats Lost in the Fort McMurray Wildfire

Posted by Amber King
Fort McMurray Fire
NBC News

When the Fort McMurray wildfire blazed through Alberta, Canada, over 2,400 homes and buildings were destroyed.

It initiated the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta's history, and thousands of families lost everything.

When Alyssa Hueser raced home after work to evacuate her family, she was focused on getting her kids, her dog, and her cats out of harm's way. As flames continued to threaten her home in the Waterways neighborhood, she scrambled to get everyone out in time.

When her two cats, Ellie and Minnie, ran the other way out of fear, she had a difficult decision to make. She told Global News,

"What do I do? I can't just leave them. But my kids were obviously more important than going back for my cats."

As the fire approached her neighborhood, she hoped her cats would make it out on their own. When Hueser received the news that her house, along with most of her neighborhood, had been burned down, she didn't give up that optimism.

"I just kept hoping that they weren't there. That they did make an escape to somewhere else and they were smart enough to get away from the fire."

woman with cat
Alyssa Hueser/Line Pitch News


As the days and weeks passed, Hueser's hope began to fade. She reached out on social media in search of her lost pets. Despite repeated efforts, the cats remained missing.

"We didn't hear anything back at all. We had lost hope."

But two and a half months after the evacuation, that hope was rekindled by a phone call. Someone had found a cat they thought to be Ellie, and she also had six kittens with her. Huesal said,

"I was in denial until they showed up in my driveway and they opened up their truck, and there she was. I didn't have to open the cage or anything, I knew it was her."

Having been shy and timid around her rescuers, Ellie immediately warmed up when she saw her long-lost owner. After months of fear, turmoil, and lost hope, Hueser had an emotional reunion with her beloved cat.

"I was so happy. I was in the driveway crying and everything."

Ellie was quickly welcomed back home, and five of her kittens were given to families who had also lost cats to the wildfire. They named the sixth kitten Phoenix and kept him to fill the void left by Hueser's second missing cat, Minnie.

But three months later, the miracle repeated itself. On Halloween, Hueser received another phone call. A volunteer looking for lost pets had found Minnie. She was alive and well, and like her sister, had a litter of kittens with her.

"I was like, 'Are your serious? Are you sure?' Because I couldn't believe it because it had been a really long time, and Minnie was only seven months when she went missing. I just lost hope."

After spending half the year fending for herself, Minnie returned to her family relatively healthy and happy. After flames ripped apart her life, Hueser's family was finally complete. She said,

"I'm very grateful. I'm happy they're all home. They're all my babies."

She encourages others affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire to never give up hope.

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Family Reunited with Cats Lost in the Fort McMurray Wildfire