Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sister Candida Oroc holds a picture of her missing cat, Lani, at St. Francis Hospital. Lani has a marking like a cross on her back.

Convent is missing
its kitty

A Liliha nun hopes someone
recognizes the tabby’s unique
crosslike markings

Lani, a cat whose distinctive marking makes her a fitting pet for a Liliha convent garden, has strayed from home.

Its closest human friend hopes the gray tabby's unique mark -- white stripes that form a cross on her back -- will help someone recognize the 7-year-old pet and bring her home.

After more than two months of a solitary search in the neighborhood around Mother Marianne Cope convent near St. Francis Medical Center and many visits to the Hawaiian Humane Society, Sister Candida Oroc connected this week with a major cat network.

Tedra Villaroz of Joey's Feline Friends, a Kaneohe cat shelter, said she would distribute Lani's picture to veterinarians and the Cat Friends organization, which works with people who take care of the colonies of feral cats in public parks and other locations.

Villaroz said modern technology, an identifying microchip implanted in the cat, could be as helpful as Lani's unique markings. Vets and the Hawaiian Humane Society scan each cat they encounter, and Villaroz even scans cats found dead for the identification chip. She assured Oroc that "we've found cats more than a year after they were missing."

The cat was picked by Sister Rose Fatima Leite because it was the runt of a litter, not because of the sign of the cross that developed as it grew. The marking is two neck-to-tail stripes crossed midback with two thin white stripes.

The cat disappeared on June 5 after a neighbor's house was tented for termites. "I think that spooked her," said the nun. The exterminator searched under the house and found no cat.

"Animals are a tangible expression of a God with unconditional love," said Oroc. A hospital chaplain who works with very ill people and their families, she shies away from talk about praying for a cat's safety among all the other need for prayers. "It's personal," she said.

"To me she has always been a small gift from God," said Oroc, who worked in the garden in the company of Lani, whose name is Hawaiian for heaven. "I know I need to let her go, but I had to do one last thing."

It can't hurt that the founder of the Franciscan religious order is the patron saint of animals. St. Francis of Assisi "was a lover of animals," said Oroc, "and St. Clare (who founded convents) had a cat."

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