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Family hopeful for reunion with missing pet cat

A family photo shows Hazel, a black male cat with a white underbelly, who has been missing from his Haiku home since last year.

Nine months after Hazel went missing from his Haiku home, his family hasn’t given up hope of being reunited with the 4-year-old black cat with a distinctive white belly.

“It’s so traumatic to lose him,” said Tash Summit. “He’s been part of our family since he was born. I miss him every day.”

After calling for him on their property where he was last seen June 29, then talking to neighbors, the family put up posters and expanded their search area to “almost all of Haiku,” she said.

Then in November, five months after Hazel disappeared, a neighbor told the family he believed he had trapped and relocated the cat back in June to the Makani Road area in Makawao, Summit said.

“We were very surprised,” she said. “He never had to tell us that. I have a hard time condemning him. I’m very, very grateful. Now we had a place to look.”

She shared the family’s story to help bring awareness to the issue of pet dumping, which animal advocates say is widespread on Maui.

“It seems to be an epidemic of trapping and dumping of cats,” Summit said. “It’s not just our family member. So many other people are missing theirs.

“If you take it and relocate it in some other community, the cat doesn’t know where to go. It may survive on its own, but it may not.”

The Summits’ case has been one of the more visible, with social media posts as well as posters blanketing Haiku and Makawao, offering a $2,000 reward for Hazel’s safe return.

The neighbor who trapped Hazel said he felt his small chickens were being threatened and killed by a cat, Summit said.

“He started to trap some cats and move them,” she said. “He felt that was his only option.

“If he did feel that was the only thing he could do, if he had taken them to the Humane Society, they would have scanned the cats for microchips and then returned Hazel to us,” she said. “We would have known instantly there was a problem. That would have been a big warning sign to us to do something differently.”

She said she didn’t think Hazel was attacking the neighbor’s chickens “because Hazel grew up among chickens.”

In hindsight, she said the neighbor would have known to call them if Hazel had been wearing a collar with contact information.

Summit clearly remembers last seeing Hazel the night of June 29, when he was on the sofa watching Netflix with the family before being let outside.

He would usually be back within an hour to “sleep on the bed with us,” she said.

But that night, “he never returned,” she said.

When he wasn’t back in the morning, then the following evening, “we started to get scared and worried,” she said.

The family printed photos of Hazel and went to neighbors to ask if they had seen him. “They were all very nice and kind and welcoming and sympathetic, and no one had seen him,” she said.

As they put up posters and continued searching, “we were completely overwhelmed by how kind and generous and compassionate the community was,” Summit said.

Even in the height of COVID, people opened their homes to the family, letting them sit by screen doors to watch for Hazel, she said.

She stayed overnight in fields and pastures from dusk to dawn calling for him.

“We received tips, sightings and messages of empathy and hope,” she said. “The generosity has been overwhelming, but still he hasn’t turned up. Somebody could have trapped and relocated him again.”

Once the Summits learned Hazel had been released in Makawao, they sent mailer postcards to 1,500 addresses around Makani Road.

“He’s very sweet, so it’s possible somebody took him in and has ‘adopted’ him and considered him one of their own,” Summit said. “If somebody was loving him and feeding him, they would see how much we love him and miss him.

“Every time I come in the house, my eyes travel to the sofa he loved to lie on, looking for him. Then I realize he’s not there and he hasn’t been there. My heart just sinks.”

In addition to Haiku and Makawao, the family has traveled to Kahului, Lahaina, Wailea and Kihei looking at black cats to see if they’re Hazel.

“We probably spend some time of every day looking for him,” Summit said. “We look at deceased cats on the road. We’re looking every day and we’re looking all over the island. We’re still hopeful because we have heard stories of cats being returned. The more people we can reach, the more chance we have to bring him home. And hopefully, we can prevent this from happening to someone else.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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