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The Cat Came Back

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NOBODY KNOWS HOW MANY OF HER nine lives Disney the cat has left. All Kristine Barrett-Davis and Mark Davis of Oakland, Calif., know is that after disappearing 14 months ago, during the 1991 firestorm that swept through their neighborhood, the 3-year-old black-and-white female is safe at home again.

Even before radio reports on Oct. 21, 1991, alerted the couple to the swiftly approaching blaze, Disney gave her own kind of warning: meowing loudly and turning in circles. When Kristine and Mark dashed for their car, Disney escaped from their grasp. The flames that raged for the next 24 hours took 25 lives and destroyed more than 3,000 buildings, including the couple’s $475,000 ranch-style home. “There was nothing left,” says Mark, 34. “No toilets, no sink, nothing but the chimney.” About 1,000 pets, Disney among them, vanished in the fire.

The couple had a photograph of their pet, though, and Kristine, 30, a music promoter for Walt Disney, says she sent copies to “every shelter in Northern California. I had dreams about her all the time—that she had come back.” One of the pictures wound up at the Firestorm Pet Hotline. On Dec. 10, 1992, Firestorm volunteer Kathryn Howell was at the Berkeley pound to photograph a cat that had been brought in when her attention was drawn to a nearby cage. “There was this very friendly black-and-white cat who kept talking to me,” says Howell. On a hunch she took photos of this cat too and then hurried back to the office. Checking file pictures, she found four possible matches, one of them Disney, and began phoning the owners. “When we took her out of the cage, she was shaking, but she was purring,” says Kristine. “I knew if it was her there would be a dark birthmark, sort of a zigzag, inside her mouth—and there it was!”

The couple, who were married last May, are still incredulous. “It was like a miracle that she came out of this trauma,” says Kristine. For her part, Disney seems only to want reassurance that her traveling days are done. “Now she will let us hold her,” says Kristine.