Neighbours rally to search for cat with a personality

Actions of residents in an Oak Bay neighbourhood show that animals can connect community

Margaret and Michael Asch hold posters advertising their lost cat

Margaret and Michael Asch hold posters advertising their lost cat

Like his namesake, he craves relationships with people.

In his younger years he was a champion ratter who used his speed and wiles to capture unsuspecting rodents in a tangled mess of underbrush near his home.

A talkative sort, he is quick to start up a conversation and is pleased when someone responds in kind.

Of late, however, Buber the cat – named for 20th-century Austrian philosopher Martin Buber – has been ill. He becomes disoriented and, due to periodic seizures likely caused by a brain tumour, blind for short periods of time.

Nevertheless, this 11-year-old Bengal tabby cross has struck a chord with residents of the Oak Bay neighbourhood where he lives on Clive Drive with Margaret and Michael Asch. He strolled quietly away from their home on a sunny May 29 and has since been the subject of an intense hunt that has involved, directly or indirectly, no less than two dozen people.

“He reaches for community,” Margaret Asch says. “He touches people and they don’t forget him. They don’t know how they’re connected, but it’s through this cat.”

Given Buber’s condition, the Asches felt they had done all they could to try and recover him by mid-June. They began taking down their missing posters, which overlapped the time that Hampshire Road resident Stephanie Steele was putting up posters saying she had found a cat.

The Steeles already have a cat – a protective one at that – so they chose not to bring in the stray who had been hanging around for a week.

“Usually we chase (other cats) away, but there was something about him,” Steele says.

“His sweetness and his vulnerability. He had this lost sort of look about him.”

The visitor, whose mournful meows and sweet nature were tough to resist, she says, was on her porch the night of June 19. But by the time the Asches connected with the Steeles at around dinner time the next day, Buber was gone and has yet to return.

In the week following, Asch has received more than two dozen calls or emails from people saying they had seen the found poster with his picture on it – only a couple callers said they had actually seen him.

“Strangers are so concerned about this cat and are so engaged and so helpful,” she says. “I’ve had people run after me after putting a ‘still missing’ poster up saying they’d seen him or seen one of (Steele’s posters). I have to let them down easy and tell them he’s not there anymore.”

Seemingly spurred on by a sense of community and recognition of the role an animal can play in a family, some people have walked the neighbourhood trying to spot Buber, Margaret says.

At some points she fears the worst, that he has had another seizure and fallen into nearby Bowker Creek, or been attacked and killed by rats or even eagles.

If they get him back, he will have to remain an indoor cat, she says.

If not, they’ll at least know he has touched people’s lives the way he always has – and brought a community together.

Anyone who has seen Buber is asked to call Margaret Asch at 250-592-8112 or email