Couple evacuated twice due to Santa Rosa fires seeks missing cat in Berkeley

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- As their house burned to the ground last month, a couple from Santa Rosa escaped with their lives -- and their two cats.

But now, one of those cats has gone missing from their daughter's house in Berkeley, and the couple is on a relentless search to find their 10-year-old Himalayan named Packy.

"We could just see the flames, you know, coming over the ridge," recalled JoAnn Van Muylem, of their sudden 11:30 p.m. evacuation from their home on Foothill Ranch Road on the night of October 8th.

The couple quickly gathered a few items of clothing, their 15-year-old bobtail Siamese cat Pepe, and went looking for Packy.

"I'd been calling him and calling and he wouldn't come because it was just so windy that night, and he came in and I was so happy," JoAnn said.

Though they got out before what was once their dream home burned to the ground, the danger wasn't over.

"In our superior wisdom, we decided to evacuate to the Hilton in Santa Rosa," said Luc Van Muylem.

At 3:30 a.m., the power went out at the hotel and fire alarms sounded. The hotel had caught fire, and once again, the Van Muylems were forced to evacuate.

The darkness and screeching alarms "didn't make the kitties happy," Luc said. "So they hid under the bed, so we had to pull the bed up and drag them out."

Finishing her husband's thought, JoAnn added, "It was so traumatic for them."

Once the couple arrived at their daughter's house in Berkeley, they say the cats hid under the bed for a day, but then became restless -- especially Packy.

"He was really an outdoor cat," JoAnn said. "We were sitting here and he jumped up on the fence and was walking on the fence -- and he jumped over."

That was October 11th -- and the family hasn't seen Packy since.

In the six weeks that followed their beloved cat's disappearance, the couple has launched a nonstop effort to find him -- posting signs all around the neighborhood due west of U.C. Berkeley's campus, and east of San Pablo Ave.

The signs, which they replace regularly with new ones, feature photos of Packy in all his winter splendor.

"In the wintertime, he gets really fluffy, and you know, he's a distinctive looking cat," JoAnn said.

Being from a rural upbringing, the Van Muylems speculate Packy will shy away from traffic and seek out nature. They've had no shortage of callers claiming to have spotted him.

"The last sighting was over there near strawberry creek," JoAnn said. "That's where he might be -- because there's a water source, and it's quiet there."

Still, Packy hasn't come home -- and may not know where "home" is anymore, they say, after two evacuations and only a few nights in a strange house. Though he may hide from humans he doesn't know, they Van Muylems are hoping someone will at least hear his piercing, high-pitched meow.

If he thinks you have food, Luc said, "He'd put his alarm up about 100 yards away."

If you have information on Packy's whereabouts, click here to email the Van Muylems.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.