He left his North Salem home for 15 days. Then the cat came back.


Frank, a two-year-old Turkish Van, was missing from his North Salem home for 15 days. Community members pitched in for the rescue efforts. (Photo courtesy of Sam Campolo)

Frank was never meant to be an outdoor cat. Then one day last month the skittish two-year-old cat fell through a window screen in his home and found himself forced into the wilds of North Salem. Frank’s fall set off a two-week search for him that galvanized the neighborhood around the Hunt Lane section of North Salem.

“When we lost him, because he had that skittishness in him, it was so hard to get him back because he was so afraid of everything,” said Sophie Manthe, 25, who co-owns Frank, a Turkish Van, along with her boyfriend, Sam Campolo.

Campolo, 25, was the first to notice that Frank wasn’t in his usual spot behind the couch in the home the couple share. A glance out his window confirmed his worst fear–Frank the indoor cat was very much outside. “I panicked,” Campolo said. “I ran after him. I was panicking, so I think he sensed the panic in me.” As Campolo ran after Frank, Frank ran further and further away from Campolo and his home. “I came to find out, what you should do when a cat goes missing is to let them come to you,” Campolo said.

After the first failed attempt to get Frank back, Campolo and Manthe devised a plan. The couple set up a camera system in their backyard. And they asked neighbors for permission to walk around their backyards, scouring under their decks or other outdoor spaces for a place Frank may have chosen to hide.

The neighbors not only granted permission for Campolo and Manthe to search their yards; they also joined the search. Some adjusted their own outdoor cameras to be better positioned to spot the cat. Some left out food to try to lure Frank to their doorsteps. “Everyone was pitching in to help,” Campolo said.

Frank at home with his sister, Stella (Photo courtesy of Sam Campolo)

Meanwhile, Campolo and Manthe added another layer to their plan: the two set up an overnight shift system to keep a lookout for Frank, taking turns to be up at night, searching and monitoring. In the few days Frank had been missing, they had quickly learned that during the daytime hours, Frank was nowhere to be seen but at night he made occasional appearances on neighbors’ security cameras. 

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Still, while Frank was making his presence known, he wasn’t returning home.

“We were running on empty. We would approach every night with a new hope because he only came out at night,” Manthe said. “I would go to sleep at 9:00 p.m. and would tell Sam every night, make tonight the night. Then at 3:00 a.m. when he’d wake me up, he’d say ‘ nothing’. And I would get out of bed and do my shift.”

After nearly two weeks of overnight shifts, the couple were losing hope. Then Rock n’ Rescue reached out. Juli Cialone, founder of the South Salem animal rescue nonprofit, had learned of the missing cat through Campolo’s Facebook post and wanted to help. Cialone didn’t know when she contacted Campolo and Manthe that Frank was actually a Rock n’ Rescue adoptee. But once she was made aware, her desire to return the cat back home only intensified.

Cialone worked with Campolo, Manthe and neighbor Donna Milano, whose driveway Frank had been visiting during overnight hours, to set up a trap. Cialone stressed to all involved that it was an urgent time to return Frank safely home. This time of year is coyote mating season, and coyotes are teaching their young to hunt.

At dawn on the third day of the trap setup, Manthe walked over to Milano’s driveway, expecting another morning of disappointment. Instead, she discovered a familiar sound: Frank’s meow.

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“I walk over and see him there, and my stomach drops. He’s just sitting there meowing.” Manthe scooped up the crate with Frank in it and lugged it home to Campolo. “I wake Sam up and I say, ‘we got him, Sam, we got him!’”

Sophie Manthe holds Frank after safely returning him home. (Photo courtesy of Sam Campolo)

Manthe and Campolo say that they would not have been able to return Frank home without the combined efforts of their North Salem neighbors and Rock n’ Rescue.

“The best part of all of this is how the community came together,” Campolo said.

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