Boots the cat keeps pestering Andrea Gibeau, but she’s happy to give him extra attention after she spent three days earlier this week wondering whether she would ever see him again.
Boots, a 4-year-old black-and-white cat who tips the scales at about 16 pounds, went missing during the fire that destroyed a row of brownstones early Sunday on Woodlawn Avenue and wasn’t found until late Tuesday afternoon cowering under a bed in the smoke- and water-damaged apartment.
Gibeau, 26, shared the apartment at 104 Woodlawn Ave. with her boyfriend, Kevin Coffey, and her 3-year-old son, but was there alone at 4 a.m. when the fire was discovered. She was awake getting ready for her 5 a.m. shift at Target while her son slept at her father’s house and Coffey worked a night shift.
As she prepared, a neighbor who was wrapped in a towel knocked at her door and said the building was on fire.
“It was just very surreal,” Gibeau said. Her first thought was to find her two cats, Boots and kitten Lia, who is just shy of a year old.
But she couldn’t locate them right away, and people urged her to leave the building, so she grabbed some clothes from the kitchen table and handed them to her neighbor.
The fire started in the rear of 108 Woodlawn and spread quickly down the row to 100 Woodlawn. Authorities have not yet determined a cause of the blaze.
Gibeau and Coffey were allowed to go back into the apartment about six hours later.
“We didn’t really have any hopes that the cats made it,” she said. But there Lia was perched on top of the refrigerator, wet and meowing.
“She immediately jumped on my boyfriend’s shoulders as soon as she saw him.”
But Boots wasn’t there, at least not in the area where they could go. One of the bedrooms had a collapsed ceiling, so the couple couldn’t look there.
Gibeau posted a photo of the two cats on Facebook along with a description of Boots’ disappearance, and a few people around the scene said they had seen him running outside. But Gibeau turned up empty after checking the property on Monday.
On Tuesday, she returned to work and Coffey and her father went to the apartment one more time in the late afternoon. This time they were able to search the bedroom with the collapsed ceiling.
“He was under my son’s bed,” Gibeau said. “We were in tears and just so relieved that we were able to find him.”
Boots was a little bit wet and wore a look of fear but seemed otherwise unharmed.
She’s unsure where Boots spent those three days and two nights, but the apartment door was wide open after the fire, so he may have been outside some of the time and ventured back into the familiar apartment to take refuge.
Lia the kitten seemed the most shaken by the week’s events.
“I think she was probably the most scared just from being so young.”
Despite losing almost all of her belongings, Gibeau feels fortunate. None of the residents were hurt in the blaze. Her son was safe at his grandfather’s. And her cats are together again at her temporary home with her father.
“They’re brother and sister,” Gibeau said of the two cats. “They love each other. They’ll curl up every night and they’ll play.”