All of us in the QuadCounties (Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Torrance) know we need to keep our cats inside. Strict household border containment policies are in place everywhere. Yet still, rogue kitties break loose every night, upsetting our peaceful community.

It’s not easy for migrant cats. Too many fall prey to unscrupulous coyotes the very first night. Prickly pear cacti don’t always pass the whisker test. And piñon bark scrapes their paw pads raw. Undaunted, migrant cats pad through our backyards day and night pursuing one dream: all the chipmunks they can hunt.

This is the story of two lone migrant cats.

Leonidas “Leo” Butterchin, age 4, an orange tabby ring-tailed shorthair, bolted past border security the evening of March 14. His escape remained unknown until the following morning when border officials noted his food and litter box were untouched. A full perimeter search was initiated, combined with an electronic neighborhood alert. No trace of Leo was found until security video a mile away showed a ringed tail moving across a neighbor’s property. A full search of the location yielded nothing.

Leonidas “Leo” Butterchin


The following day, a different neighbor reported a ring-tailed cat on video a mile away from the first sighting. Border officials brought in humanitarian supplies, including food and favorite blankets, to both locations for immediate aid. The ring-tailed migrant moved regularly between the two other houses for the next few nights.

Security officials doubled down and launched an apprehension program, placing humane cat traps at both houses. Officials also began a propaganda campaign on social media, and as a sign of peaceful intent, placed Leo’s litter box in his front yard. Finally, a call came the morning of March 20: an orange tabby was in custody at House #2. Officials immediately arrived on the scene to make an identification. The cat in custody was not Leo. The officials took custody of the cat, an orange tabby ring-tailed longhair, and delivered him to Canyon Crossroads for a health and microchip check. After determining the cat to be in good health and unchipped, Ulysses S. “Sam” Cat, age 1, was given temporary asylum in Leo’s home.

Household officials were careful to respect Sam’s cultural traditions, introducing the standard dachshund and the Anatolian sheepdog gradually, while also helping Sam adjust to his new home with toys and snacks. At the same time, they kept the apprehension program for Leo in place.

Ulysses S. “Sam” Cat

On March 24, believing Leo to be the victim of coyotes, officials removed the blankets, food and traps, wishing him a peaceful journey. Leo, however, was determined he wouldn’t be another refugee statistic. He called out to border guards at his own house the evening of the 26th and surrendered. Thin and poorly groomed, he checked out at the Canyon Crossroads border aid station with a clean bill of health and returned to a new life at his home.

Border officials were left with a dilemma: They had exceeded their cat quota by one. Quickly, they drafted a two-cat waiver request, including extensive socialization plans, which was approved on submission with the requirement a second litter box be provided.

Several weeks after their individual journeys, Leo and Sam are adjusting to house life. There was an escape attempt on April 22, but Sam quickly surrendered to officials (seriously like 5 minutes later) and returned to the house. Continuous therapy, fuzzy mice and Party Mix are helping the migrants conform to and embrace home life. Their fellow canine detainees are also pitching in, helping officials maintain the litter boxes through a controversial new nutritional program.

Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and retired Naval officer. She dispenses Party Mix on demand with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head each of dog and cat.