The employees at Montana Air Cartage Inc. on the West End first noticed her coming around in early August.
Business owner Autumn Kiernan said her grown children, also employees there, started feeding dog food to the skinny, black and white cat when she’d show up. They thought that maybe she came from a nearby barn.
“Then we learned she was declawed and realized she was probably a house cat,” Kiernan said. “Then last week when it started to get cold, that’s when I got really worried.”
It turns out the cat, named Meg, had been fending for herself since April, when her owners, Jayme and Kip Lebahn, passed through town during a move from Minot, N.D., to Salem, Ore.
“The longest she’s ever been outside is like two minutes in the front yard,” Jayme Lebahn said.
The couple was passing through Billings in April and stayed at a hotel near Montana Air Cartage, 5700 Titan Ave. At some point, the 11-year-old cat got out of the room and a staff member shooed her away, not realizing she belonged to a guest.
The Lebahns adopted Meg in Guam while Kip, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, was stationed there eight years ago.
The Lebahns realized that Meg was gone the next morning and spent the day searching for her, with no luck, but eventually had to hit the road.
Four months later, the folks at Montana Air Cartage found Meg and on Sept. 14 took her to Angie Cook, who runs animal rescue organization Help for Homeless Pets.
Cook learned the cat was microchipped and was able to track down the Lebahns to let them know Meg was safe and alive.
“It’s the kind of stuff we do every day, trying to find the owners of these animals,” Cook said. “Sometimes these things work out, which is very heartwarming.”
Jayme Lebahn said Meg is a part of the family, so when Cook called, she was ecstatic.
“I didn’t even let her finish the sentence,” she said. “Them feeding her, them helping her out — I was bawling after I got that call.”
The plan is to fly Meg home by the end of the month. She’s waiting on a health certificate clearing her to fly and staying in town with a friend of the Lebahns’ in the meantime.
“I can’t wait to see her,” Jayme Lebahn said. “She’s just one of those cats that’s loving. She just wants to plop onto her back and have you scratch her belly.”