TRENTON, N.J. – Instead of reaching out to thousands of voters to find his lost cat, all a North Jersey mayor had to do was check inside his house.
"Max," a 20-pound Maine Coon, was found inside a wall at North Arlington Mayor Peter Massa's house early Thursday morning, his wife Val said.
The mayor had sent out automated messages, much like the ones that usually urge support for a political candidate, to North Arlington's registered voters on Wednesday, but it turned out they weren't necessary.
According to Val Massa, her son heard Max around 5 a.m. Thursday and they both went looking for him. They found him under a staircase, where he apparently had squeezed through a 5-inch hole.
"He's so big, we don't know how he got into this tiny hole," Val Massa said. "But once he got in he had a very hard time getting out."
The mayor's home is currently undergoing renovations, and Val Massa thinks Max, an indoor cat who had never gone missing before, was scared by the noise.
"He probably figured it would go away if he hid," she said.
Family members, construction workers and police officers looked for him, but had no success.
Then borough Administrator Terence Wall offered to send out the automated calls. The message, which was posted on The Record of Bergen County's Web site, describes the 14-year-old as a "very sweet" cat whose fur is brown with white and black markings. It also mentioned a reward.
Wall paid $10 for the robocalls, which went to people who provided their numbers on voter registration documents, the Record reported. Wall told the paper that information is considered public information.
The messages went out Wednesday after Wall worked on them from home, not on taxpayers' money or time, Val Massa said.
Petter Massa said they received a couple hundred calls about Max, mostly people voicing their concern and asking if they could help.
"I'm very grateful to the community for the outpouring of support," he said.
Now that they've got Max back, the Massas, who've spent some time in the last few days talking to people who've lost cats and dogs and know how devastating it can be, just want to make sure he recovers. Max was dehydrated and hungry, but otherwise fine.
"We gave him a lot of love and attention. He's getting back to the way he used to be," Val Massa said. "I'm a happy camper."