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On a rainy night in late February, a guy in a backpack busted the lock to the gated patio of Houston’s first-ever cat café, El Gato Coffeehouse, cut open a back window to the Litter Room, and stole $250 in donations meant for the café’s partner, local rescue group Friends For Life.

But the theft wasn’t his worst offense. No, that would be leaving the back door wide open and allowing six of the 10 resident felines inside to escape. Among them was Wink, a 9-year-old fluffy ragdoll with Seal Point Siamese coloring and a shy demeanor, whose owner had surrendered her during Harvey.

With the help of tuna and some advanced cat-whispering skills, El Gato founder Renee Reed and a dozen volunteers known as the FFL Army recovered Wink’s five roomies by the end of the next day. Timid calico Addison only made it to the garbage cans, while orange tabby Orion and three black cats—Inky, Shadow, and Sweetie—headed under the house. But Wink, a rare beauty, was nowhere to be found.

“In the back of our minds, we were like, was she taken?” Reed says. “It was our worst nightmare.” She posted about the missing cat to the café’s blog and Facebook, and the community responded. Over the next week, Friends For Life employees crawled under the house with flashlights, hoping to spot Wink’s aquamarine eyes or the tiny splotch of white near her mouth. They set traps all over the Heights, catching possums, raccoons, and even two feral cats, one of which wasn’t fixed (but now is). And they kept the faith.

Then, ten entire days after the break-in, a trap in the café’s back patio snapped shut and there was Wink, starving and stunned, hunched over a can of tuna in broad daylight.

“It was a miracle,” says Reed. “Whatever she was eating, it wasn’t much.”

Now Wink is at no-kill shelter Friends For Life, eating like a champ and getting ready to find her forever home. And that guy who let her out in the first place? Yeah, he was arrested

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El Gato Cat Café and Cat Cottage

$ Café 508 Pecore Street, Ste. A

Feline fans book hour-long sessions at this cat-filled café in the Heights, which includes both unlimited coffee and unlimited access to the adoptable kittie...