Jan 19 2010

Costa Rica isn’t Disneyland

(Updated 11/19/15)

One of the reasons that so many of us come to Costa Rica is for its abounding natural beauty.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different specials of plants, butterflies, birds, and wildlife, not to mention lakes, rivers, volcanoes and beaches.  I have greatly enjoyed seeing, hearing, and taking photos of all of the beauty around me.

But sometimes I forget that there are very real dangers associated with this beauty. It’s not a controlled environment like a ride at Disneyland.  There can be snakes in the brush, scorpions in our shoes, and coyotes in the hills.  There may be strong rip currents at our favorite beach.  Lightening can and does strike just yards away.  And those monkeys up in the trees aren’t tame pets; they have teeth and aren’t afraid to use them if provoked.  While we as humans are far up on the food chain, we have to remember that we are not invincible.  We are still vulnerable to the wildness around us and can be bitten, broken, or even killed.

We are not the only ones who are vulnerable.  Our pets are as well.  Sadly, this has just been pointed out in our lives.  As I have written previously, Paul and I adopted two young cats about six months ago.  Caring for Rica and Tori has become a huge part of our lives, but they have given us so much more than we could ever give them.  Watching them explore “the jungle” all around us has brought us so much joy.  Tori, especially, is curious about everything she sees and hears.  It was scary allowing them out of the cabina to play during the day, but we live with our front door wide open and our yard is their playground.  At dinner time they would come in for the night, and would sleep with us in our bed, curled up under a blanket.

Last Friday we went to Lake Arenal for the weekend, and our neighbors were taking care of Rica & Tori as they had done so often in the past. But on Saturday morning, we received a call that neither of the cats had shown up for their dinner feeding the night before, nor breakfast that morning.  No one has seen them since that afternoon.  Since then, Paul and I have been searching through the forest, trails, and all over the property here.  We have given out flyers and taped them up at the neighborhood bus stops, restaurants, and pulperias (small stores).  We have taken flyers to all of the veterinarians in town, as well as to our neighbors, and even some of the neighborhood Tico children have helped us in our search.  We have walked the roads and through the foliage, calling their names.  Both Rica and Tori wear ID tags with their names and our phone number but so far it hasn’t helped.  We did receive two calls as a result of our flyers, but, in both cases the cats turned out to be look-alikes.

So now, six days later, we still know nothing.  It is as if they just disappeared off the face of the earth.  Are they together somewhere or are they each wandering around alone?  Have they found food to eat and clean water to drink?  Are they somewhere on the mountain that we have not yet looked, or failed to notice?  Were they attacked by an animal in the woods, or injured by a dog from one of the neighboring Tico houses?  Did someone take them?  Have Rica & Tori, predators of insects and small birds that they are, become the prey?  Why is there no sign, no circling of vultures or howl of coyote?  Why BOTH of them?  And why, after losing our beloved cat Cleo just a week after we moved to Costa Rica, have two more sweet animals been taken from us?  And the hardest question of all – what if?  What if we had done something, just one thing, differently?  Would they still be missing?

People tell us that there is still hope; that they may show up a day, a week, even a month from now.  Maybe they will be thinner and dirtier, or even injured, but they could still come home.  Either way, we will keep a light burning and leave food and water on the porch to welcome them back.  We can only hope.


Tori is home! We received a call from a young Tico who said he found her walking alongside the pista.  He saw that she was wearing a tag, so he somehow got a hold of her, saw our phone number on the tag, and called us.  We met him early Friday morning, one week after she & Rica had disappeared. She was much thinner, but she was definitely Tori.  We took her home, gave her food and fresh water, then all three of us curled up on the bed and slept. Tori has been sleeping a lot more than usual, exhausted from her adventures.  She has been staying close to home which is good since we haven’t wanted to let her out of our sight.  Getting her back seems like a miracle, and we pray for a second miracle, bringing Rica home too.


Almost six years have passed and our Tori is still with us, just as curious as ever. She’s no longer a kitten, she’s fatter now, and a bit slower because of her bulk. She stays close to home, and still brings us great joy. She did have one altercation with a snake a few years ago but survived it after several visits to the vet.

We never found Rica, and can only hope that she found others to care for her. I still think of her.

Laura Chinchilla, our cat

But we did add another kitty to our home five years ago when Laura, feral and about 3 months old, wandered up to our porch looking for food. She’s been with us ever since. [Since we found her (or I should say, she found us) around the time of the presidential election, we named her Laura Chinchilla in honor of the first female president of Costa Rica.]

Costa Rica may not be Disneyland, but it has brought us much joy over the years, and sweet animals to love and care for. There are dangers, yes, but the world is not a safe place, no matter where you live. We are lucky enough to live in this place of natural wonders called Costa Rica.


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