Kitty, an eight year old tegu lizard that belongs to a Vernon family, was safely found after being missing in the Tillicum-Foothills region for nearly two weeks. (Facebook photo)

Missing Okanagan lizard found safely

Kitty, an Argentinian tegu lizard, parked himself in a Vernon garage after escaping his enclosure nearly two weeks ago

The look in Kitty’s eyes when he saw his owner, Jamie Klein, come into a garage in Vernon’s Foothills neighbourhood was one of pure love.

And when Klein scooped up her beloved eight-year-old Argentinian tegu lizard who had been missing from its Tillicum-area home for two weeks, the feeling was mutual.

“He just melted in my arms,” said Klein of her tegu she’s had for five years. “He’s smart, super affectionate, and we just love him.”

Kitty’s ordeal began, superstitiously enough, on Friday the 13th when he somehow slipped out of his chain-link enclosure. Even the floor of the enclosure is made of chain links so he can’t dig his way out.

“The doors were closed but there is a section with a wire attached to the fence in one spot where he might have pushed his body out. We went through that enclosure with a fine-tooth comb,” said Klein, who moved with her family and pets, including Kitty, to the North Okanagan from the coast in August 2020. “And he couldn’t have climbed out.”

Temperatures dropping at night was a concern of Klein’s.

Kitty loved the heatwave in June and July, but with the family arriving last August, Klein said the lizard didn’t get a chance to experience an Okanagan summer outdoors. She said there was no way Kitty would have survived had he gone missing in winter.

But survive Kitty did.

There was one confirmed sighting of the lizard when he was crossing Silver Star Road. A courteous pedestrian stopped traffic so the reptile could get across without getting struck.

That was it until Klein got a phone call Tuesday, Aug. 24, from a person in the Foothills who came across the lizard in their open garage.

“They knew Kitty was missing so I got a phone call and I asked the person to contain him in the garage until I got there. That wasn’t a problem. The person was very cooperative,” laughed Klein, who left work immediately.

Klein said Kitty lost a lot of weight while missing. He’s been noshing on his favourite treats like ground beef and ground chicken as he recuperates from surgery for a piece of his tail that was broken, then amputated.

The broken tail was surgically removed by Dr. William Rotenberg at Vernon Veterinary Clinic, where Klein works. She is a veterinary technologist that specializes in exotic medicine so she was quite familiar with the procedure.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Rotenberg for going out of his comfort zone to perform the surgery,” said Klein, who also heaped thanks and praise to the community both in her new and former homes.

“Everybody was so great that was helping look for him,” she said. “My friends at the coast were calling up their friends here and they were willing to come up to help look for Kitty.”

The conservation office, SPCA, all vet clinics and local outdoors expert Pete Wise have been notified of Kitty’s safe discovery.

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roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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