The SNJ’s new columnist Karen Eberhardt-Shelton was born in California but grew up in England.

She now lives in Stroud and is currently working on an education project called Learn, Think, Act and is hoping to develop an eco-community land trust.

Her thought-provoking columns will focus on how we all have to take responsibility for our actions and for our planet.

WHY go missing?

Around five years ago I lived in Kingskerswell near Newton Abbot in Devon and was ‘adopted’ by a young, skinny black cat with a little white patch on his chest.

He would have been underfed, poorly cared for and, for whatever reason, chose me as his new mum.

I named him Liquorice and we soon became inseparable.

I got him neutered, fed him fresh, raw meat (had to scrape my purse lining for that) and he turned into a gleaming model of interactive black fluff.

We moved from Kingskerswell to Stoke Gabriel to Lower Godney on the Somerset Levels to Frome and finally to Stroud in February this year.

He and my other two cats, Beatrix and Little Ben, started behaving as though they had lived here all their lives.

There are plenty of other cats around but there’s no malicious behaviour or excessive rudeness.

Well, except for a couple of times when badgers fought loudly in a nearby patch of wood. And twice in the night I’ve heard a fox bark and bark as though urging everybody to listen to what it had to say.

That first lengthy barking took place around 2am on Thursday, July 14.

Come morning, Liquorice didn’t turn up for breakfast.

Odd. He never missed a meal. The entire day passed. No Liquorice.

He didn’t come for supper (all that nice meat) either. Now I was truly upset; this had never, ever happened before.

He was almost more doggish than cat: loyal, interactive, clever, curious, actually in charge of the whole house, savvy about traffic, sensible regarding more or less everything.

It’s now August 4 and he’s still gone. He has been gone for 11 days.

Why, where, how?

Did he run off with the fox? I fed a fox when we lived in Lower Godney – Liquorice showed no fear and often came close to observe the little creature.

Here and now, there’s not a clue, not a single sign of him vanishing; no smell of a rotting body, no yowling from being locked inside a garage or garden shed, no clump of fur on a blackberry vine.

Eleven days; nothing.

I’ve put up plenty of posters, talked to people in the surrounding neighbourhood, contacted all the vets with details, walked around calling, calling, even meowing in a voice he would recognise.

I’m worried sick – is he suffering, in pain, trapped?

Beatrix and Little Ben are mournful and bored without him.

My duvet misses the fragments of outdoor plants he would leave behind after a few hours of sharing my bed.

Curiosity killed the cat. Is that true?

Is there something about the time of year or weather that has led him into the great beyond?

Is he exploring his curiosity without any concern for my anxiety?

I’ve lost pets but primarily to old age.

Now, out of the blue, it seems I have lost Liquorice.

I’m bereft and angry. I am sad beyond measure.

I have lost my appetite.

Only time will slowly heal this, one way or another.

l We hope Liquorice returns safe and well. Have you ever thought you had lost a beloved pet for good only to find that they eventually returned?

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