River is back! ‘Light’ story hastens La Jolla street cat’s return

River returns to one of his favorite spots, L7 Salon, 7443 Girard Ave.

When La Jolla resident Ariel Wagner read La Jolla Light’s Nov. 12 “News Nugget” story about the disappearance of River the cat, she sprang into action.

“I didn’t realize he was gone,” she said. “I was so upset. I love River. Everyone does!”

The precocious outdoor cat, last seen Nov. 4, is La Jolla-famous for nuzzling up to pedestrians and cruising stores on the north end of Girard Avenue, as well as hiding inside the tops of deck umbrellas at Pannikin Coffee & Tea.

Googling “lost cat,” Wagner said, directed her to a website called She scrolled through about 100 pet photos and then struck gold.

“I was pretty sure it was him,” she told the Light.

According to Wagner, a woman who owns a gymnastics studio in Clairemont took River home and named him Zoom the Acrobatic Cat, after his penchant for high-jumping. She told Wagner she realized River was not a stray when he nuzzled up to her feet in what seemed like an attempt to communicate. But he was not wearing the collar with his name and phone number that a previous owner provided for him.

The woman had a dog at home and the animals did not get along. So “Zoom” was transferred to a new foster home in Kearny Mesa, which is where he was when Wagner called the number listed on

This woman told Wagner that quite a few people had already called about Zoom, so she asked Wagner to e-mail some close-up photos of the cat’s stripes, so she could check if they matched. (Wagner was such a River fan, she happened to have a couple on her cell phone.)

On Saturday, Nov. 16, Wagner picked up River and returned him to Stasia Osment, the La Jollan who has provided him with food, a water bowl and a litter box on a nightly basis for almost two years. (His previous human decided to let River roam free because he was miserable inside her house.)

“I’m elated, I’m escastic!” Osment said. “Since he’s been back, I’m so happy. He’s been doing his cruising again and I’ve been getting calls from everyone, saying, ‘I just found the cat!’”

One of the people who thought he found River was Dennis Wills, owner of D.G. Wills Books.

“I brought her to Stasia and then she told me the story and it sounded quite harrowing,” Wills said. “He’s definitely used up quite a few of his lives so far.”

Both Wills and Osment are convinced that River was taken by someone. “Collars don’t pop off on their own,” Osment said.

But Wagner thinks maybe he just took a ride in the bed of a random pickup truck — which he has been observed doing before — that brought him to Clairemont, and that his collar just coincidentally got brittle and fell off from being old.

“I don’t have any conspiracy theories about it,” said Wagner, who believes the cat should be microchipped anyway. “Either that or he should get a GoPro endorsement so people can see where he goes and what happens to him on his adventures.”