By John Kelly Tuesday, August 31, 2010 washingtonpost.com It was probably after Josh Klein had evicted the second or third raccoon from the Havahart live animal trap he had set that he despaired of ever finding Yarmulke, his lost cat. "The first one was a really angry raccoon," Josh said. "He took a dump in the back of the car when we tried to move him." [IMGR]http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2010/08/30/PH2010083004437.jpg[/IMGR] Josh captured a total of four raccoons while trying to recover his cat, plus two possums. The possums weren't too bad. "They're harmless. They just make this really nasty face, with their mouths gaping open," he said. The raccoons, on the other hand, had a tendency to get "antsy." Plus, they stank. "It's just like a dirty, musky smell," Josh said. "The smell would linger on the steel. I don't even know how that's possible." Josh still isn't sure what caused the accident that catapulted Yarmulke's cat carrier -- with Yarmulke inside it -- through the rear window of his girlfriend's Mini Cooper one evening last month. Josh might have dozed off while driving out Route 7 to a weekend house in Berryville, Va. One minute his girlfriend, Laura Bruce, was saying, "Josh, you're off the road," and the next the car was spinning, then slamming against a guard rail. The rear window shattered, and when the car finally came to a stop, the contents of the Mini were strewn across the highway, a sickening trail that included the cat carrier, the top half shorn from the bottom, their pet gone. And so began the hunt to find Yarmulke. Standing on the darkened road near a little crossroads town called Paeonian Springs, Laura and Josh called the cat's name until police told them they couldn't stay there any longer. * * * Yarmulke, so named because of the patch of black fur atop the mostly white cat's head, was not a cat Josh and Laura expected would do well in the wilds of Virginia. He was the quintessential inside cat, living with the couple in their Adams Morgan apartment, an 8-year-old rescue whose previous owners had removed his front claws. In the spring he'd had seven teeth pulled. The couple set up a command center at Laura's family's house in Berryville, driving to the District each day, where Josh, 32, works in the Senate and Laura, 30, works for a solar energy company in Beltsville. They contacted a pet tracker named Laura Totis, who brought her dog out to see if he could find Yarmulke's scent. He couldn't at first, but Laura outlined a plan of action: "She said we should put posters in every business, pet store, hardware store and grocery store within a two-mile radius," Josh said. They distributed signs to all the houses in the area, too, until they'd handed out more than 800 lost-cat posters. They put out food, set up the trap, checked the trap, released the raccoons, replaced the missing posters. "Then we'd do it all over the next day," Josh said. Friends and family began wondering when they should suggest to Josh and Laura that they just move on. But calls were coming in. One woman called every day, vicariously following the hunt for the cat whose photo was everywhere. (Because they were not sure folks there were familiar with the pronunciation of "Yarmulke," Josh told them they mostly called the cat "Bud" or "Kitty.") Reports had Josh and Laura convinced their cat was near Mile Marker 39 on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. On Day 16, a man called Laura to say he and his daughter had seen a black-and-white cat in that vicinity. "She raced over there and caught a glimpse of him in the bushes," Josh said. "She just started bawling immediately." Whenever anyone approached, Yarmulke drew back. While Laura went to get a tent ("We were just going to camp on the trail," Josh said), Josh sat near the cat, talking to him and moving very slowly in his direction until he could pet him, then grab him. He was not happy about going in the carrier. Yarmulke has recovered from his ordeal, happy to be an indoor cat again. Said Josh: "I just tell him, 'I'm so glad you're home.' "