Jack Tyler, cat detective, and his search dog Daphne track down fleeing felines

Cat detective Jack Tyler stops by what he calls his office, the Sit Stop Cafe, with his dog, Daphne, in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Jack Tyler is a cat detective.

He considers himself the world’s first.

For years, he’s stalked the streets with his trusty search dog, Daphne, patrolling for the forlorn felines.

While finding cats that have abandoned their masters for the feral world is not an exact science, Tyler said he’s usually been successful in returning the runaways to their homes. He’s also compiled an extensive research portfolio and even invented a device to aid those searching for lost cats.

“All of my stuff is cutting-edge,” Tyler said.

Tyler, 56, of Huntington Beach had been working as a Hollywood extra in 2007 when a woman walked into a Huntington Beach coffee shop where he was working and posted a flier for a missing cat with a reward of $1,000.


That became Tyler’s first mission.

He began to take several cases a week, usually at no cost to the client. Tyler said there was an abundance of people who turned to him.

He had a very particular set of skills that nobody else was offering.

Tyler said he can find lost indoor cats “100%” of the time.

Along the way Tyler learned a few things, one of the first being that the cats he found were usually hiding in the same general area where they went missing.

“For an indoor cat with no outdoor experience, they will hide for eight days within a three-house radius underneath something,” Tyler said.

To help owners better locate their hidden cats, Tyler invented the Cat Flasher Robot Locator — a device worn by a feline that strobes when the temperature drops low enough.

Tyler said he also discovered that coyotes are not primary predators of house cats; he contends they tend to attack kittens and health-compromised elderly cats but leave healthy grown ones alone.

Cat owners have more to fear in that ultimate suburban predator: cars.

Verification of Tyler’s statements is difficult, as a Google search of “cat naturalist” affords little information. Tyler’s name is the first to show up. A search of “cat detective” results in a slew of crime-fighting cats.

Tyler envisions his role in a similar vein as that of a scientist, probing the suburban world and uncovering its unique ecosystem with its own interacting animal and plant life.

“Suburbia has an amazing ecosystem,” Tyler said. “Right outside your door all sorts of crazy things are happening with animals interacting. It’s wild.”

This untamed environment was in full display during a recent case.

“Two cats took over a neighborhood, I’ve never seen that happen,” Tyler said. “It was ugly.”

Tyler said two “tough” cats working together moved into a neighborhood and caused havoc, with three cats perishing as a result.

Two of the cats were hit by cars after being “vanquished,” or chased from their homes, and another’s dismembered carcass was found strewn about.

“I don’t care how tough a cat is, it doesn’t stand a chance against two tough cats,” he said.

For all Tyler knows, those two cats are still tyrannically ruling over that neighborhood like feline Caesars, though he hasn’t heard of any more deaths.

Cat detective Jack Tyler and his search dog, Daphne, outside his "office," the Sit Stop Cafe, in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer )

Another memorable case for Tyler was featured in a 2012 documentary, “If Only Cats Could Talk,” which details the taxing search for a cat named Frankie.

Signe Veje, the film’s director, said through email that she remembers meeting Tyler and being skeptical of his motives.

“Jack was incredibly pleasant and professional but since he quite early into the conversation mentioned his interest in acting and previous work as an extra in Hollywood, I was at first unsure if I was meeting with someone just putting on an act as a cat detective,” Veje said. “Adding to that, my still very much from European eyes were seeing the exact stereotype of what an American private detective would look like had this been a fictional scenario in a soap opera.

“Everything about him — his mannerisms, his speech — said ‘private detective specializing in cats’ to a T.”

Veje said she was won over by Tyler’s expansive knowledge on the subject of cat detection. He would later become the hero of her film.

After Frankie was found, Tyler quite literally walked off into the sunset at the film’s conclusion.

“Jack is truly stranger than fiction and I mean that in the best possible way,” Veje said.

Currently, Tyler takes very few cases, typically unusual ones that can further aid his study. Research is his primary domain now, the fruits of which are available on his website as articles and videos delineating how to prevent a cat from getting lost and what to do if it happens.

Almost all this information is offered for free educational purposes.

Tyler, who has two rescue cats, Twilight and Genie, is really just a cat lover at heart.

“I rescued them from death row,” he said.

An extension of that same drive to save cats from doomed fates is what fuels Tyler as he wanders through the wilds of suburbia with his faithful dog, Daphne.