Using techniques honed during her six years of search and rescue with the University of California at Santa Cruz police department, Albrecht, 39, has reunited 20 missing pets with their owners. To find them she uses high-tech equipment, including an infrared camera and an ultrasensitive listening device. "I can hear a meow three backyards away," she says. Then there are her low-tech methods: nine dogs that work with her pet detectives and six human volunteers from Pethunters—the organization she started in 1997, after a back injury ended her police career. Though cats are her main quarry (a typical search costs $225 and lasts as long as four hours), Albrecht, who is single and lives in Scotts Valley, has tracked a snake, an iguana—and a crawl-away turtle.
Her experience has taught her some lessons about animal behavior. "When inside-only cats escape," she says, "77 percent are found within a three-house radius." Tony, it turned out, had ventured farther afield. Albrecht's investigation led to the home of a roofer who had worked on Murray's place. "Kat insisted I look in his van," says Murray. "I called his name, and Tony popped his head out."