Cat was quite shy when Mindy Criner and her husband Luke first adopted him from the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter in Virginia. His default position was to sit on his side while the other kittens played, but Criner suspected that he simply needed a family to bring out his confidence.
«You could tell in his eyes that all he wanted was love,» Criner told The Dodo.
It took some effort, but Cat quickly moved into her new home and was seduced by all the members of her new family. When his parents had a baby, he fell in love with him right away, and there was never any doubt that the couple had made the right decision by taking a chance on this shy little cat.
Cat gained confidence after joining his family, and he loved to walk around his backyard and explore. Criner tried to call Cat inside after another round of exploration one day, but he was nowhere to be found.
Criner, who was in a panic, quickly contacted the woman who runs the Lost & Found Pets – Hampton Roads, VA Facebook page, to ask for help spreading the news, and she and her husband went out of their way to bring Cat home. They left a litter box and food outside in the hope that the familiar smells would help him find his way home.
They placed small housing stations across the area and asked friends to check them whenever they could. They put up countless posters. Every night they walked around the neighborhood shouting his name, but they soon lost hope.
«The weeks spanned a year, then a little bit more, and every day that breakup in my damaged heart grew a little bit more,» Criner explained.
Then, 536 days after Cat disappeared, Criner received the call she never thought would come. Someone had found it.
«I assumed it must have been a mistake,» Criner explained. «The animal control message asked me to contact the peninsula’s regional animal shelter in order to locate it.» I drove as fast as the law allowed to the shelter and walked in through the door fighting the tears.
When Criner arrived at the shelter, he was told that a man had fed Cat, which he had mistaken for a stray animal, for about a year. After Cat was hit by a car but survived, the guy informed the animal control, who looked for a microchip and revealed Cat’s true identity.
Criner immediately contacted the man who had discovered Cat and went to his home. Cat was sitting on the porch having a snack when she arrived, and as soon as they saw each other, it was as if no time had passed.
«I sat on the stairs and invited him to come to me in case he was scared, and he jumped straight on my lap and purred,» Criner explained.
«I started coming to the car where my husband, Luke (who has a really unique voice), was chatting with the person feeding him, and Cat purred louder than I thought possible and gave me that first super long head boop.» It’s like he’s putting back a small piece of my damaged heart.
Cat knew he was finally going home the moment he spotted his family, and he couldn’t have been happier.
When they returned home, Cat settled in almost immediately, welcoming her furry siblings and reclaiming all her old places as if she had never left. He and his parents have spent as much time as possible cuddling and rediscovering each other, and the whole family is thrilled to find Cat in his place.
«I hope our story gives hope to others who have lost their pet, and that those who have taken someone else’s pet without knowing it will check if they are being scanned so that the animal can have their happy reunion with their family, and someone else can feel the overwhelming joy we feel,» Criner said.