Cat was quite shy when Mindy Criner and her husband Luke initially adopted him from the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter in Virginia. His default position was to sit off to the side while the other kittens played, but Criner suspected 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 was soon settled into his new home and smitten with every member of his new family. When his parents had a baby, he fell in love with him right away, and there was never any doubt that the pair had made the correct decision in taking a chance on that shy little cat.
Cat grew in confidence after joining his family, and he enjoyed wandering around his yard and exploring. 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 administers the Lost & Found Pets – Hampton Roads, VA, Facebook page to ask for her help in spreading the news, and she and her husband did everything they could to return Cat home. They left a litter box and food outdoors in the hopes that the familiar odors would help him find his way home. They placed little housing stations across the area and had friends check them whenever they could. They put a countless posters. Every night, they walked throughout the neighborhood yelling his name, but they soon gave up hope.
“Weeks stretched into a year, then a bit more, and every day that break in my damaged heart grew a little bigger,” Criner explained.
Then, 536 days after Cat went missing, Criner got the call she never thought would come. Someone had found him.
“I assumed that had to be a mistake,” Criner explained. “The message from animal control instructed me to contact Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter in order to locate him.” I drove as fast as the law permitted to the shelter and entered through the door fighting back tears.”
When Criner arrived to the shelter, she was told that a man had been feeding Cat, whom he mistook for a stray, for approximately a year. After Cat was hit by a car but survived, the guy notified animal control, who searched for a microchip and revealed Cat’s real identity.
Criner instantly contacted the man who had discovered Cat and drove over to his house. 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 at all.
“I sat on the stairs and invited him to come up to me in case he was frightened, and he jumped straight onto my lap and purred,” Criner explained. “I started coming towards the car where my husband, Luke (who has a really unique voice), was chatting to the person who had been feeding him, and Cat purred louder than I believed possible and gave me that first super long head boop.” It’s as though he nudged a small piece of my damaged heart back into place.”
Cat knew he was finally heading home the moment he spotted his family, and he couldn’t have been happier.
When they returned home, Cat settled in almost immediately, welcoming his furry siblings and reclaiming all of his old spots as if he’d never left. He and his parents have spent as much time as possible hugging and reacquainting themselves, and the entire family is overjoyed to have Cat back where he belongs.
“I hope that our story gives hope to others who are missing their pets, and that those who have unknowingly taken in someone else’s pet will check to see if they’re scanned so that pet can have their happy reunion with their family, and someone else can feel the overwhelming joy we’re experiencing,” Criner said.