It’s no secret that cats are extremely independent creatures. They enjoy their own space, their own company, and they’re really quite self-sufficient. I mean, if they could use a can opener, would they even need us?
However, cats also love to explore, and this can sometimes cause issues for their human parents. Especially when the fur child of the relationship decides not to come home when they’re supposed to, leaving their parents stressed and worried for their safety.
That’s exactly what happened to Mindy and Luke Criner when their cute ginger boy named Cat went missing. Cat was missing for 536 days, and his parents were beginning to lose hope. It was then that Cat finally returned.
Scroll down to read their incredible story.
Mindy and Luke adopted Cat from a shelter in 2015. They noticed he was very shy and too timid to even play with the other kittens at the shelter. They knew right away he was meant to be a part of their family.
“You could see in his eyes he just needed love. It did take work, he had an immediate attachment to my husband, Luke, but one day we woke up and he was just laying on my chest purring and that was the start of my sidekick cat,” Mindy said.
As it turned out, it was really the love that Cat needed – soon he gained enough confidence to roam around his yard, exploring the new territory. Sadly, one time, Cat didn’t return from his adventures.
It turned out, all Cat needed was love, and he soon gained enough confidence to venture outside into his backyard to explore. However, one day, sadly Cat didn’t return from one of his outdoor adventures.
“He went missing in the beginning of May, he would go out for a little while during the day if it was nice and come home when called for lunch or dinner, and sound off with a loud meow to let you know he was coming.
I put this new collar on him that had just come in the mail and let him out to play in the tree out front like usual and he paused and looked at me and I just had this strange feeling I wasn’t going to see him again, to the point I actually called my husband and told him about it.
We assumed it would be a normal day, but we weren’t that lucky. He didn’t come home for dinner, didn’t sound off when called. By morning I was in full panic mode,” Mindy said.
The family immediately posted on the Lost & Found Pets – Hampton Rods, VA, Facebook Page, hoping someone may have seen him. They also placed Cat’s litter box and food outside in the hope that the familiar smells may lead Cat home.
They also put flyers up all around their neighborhood, but nothing was working.
“I sent a post with all cats info to Gina (an absolute gem of a woman, runs the Lost and found pets of Hampton roads FB page solely out of the good of her heart) who immediately shared it and had folks looking.
We took all the recommended tips she provides on the page, set of this litter box and food station so he could smell his way home, and set up small housing stations a few blocks and about a mile from home with his pet house, food, and something that smelled like us (neighbors were fantastic and even checked in for us so we wouldn’t have to travel with the baby so much).
We put posters at the local grocery store, vets offices, shelters, and in the neighborhood. No Cat to be found. After a few months of nightly walks calling and praying animal control or the shelter would call, I started to lose hope.”
They searched their neighborhood every night looking for Cat, but there was no sign of him.
“He was microchipped and had a collar with the vet’s info and my name, I knew that if someone found him or even the worse-he had been hit by a car-i would get a call because he would get scanned.
Weeks turned to a year, then a little more and every day that cracks in my broken heart got a little bigger.
Then on Halloween, 536 days after he disappeared, I got a voicemail from Animal Control and an email from the microchip company saying he had been found!”
“I honestly did not believe what I was reading. I thought it had to be a mistake,” Mindy said.
“The voicemail from AC said to get in touch with Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter to find him. I drove to that shelter as fast as the law allowed and walked through the door already fighting back tears.
They walked me through all the rooms, but no Cat. The wonderful woman at the desk got right on the phone and called AC and everyone she could think of and found out that a man had called AC after Cat had been hit by a car Halloween night.
When AC showed up the gentleman in his 60s said that he had been feeding what he thought was a female cat for at least a YEAR when Cat was hit, in lieu of taking him to a vet he called AC and reported the “stray” he’d been feeding for a year was hit and needed to go.
AC immediately scanned him and my information popped right up. The gentleman didn’t even know microchips existed. He kept Cat at his house until I could be contacted. I called right away and picked him up that afternoon,” Mindy said.
“The reunion was unreal. He was only 1.8 miles away, 2 blocks from the park we take his tiny human to 3-4 times a week. He was sitting on the porch eating out of his bowl when he looked over at me and I said his name and gave him my signature kitty kitty type call.
He meowed right back to me, as he always had, grabbed another bite of food from the bowl and walked right over to me as I approached. I sat on the steps and let him come to me in case he was scared, and he got right in my lap and purred.
I started walking towards the car where cat heard my husband (who has an incredibly distinctive voice), Luke, was talking to the guy that had been feeding him, and Cat knew we were going home and purred louder than I knew possible and gave me that first suuuuper long head boop.
It was like that head boop nudged that little piece of my broken heart back in place. My husband caught the perfect picture of the exact moment he knew he was going home with his family.”
“When we got home he went straight up to “his” bathroom where we keep the plants during the winter so it’s a mini jungle and plopped right down in his same old spot. Broke my heart and melted it all at once.”
“His canine siblings came up to see him, they all had their own welcome home head boop moments too,” Mindy revealed.
“I hope that our story will give others missing their pets hope, and maybe 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,” she added.