I dropped to my knees and just held him sobbing

Cat was quite timid when he was originally acquired by Mindy Criner and her husband Luke from the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter in Virginia. He tended to hang back and watch the other kittens play by default, but Criner had a sense he only needed a family to boost his self-assurance.

Criner told The Dodo, “You could see in his eyes he simply wanted affection.

It took a little work, but before long, Cat was all settled into his new home and so in love with every member of his new family. When his parents had a baby, he loved him immediately too, and there was never any doubt that the couple had made the right choice in taking a chance on that shy little kitten.

Cat gained so much confidence after joining his family, and often liked to wander around his yard and explore a bit. One day, Criner went to call him inside after another round of exploration — but Cat was nowhere to be found.

Frantic, Criner immediately contacted the woman who runs the Lost & Found Pets – Hampton Roads, VA, Facebook page to have her help spread the word, and then she and her husband did everything they could to bring Cat home. They put a litter box and food outside in hopes that familiar smells would help lead him home.

They set up little housing stations all over the neighborhood and had friends check them whenever they could. They put up countless posters. Every night, they walked all around the neighborhood calling his name — but eventually, they started to lose hope.

“Weeks turned to a year, then a little more and every day that crack in my broken heart got a little bigger,” Criner said.

Then, 536 days after Cat went missing, Criner got the call she never thought would come. Someone had found him.

I assumed there had to be an error, Criner remarked. The Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter should be contacted to locate him, according to the animal control center’s voicemail. I arrived to that shelter as quickly as the law permitted and entered while holding back tears.

When Criner got to the shelter, they informed her that a guy had been feeding Cat for nearly a year even though he assumed she was a stray. When Cat was hit by a car and managed to live, the guy called animal control, who ran a microchip scan and learned Cat’s true identity.

Criner headed over to the home of the man who had found Cat after promptly getting in touch with him.

“I sat on the steps and let him come over to me in case he was scared, and he got right in my lap and purred,” Criner said. “I started walking towards the car where my husband (who has an incredibly distinctive voice), Luke, was talking to the guy that had been feeding him and Cat purred louder than I knew possible and gave me that first super long head boop. It’s like he nudged that little piece of my broken heart back in place.”

As soon as he saw his family, Cat knew he was finally going home, and he couldn’t have been happier about it

When they returned home, Cat made himself at home very immediately, welcoming his animal siblings and reclaiming all of his former locations as if he had never left at all. The entire family is overjoyed to finally have Cat back where he belongs, and he and his parents have been spending as much time as possible snuggling and becoming acquainted.

“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,” Criner said.

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