We love cats not only because they’re cute and awesome and perfect, but also because they’re independent little explorers who love going on adventures of their own. However, it sometimes poses problems for their owners who are worried sick at home not knowing when their furry friend is coming back home. This is why animal activists have long been encouraging people to microchip their pets – this way, there’s a far greater chance to reunite with your beloved friend if it goes missing.

Recently, a story about a cute orange boy named Cat went viral, for the adorable feline went missing and didn’t come home for 536 days straight. His owners – Mindy and Luke Criner – were just beginning to lose hope when Cat finally reappeared in their lives, purring and meowing for their attention.

More info: Facebook

This cat named Cat was missing for 536 days

Image credits: Mindy Criner

The feline was adopted from the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter in Virginia and was very shy at first. He wasn’t very keen on playing with other kittens, so his would-be owners decided that he needs a loving home to bring out his confidence. We adopted a cat named Cat in June of 2015, he would be about 6 years old currently. He was the shyest kitten in the kennel at Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter. They actually wanted to put him in their “barn cat” program because he was so skittish, but he had that look in his eyes like the kitty from Shrek while he watched the other kittens play longingly, and I knew at that moment he was meant for our 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 told Bored Panda. 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. “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 told us.

His owners were worried sick and were starting to lose hope

Image credits: Mindy Criner

The Criner family immediately spread the word about their missing furry friend on Lost & Found Pets – Hampton Roads, VA, Facebook page. They also put Cat’s litter box and food outside, hoping that the smell would bring him home, however, to no avail. The posters and little housing stations all over the neighborhood that the Criners had their friends checking all the time didn’t help either. The family was starting to lose hope. “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.”

When one day they got a voicemail from animal control

Image credits: Mindy Criner

Every night, Mindy and Luke would walk around their neighborhood in hopes of finding Cat but were unsuccessful. “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!”

Turns out, a man was taking care of Cat for a whole year

Image credits: Mindy Criner

“I honestly did not believe what I was reading. I thought it had to be a mistake. 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 told Bored Panda. “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 Mindy drove to the man’s house, she was met by Cat who instantly started purring after seeing her

Image credits: Mindy Criner

“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 to Bored Panda. “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.

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