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'A Christmas miracle': Richmond resident reunites with lost cat

Pyjamas, or PJ, ran away in December during early morning hours in an unfamiliar neighbourhood.
PJ the cat was reunited with his owner on Christmas Day last week.

"At 56, I'm quite impressed with myself. I hurdled three dogs to get down those stairs... Like I was in high school again doing the hurdles," said Richmond resident Shelley Smith.

"And he was right there. And he just came to me and I scooped him up and I brought him into the house."

Smith was letting her puppy back in after a quick bathroom break in the wee hours of Dec. 18 when her worst nightmare happened — her 10-year-old indoor tabby darted out of the door and vanished into the night.

As soon as Pyjamas, also known as PJ, was out of the door, Smith was in "hot pursuit" in her pyjamas and bare feet.

"It was dark, and it was raining — two things that he hates," Smith recalled.

She wasn't "super worried" at first, thinking he would eventually return in the morning.

PJ would sometimes go out during the day when Smith lived on a farm, and he always came back when he heard his name because he grew up among German shepherds and was "like a mini dog." 

"So even though he's a little tabby cat, I think he identifies as a German shepherd," she added.

But PJ was nowhere to be seen.

Smith said she was "so upset," knowing PJ was not familiar with the area because she had just moved. PJ had also never stayed out overnight and it was raining most of the nights.

"It's the not knowing," she explained.

"Is he lying in a ditch somewhere? Or has he been hit by a car and (is) slowly dying?"

For four days, Smith tried putting out a litter box and putting up flyers and social media posts.

She went out every couple of hours armed with a little bag of treats and a flashlight, calling his name. She also drove back to her old place every day in case PJ went back, worried about the busy traffic and coyotes prowling the area.

A tearful reunion on Christmas Day

Smith credits the reunion to PetSearchers, a company dedicated to looking for lost pets that she hired "out of desperation" after searching for PJ day and night.

She was told cats don't tend to stray too far and PJ was probably hunkered down somewhere while trying to get back into the house at night.

The company set up cameras and traps around her house and monitored any signs PJ might be back, but Smith was skeptical, calling it a "pipe dream."

After a few days without news, she got a text about a potential sighting at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning, but it turned out to be a false alarm.

Smith told the Richmond News she was "disheartened" and decided to go back to sleep until she got a call shortly before 7 a.m.

"(The PetSearchers representative) was like, 'Confirmed! Go!' It was like (the army)," Smith recalled.

When she saw PJ after hurdling her three dogs, she began to cry.

"I've never been so happy to see him in all my life," said Smith, calling the reunion a "Christmas miracle."

PJ had "lost quite a bit of weight," but the vet gave him the all-clear. Now, PJ wears a tracker and perimeters have been set up around Smith's house in case he ever gets out again.

"I'll be honest with you, I was always a little judgy about that when I'd see lost cat (posters)... How do you not keep an eye on your cat? ... I'm not judging anymore," Smith told the News.

"And I was being a pretty responsible cat owner, and I couldn't have predicted this to save my life."

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