The cat came back, four years later — thanks to a tattoo and the efforts of animal lovers in Campbell River who work to reunite lost pets with their owners.
When six-year-old Spaz didn’t return home one night in July 2017, owner Cindy Buckner did everything in her power to find him, including printing posters, checking out animal shelters as far as Comox and monitoring the Facebook page of the Campbell River Partners for Animal Welfare Society.
“I never gave up hope,” said Buckner. “My fiance had always joked that the cat, well known for his hunting skills, would outlast us both if we got lost in the woods. He was comfortable being out there, accompanying us camping from when he was six months old.”
Four years after Spaz went missing, Buckner got the call last Saturday that she had been hoping for from the Campbell River branch of the SPCA.
“For us, there is nothing more rewarding than reuniting a lost animal with their owner,” said Stephanie Arkwright, manager of the Campbell River SPCA, who credits the whole community for making the reunion possible.
Cats tell no tales, but a volunteer who ventures into the wild to capture feral cats suspects Spaz had human contact over the past four years.
“Cats living in the wild would normally turn up skinnier and dirtier,” said Christine Williams, the trapping co-ordinator for the Campbell River Partners for Animal Welfare Society.
Sandy Partyka, who lives in the Forest Glen mobile home park, had noticed a new cat in the neighbourhood and fed him a few times.
The grey long-haired tabby cat returned the favour by leaving a dozen mice at her door over two weeks.
“He was strong and certainly a good mouser,” said Partyka. “Despite the name that his owner gave him, he was actually a pretty calm cat during his time with me.”
After earning his trust, she welcomed the cat into her house north of Campbell River — about seven kilometres from Buckner’s house — during the recent cold snap.
Suspecting he may have had an owner, she called Campbell River Partners for Animal Welfare Society, a group made up of the Lost and Found Animals of Campbell River Facebook group and volunteers helping feral and community cats.
The group assisted with trapping, neutering, releasing and adopting out more than 200 cats and kittens in 2020, slightly more than the year before.
When Williams arrived to pick the cat up, she noticed he had tattoo identification on his right ear, indicating he was registered with the B.C. Pet Registry.
He was passed on to the Campbell River SPCA, which looked up his identification and contacted Buckner.
“He looks completely healthy,” said Buckner. “The SPCA said that they checked him out, cut off some mats of hair, gave him a few shots, clipped his nails and checked his teeth.”
Spaz has returned to a larger household — Buckner recently welcomed two kittens to the family.
Pets go missing all the time, but cases where lost animals are found after years on the lam are rare — only about one a year, said Arkwright. Even then, it’s more likely two or three years, she said, adding four years is perhaps the longest absence the Campbell River SPCA has seen.
“I keep telling people to never give up,” said Williams, who has two cats of her own. “This is an amazing story and proof that, with a tattoo or microchip, a lost animal can be returned to its owner within hours.”