“I am back home meouw” might well be the words used by Mr Mistoffelees to describe his return after spending 17 years on the streets.
At the tender age of 2, beloved cat,Mr Mistoffelees disappeared in Newlands, sparking a frantic search by his owner, Natalie Morrissey.
“Right up until November last year, I still stopped to look for him around the area,” she said.
“My husband said it was time to stop looking as he was in all likelihood long dead by now, given his age.”
The cat’s name was inspired by the character Mr Mistoffelees in the musical Cats. Ms Morrissey described him as the “Magical Mr Mistoffelees”, being the “cleverest cat that ever lived”, and he seems to have lived up to his name.
“In the song (in the show) it also speaks of how the family would call him in for hours, and he would just re-appear. And how he did disappearing acts,” Ms Morrissey said.
On one occasion, she was so convinced that another cat was, in fact, him, tht she took it to the nearest vet to have it scanned.
“Obviously, it was not Mistoffelees. It was a 10-year-old she, so I had to drive back to Newlands and put her back from where I had abducted her,” she said.
After printing out heaps of “lost” posters with her cat’s photo and her contact details, even laminating them to ensure they would not spoil in the rain, she set out to find Mr Mistoffelees, placing the posters on street poles around Newlands and on the fence along the railway line.
“These remained up for months. I also put them up at the rugby stadium, surrounding shops and vets. I contacted the SPCA and Animal Anti-Cruelty League as well. I followed up with them daily for weeks and then called them weekly right up until I left Newlands a year later,” Mr Morrissey said.
While she left Newlands, she never stopped searching for Mr Mistoffelees, as she was working for a company in Newlands at the time.
“On one of the days, I even jumped out of my office window thinking I had seen him in our company’s garden,” she said.
For work reasons, Ms Morrissey moved to Upington, Johannesburg and Durban over a period of 11 years, only returning to Cape Town at the beginning of 2013.
Intermittently, when she happened to drive through Newlands, she would always be on the look-out for a black cat; maybe he was still around.
On Friday January 12, she received the call she had been waiting for, for nearly 17 years. The Cape Animal Medical Centre in Kenilworth had her cat, which she had dropped off at the centre. She knew it was her cat thanks to the microchip she had inserted, containing all her details, including the cat’s name.
“They even mentioned him by name. As you can imagine, I burst into tears and was in total disbelief. I mean it was now 17 years later. In April this year, it will be 17 years that he has been on the road. My boy will be 19 this year. It is simply remarkable, to say the least, that he has survived and that I am able to get the chance to say goodbye properly,” she said, holding back the tears.
Ms Morrissey now has endless praise for Identipet, saying: “At the time when I microchipped Mr Mistoffelees, I was paying an annual fee. After two years, I stopped with this because he was obviously missing and assumed dead.
“For my subsequent fur kids and his brother, Taco, I had taken out lifetime membership. I kept my details constant for them of course, but Mr Mistoffelees was no longer part of this. So, what a surprise that a 19-year-old chip, no longer paid for, was still able to identify him when he was scanned.”
Most lost animals are taken to the nearest vet or SPCA, where the animal is then scanned for a microchip, and the microchip database is contacted, which contains information such as telephone and cell numbers, address and other owner details, and the owners are informed of their pet’s whereabouts.
She urged pet lovers to chip their furry friends, saying: “I would like to urge all people to have a microchip inserted in their precious pets. However, I would also like to say to all vets and SPCA and shelters to always check – you never know.”
Mr Mistoffelees has now been home for just over a week. He has many health issues owing to his age, poor nutrition and his many years on the streets.
However, he has really taken to home life now, lying on the dogs’ beds, and he has finally started cleaning himself again and meowing to be picked up.
“This is a bittersweet story as we really don’t have much time left together, but he is now the most loving and amazing cat,” Mr Morrissey said.
The news of his return has left many stunned. The story itself is testament to the power of never giving up and the importance of having pets microchipped.
Tara McGovern, the spokeswoman for the SPCA, said: “Well first off just a huge wow. To think that a beloved family pet could return to them after 17 years is simply incredible – having said that working at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA and encountering similar cases, we know all too well the power of a microchip.
This story is a wonderful example of how valuable microchipping is and a reason enough for any pet owner to ensure their pet is chipped.”
The Cape Animal Medical Centre confirmed they had reunited Mr Mistofelees with his owner, but the person who answered when the Tatler called, said she was not authorised to comment further.
There is a once-off payment for the microchip and thereafter you pay a small annual fee to keep your details updated on the database. Your pet is then identifiable for life. The microchip never “wears” out. Your pet will always have an identity. Visit your nearest vet or the SPCA for more details.