The owners of a missing cat in California thought their feline friend was long gone until they were surprised to learn he was alive earlier this month.
The family, who adopted him when they lived in San Diego, said one day, Butters never returned to their home.
“We went looking for him, and our assumption was the coyotes got him because there’s a canyon nearby, and we didn’t much think about it after that except that we were sad he was gone,” said Angelo Castellino, who also told the station that he thought the family cat was dead and “someone’s meal.”
But their cat had been alive for over a decade and was spotted on Oct. 1 when Dalton Churchwell, an animal control officer in Riverside County, saw the tabby lurking in his backyard in Blythe, California.
Churchwell caught the cat and ― after a scan for a microchip ― found that he went missing from his San Diego family’s home in 2011, according to a press release from the Riverside County Department of Animal Services. San Diego is over 200 miles away from Blythe, according to Google Maps.
The Castellinos, who now live with their cat Barnacles in Stanwood, Washington, told KABC-TV they couldn’t believe the call they got with an update on Butters.
“At first, we didn’t pick it up because we thought it was one of these scam calls, but when they called back again, my wife picked up. He told her they had Butters,” said Angelo Castellino, who got the call on the couple’s 29th wedding anniversary.
“I thought it was a prank call because the cat was gone for 12 years, but how did he know our cat’s name?”
Butters returned to the Castellinos when Larry Rudolph, who has volunteered for 10 years at the county’s animal services department, met with the pair in Seattle after the Animal Solutions Konnection (ASK) Foundation non-profit paid for the flight out on Saturday.
Carolyn Badger, president of the ASK Foundation, said that the non-profit is “thrilled” to work with the department in making the reunion possible.
“It was such a wonderful story, and we are very happy to know that Butters is home and safe with his family,” Badger said in a press release.
Shelley told KABC-TV that the family’s “prodigal kitty has come home.”
Shelley added, “I cannot stress enough how important it is to get your kitty cats and your doggies chipped.”