Or maybe I should have titled this post as "Colorado Cat Becomes Big Star in New York, Goes Home to Rural Life Anyway." After all, she made it to NBC's Today show this morning (video), and several media outlets picked up the Associated Press story about how she went missing at a time when most people did not know who Barack Obama was.
The cat, named Willow, belongs to the Squires, a Colorado family that was doing home renovations at the time of Willow's disappearance—contractors inadvertently left a door open. The Squires put up lost-cat posters, but as the weeks passed, they concluded that coyotes had eaten her.
In reality, Willow somehow made it nearly 3,000 kilometers east to the bright lights of New York City, where she was found by a man on East 20th Street. He took her to a shelter, where workers thankfully scanned her for a microchip that revealed her owners' information. Not all shelters perform such scans, and microchipping doesn't always lead to success. A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that only 38.5 percent of microchipped cats found their way back home—still a far cry above the unchipped rate of just 1.8 percent. Dogs fared better overall: unchipped dogs were returned to their owners 21.9 percent of the time, whereas the rate for chipped dogs was 52.2 percent. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends collars and tags in addition to microchips.
Willow's transcontinental exploits during the past five years are a mystery. Did she walk from the Rockies to the East Coast, like a mountain lion did? Or did someone in Colorado find her and adopt her, eventually taking her to New York? A GPS-equipped microchip would have helped answer the question, although such technologically enabled cats probably would be found long before they crossed state lines.
Getting a lost pet back after five years is certainly a long time, but it is by no means unprecedented. A microchip reunited a cat named George with his original human family 13 years after disappearing, although sadly the cat died one month later—maybe he didn't want to return home.
Let's hope for a better outcome for Willow and the Squires, who are working with the shelter to bring her back. A foster family is currently caring for Willow.