A beloved cat who went missing for more than six years was finally reunited with his owners on Christmas Eve after a passerby found him in a ‘pitiful state’.
Tabs, now 19 years old, disappeared in February 2013 just as his distraught owners were preparing to move house.
But an animal lover spotted him in a ‘pitiful’ state on a side street as she walked home on Christmas Eve.
Mother-of-three Lisa Jones called an Animal Rescue volunteer who found a chip in the ’emaciated’ cat revealing his name and owner’s telephone number.
They called Tabs’ owners, Jude and John Kinloch, who broke down in tears in disbelief and immediately drove to collect him. Prison worker Jude, 53, said: ‘We couldn’t believe it when we got the phone call.
‘I thought it was some kind of prank at first. Then when she said the cat’s name, Tabs, I knew it wasn’t.
‘My husband hasn’t stopped crying since. He was looking at Tabs on his tablet the other day. He still has her on it as his screensaver. He has never changed it. It was like he had been reunited with his best friend.’
Lisa spotted Tabs near her home in Gillingham, Kent, and decided to take him in because she felt for him.
The 32-year-old said: ‘I was walking home after buying a toy for my daughter and I just saw this cat at the end of my road looking really matted, skinny and poorly.
‘I thought, you know what, that cat needs looking after. I used to be homeless myself. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, because I know what it’s like.’
Lisa took Tabs into her home and have him a wash in her sink, some food and a cuddle.
She added: ‘I’m such a soft touch when it comes to animals. I have saved a mouse and even a pigeon before.’
She was planning on taking the cat in permanently before she called Kent’s Animals Lost and Found charity who then identified his owners through a chip.
Lisa added: ‘My daughter said to me, ‘mum, you must have just made someone’s Christmas. I’m just so happy that he is happy and at home.’
The rescue charity’s director Natasha McPhee then called Jude and John, who drove from their home in the Isle of Sheppey to pick him up.
Jude said: ‘We got the call at about 8pm. I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen an animal so emaciated and skinny. It’s pitiful.
‘His spine was protruding from his back, his hair was really matted and he had sores all over his body. We could still recognise his face, even though it was a lot skinnier.’
Jude and John, both prison workers, drove Tabs home, but he vomited during the journey after eating his first proper meal in years.
She added: ‘At 19 years old he’s done well to still be alive, especially given when he has been through.
‘How he has survived, I just have no idea. Maybe he was waiting to see us again. It is just amazing. It really is a Christmas miracle.’
Jude said Tabs is now settling into his new home sat atop of a hot water bottle surrounded by fellow pet cat Ziggy and Jack Russell Pip, who are both treating him with care.
She said: ‘The other pets know that Tabs is unwell and are being really welcoming and cautious around him. Ziggy knew Tabs from before he went missing.. They recognised each other immediately and gave each other a good sniff.’
Tabs’ owners will take him to the vets on Friday to see whether he needs any treatment.
Jude added: ‘We are not silly though. He is a very old cat now. I’m just really happy he’s home, even if we just get a few more minutes with him.’
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