A family whose cat who went missing from their California home 10 years ago never expected to see him again — but they were in for the surprise of a lifetime when they received a call he was discovered in the aftermath of the state’s devastating wildfires in October.
Pilot, now 13 years old, was adopted by the Thompson family as a kitten in 2004. He was three years old when he failed to return to the Thompson family's Santa Rosa home one night, Jenn Thompson told the Longmont Daily Times-Call.
But Pilot was found Oct. 31 by a Good Samaritan who was searching for her own cats in the post-fire rubble — a little more than a mile from where Pilot disappeared 10 years ago.
Thompson told the Times-Call she received a call from a pet hospital in Northern California, where Pilot’s microchip was scanned and traced back to Thompson, now living in Longmont, Colorado.
"It's pretty crazy," Thompson said. "I got off the phone and told my husband, and he's like, 'You're going to go get him, right?'"
The cat underwent two surgeries to amputate five of his toes after suffering “severe burns” in the fire, but, according to the Times-Call, is settling into his “new” home just fine.
"I think he recognized my voice and that was pretty cool. When I brought him back, he definitely recognized my daughter,” Thompson said. “Right away, he went and cuddled up with her. I had no doubt. It's like, OK, he knows my kid."
The family, who said they’re “so happy to have” their cat back, started a GoFundMe fundraiser in November after discovering how badly Pilot was burned in the California fires. As of Tuesday night, people have donated more than $4,600 for the cost of his surgeries and medical care.
"When I got the first donation, I cried," Thompson told the newspaper. "Everything has been so surreal. And just how many people have been interested and supportive and on Pilot's side, it's been really cool."