Ritz escaped 16 years ago, and his owners were in disbelief when an animal hospital texted them his microchip information.
grey tabby cat that returns after missing for 16 years
Credit: Ilaria Perillo / EyeEm / Getty

The text message must've been almost impossible for Jason and Liz McKenry to believe. Their cat, Ritz, had been found 16 years(!) after he escaped Jason's Delaware apartment.

Ritz was injured and was about to be put down when Lums Pond Animal Hospital staff found his microchip and then notified Jason McKenry on Monday, according to the Delaware News Journal. No one knows how he spent the past 16 years, but he finally, finally, got to see his family again.  

"I wish he could talk," Jason McKenry told the newspaper. "I'd love to hear his story."

Ritz, a gray tabby now around 18 years young, escaped on June 14, 2006, when he bolted through a door opened by McKenry's roommate. Later, a neighbor told him Ritz had jumped from the bed of his pickup truck as he was driving. McKenry posted flyers and kept in touch with animal shelters for months but had no luck, the News Journal reported.

His search wound down. He married Liz, and they had two children and moved to Maryland. 

"We just kind of figured that if he survived the first months, surely by now he was gone," Liz McKenry told the newspaper.

Thankfully, she was wrong. The newspaper reported that about two years ago, Emily Russell noticed a gray tabby visiting her home near Lums Pond. She began feeding him and named him Tom. He would sleep under mobile homes, and he was the only feral cat who would let her pet him. 

Then Tom showed up at her door hurt. His paw and one of his back legs were injured. Russell told the News Journal it looked like he'd been hit by a car. So she took him to the animal hospital, and the staff there found Tom's—Ritz's—microchip.

"I started bawling my eyes out," Russell told the newspaper. "If I had known he had a chip, I would have taken him sooner, but he just looked like a feral cat."

After receiving the fateful text, Liz McKenry called the vet's office in disbelief, asking if they were sure it was Ritz. Yup, he's a gray tabby, they told her. She then cried for an hour, the newspaper reported. 

"Sixteen years? That's a new record as far as I know," Tom Sharp, president of AKC Reunite, a national database for microchipped pets, told the newspaper. "That's amazing."

They drove up to Delaware and reunited with their beloved cat. After he received treatment, the McKenrys took him to Liz's mom's home where he could rest comfortably. He's being friendly, but they aren't sure if Ritz recognizes them. 

"He's obviously had a long, eventful life," Jason McKenry told the News Journal. "But he'll be comfortable for whatever time he has left." You can read the entire Delaware News Journal story here.