After being missing in the wild for so long, a little ink on this tabby’s belly was the clue as to how to find her owner.
Kelowna cat that returned
Credit: Courtesy of AlleyCATS Alliance

Few cat parent moments are as sad as calling out "Here kitty kitty kitty!" and not receiving an inquisitive meow in return. This was the heartache of Kelowna, British Columbia man Scott Falkingham, who adopted River, a sweet little tabby, from the non-profit AlleyCATS Alliance

According to the Kelowna Capital News, after just a few months with Falkingham, River was a quite content housecat. Then, a storm frightened her so much, she dashed out the front door. Falkingham searched in vain for River for nearly two years.

Meanwhile, just a few kilometers away, River had adapted to life as a wild barn cat on the farmstead of the Joe Rich family. "The owners of the barn had spent more than a year trying to gain her trust in order to pick her up and take her to a veterinarian," Kelowna Capital News reported. The family intended for her to have a health checkup and be spayed

They were surprised to discover that not only was River already spayed, but also had a tattoo. (No, she didn't belong to some feral gang of cats identified by their ink.) The tattoo, initially provided by AlleyCATS when the organization had her spayed at rescue, served as a form of identification similar to a microchip

The Rich family returned River to the organization, who called Falkingham with the happy update. Theresa Nolet of AlleyCATS told the Kelowna Capital News that without the identifying tattoo, Falkingham would never have been reunited with his best friend. "Scott was overjoyed to see her again, and was so thankful of the family that looked after her for the last year," Nolet said. 

River is once again a homebody, satisfied to leave her wild days behind her in exchange for frequent treats and soft 'n cozy sleep spots.

BeKind PetFind, America's longest operating national pet identification and recovery system, acknowledges a tattoo—usually inked onto a pet's belly after spaying or neutering—as an effective way to help a pet return home. It also recommends microchipping and using collars and ID tags, even for indoor cats, to make it easier for good samaritans to place missing animals in safe havens and eventually back into the arms of their owners.