The Cat Came Back

HALIFAX, NS, CANADA -- After pulling the purr-fect disappearing act for two years and two months, Molly is home.

''She came in as if she had just been gone a day,'' said a relieved Heather Puddington, who long ago gave up hope of ever seeing her free-ranging feline again.

Molly's happy tail, er, scratch that, tale, began in 1995.

That's when the Puddington family—Heather and her husband, David, and their children, Andrew and Richard—adopted the stray from an Ottawa humane shelter where Mrs. Puddington volunteered.

That next year, the growing family—which now included baby Brendan—moved to Lower Sackville.

Everything was just the cat's meow until June 20, 1999, when Molly, who was kept inside, pounced on an opportune moment, slipped through an open door like a cat burglar in the night, and made good her escape.

Mrs. Puddington put up posters offering a reward, talked to neighbourhood kids, even took a picture of Molly to the local school.

But she began to think there wasn't a cat's chance in, well, you know, of ever finding Molly.

Over the months, there were changes. A new dog was added to the household, making two for the family. And two new cats were brought into the mix.

Last week, the Puddingtons returned from a week-long vacation, during which neighbours were looking after the young tabbies.

Mrs. Puddington said she went to the door and called for them.

''Instead of two, I got three,'' she said.

''I looked at this cat and I said, 'Boy, do you ever look like my Molly.' My husband was there and he said, 'No way, that was too long ago.' ''

As they watched the cat make its way upstairs to eat ''like she owned the place,'' Mrs. Puddington knew there was one sure way to settle the question.

After a night's catnap on son Andrew's bed, the would-be Molly was carted off to a vet to be scanned for the tiny microchip, bearing an identification number, that the Ottawa-Carleton Humane Society implanted in her when she was adopted.

It took two scans, but finally the proof was found. Molly—the cat they thought was a goner—really had come back.

So what paws-ible explanation could there be for her two years on the lam?

That's anyone's guess. So far, Molly isn't a Chatty Catty.

But Mrs. Puddington is mew-sing about the near cat-astrophe.

''The lesson is, we have to educate people about microchips. Even though they might not see an ID on them, (strays) might have it.''

People need to be aware of microchipping—in which veterinarians inject a rice-sized capsule with a unique number into a pet, she said.

The numbers and owners' information are registered on a national database so missing pets can be returned home. Most veterinarians have the scanners.

''The scan itself takes about five seconds, so for the amount of time it takes to walk into a vet's office, you can find the owner.''

Had someone done that with Molly, her travels might have come to an end a lot sooner, she said.

Still, Molly seems non-pussed about her adventure, and with her wandering days behind her, has settled into the household just fine, Mrs. Puddington said.