- Harriet, a cat from California, went missing nine years ago and was found on Sept. 19, 2022, in Idaho.
- Someone found her and dropped her off at a shelter, where she was scanned for a microchip and her owner was contacted.
- Estimated to be about 13 years old, the friendly cat is currently staying at a foster home.
A cat that disappeared nine years ago in California was found in Idaho thanks to a microchip and a couple of good Samaritans.
The cat, a short-haired, tabby-colored domestic housecat named Harriet, previously lived at a California ranch with her owner, when she disappeared nearly a decade ago. On Sept. 19, a couple found her on the side of the road – about 1,000 miles away from her previous home of her – and took her to a nearby shelter.
The cat was dropped off at the Kootenai Humane Society in Hayden, Idaho, about 90 miles south of the Canadian border, said Development Director Vicky Nelson.
Harriet had a microchip, making it much easier to track down her shocked previous owner.
“We’re always excited when we find a chip,” Nelson told USA TODAY. “The lady (who) was at the front desk called the owner that was listed on the chip, she started talking to her about her, and the lady was pretty much speechless because she did not realize that her cat was still alive. “
Nelson said everyone was shocked Harriet turned up so far away from home.
Expert stresses importance of microchips in pets
Nelson said pets turning up safely like this speaks to how important microchips can be. Typically, people say the microchips look like a grain of rice – that’s how tiny they are.
She said the chips are inserted using needles and are usually placed in the nape of the cat’s neck, where it’s fatty.
“You just kind of grab the skin,” Nelson said. “Typically, they don’t even feel it, which is good. And then when you have a scanner, it scans the information that’s on the chip.”
When scanned, the chips give shelters and other organizations a number that they can then look up to get information such as the owner’s name, phone number, and sometimes, an address.
Nelson said they’re pretty inexpensive ($25 at her shelter) and most veterinarian’s offices can do the procedure.
“Some people think that if their animal has a collar on with an ID tag, that’s enough,” she said. “Unfortunately, animals climb around, they climb under fences, their collars could be pulled off and they wouldn’t have any form of identification… It’s better to have a microchip because that way, you know they’ll find their way back It’s their best chance to find their home.”
How did she end up so far away, and what was she doing all this time?
Nelson said there has been a rise in people relocating from California to Idaho, so she suspects someone found Harriet when she was out roaming around in California and didn’t check for a chip. From there, they likely moved to Idaho, bringing Harriet with them.
Another possibility is that she sneaked into a vehicle while a member of her family was traveling, Nelson said.
She suspects Harriet is about 12 or 13 years old, but she doesn’t look like it one bit. She has either taken good care of herself, or someone else has taken good care of her, Nelson said.
“She is as friendly as can be,” Nelson recalled. “When you open the kennel, she’ll come directly to you. If you walk by, she’ll start purring and kind of rubbing up against the kennel for you to pet her.”
She likes to be held and played with, and she’s very active for her age.
Nelson said the cat’s owner looked for her for a while but was never able to find her. She was going to have a relative of her pick Harriet up, but she was slightly hesitant since Harriet had n’t been with her in a long time and may not remember her.
She worries that someone else from Harriet’s past may be looking for her, according to Nelson. The option is still open for her to be reunited with the cat though.
Harriet is currently with one of the shelter’s foster families. A woman just so happened to be at the shelter and noticed her as she walked by.
“I wish Harriet could talk to us and tell us where she’s been for the past nine years, but she can’t, unfortunately,” Nelson said.
For now, what happened to Harriet these past nine years are a mystery.
Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas, and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email her at [email protected].