It can be devastating to lose a pet. Our beloved dogs and cats just get away and vanish without a trace, and while you can take steps like searching the neighborhood and putting up missing pet flyers, sometimes there’s just nothing else you can do—except to accept that they’re gone for good.
But long after giving up hope, one family got an unexpected miracle.
Sue Zelitsky, from Wanaque, New Jersey, was the proud and loving owner of a cat named Jimmy. Always an adventurous feline, Jimmy was no stranger to exploring the neighborhood. He’d play in the backyard, go on walks, and visit neighbors for treats.
It was a common thing, and at the end of the day Jimmy could always be counted on to return home when called.
“He used to go in and out every day but always came back,” Zelitsky told The Dodo.
“Except that one night.”
That night was September 13, 2014. Jimmy was 13 years old at the time. Zelitsky’s husband, Bob, had let Jimmy into the backyard to play, as usual.
But when Zelitsky called the cat’s name, he didn’t come. In fact, he didn’t come home at all.
“We were devastated,” Zelitsky told NorthJersey.com.
The family searched all over the neighborhood, put up signs, and contacted police and local shelters. Still, nothing.
As time went on, it became less and less likely that Jimmy would ever be found. Two and a half years passed since the cat’s disappearance. Jimmy was already an old cat when he vanished, so it seemed incredibly unlikely that they’d ever see him again.
Still, Zelitsky kept a glimmer of hope:
“If I saw a cat that looked the same, I would wonder.”
Time went on. In the years since Jimmy disappeared, the family adopted a pair of kittens to fill the void.
But then, a miracle.
In March 2017, Zelitsky was browsing Facebook when she came across a post from West Milford Animal Shelter.
It was a set of photos of a missing cat who had just ended up at the shelter:
at our shelter now: found at High Crest area of West Milford NJ, lower West Milford
Zelitsky wondered: could this really be her cat, after all this time?
“I looked at it and thought how much he looked like Jimmy,” Zelitsky recalled to NorthJersey.com.
The cat was found in West Milford, about 10 miles from their home. She reached out to the page for further details…
And when it seemed like a match, she went to visit the shelter to see if it was for real.
Zelitsky finally met the stray face-to-face … and, even after all this time, she knew right away it was her buddy.
“As soon as we opened the cage I asked him, ‘Jim, is that you bud?'” she recalled to The Dodo.
“And he walked over and head-butted me and I just started crying.”
Comparisons of the cat’s markings confirmed her suspicion. Jimmy was reunited with the rest of the family.
“I was convinced it was my boy,” Zelitsky told NorthJersey. “I called my husband and he came to the shelter. When he saw Bob, he did the same head-butt.”
After years away from home, Jimmy finally returned to his rightful home. And while there were a few more faces to get used to, it didn’t take too long for him to settle in.
“When it was OK to let him roam the house, he walked around like he owned the place,” Zelitsky said.