HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Eleven years after he escaped, a little brown tabby cat named Tiger is finally back with his family.
He was found wandering, seemingly living in plain sight, just a few miles from his Dutchess County home.
Tiger's owner say they can finally rest easy, now that their family is all together again.
It's been a long time since John and Maggie Welz have seen Tiger, who was only three when he escaped their home and ran off.
"After months of effort he was never found or no info provided so this is crazy after 11 years," Maggie Welz said.
The Welz family said they eventually lost hope. That is until Tiger showed up just a few miles down the road – on SPCA employee Caroll O'Connell's lawn.
For three years, O'Connell worked to gain Tiger's trust and so he would stop running from her.
"We worried about him constantly if we didn't see him. Weeks would go by and we didn't see this cat. So we would call him Spirit, because it kind of would just appear… or Ghost," the Dutchess County SPCA said.
Finally Tiger warmed up to her and she was able to scan him for a microchip. That number led him home.
"She got me on my cell and started to explain, at first it didn't register," John Welz said.
"Then it dawned on me what she had been saying that Tiger had been found after all this time."
The Welzes were in shock, but immediately embraced their long lost pet and, though Tiger still getting re-acclimated, his owners say it's like no time has passed.
"Each night I've slept with him, he crawls right up on me and I just look at him and think I can't believe that you're home with us," Maggie Welz added.
Tiger was extremely thin when he was found, almost deteriorating. The family does not know whether the cat lived with a family, or survived in the wild.
Now the reunited family is telling their story to encourage all pet owners to microchip their animals.
for more features.