A cat has been reunited with his family seven years after going missing – and is thought to have crossed the River Mersey on his own.
Sam, a nine-year-old black cat, went out for a wander in October 2014 from his home in Bootle, Merseyside, but never returned.
His owners, Tony and Claire Fielding, spent months searching for him and putting out appeals but were unable to find him.
Over the years they moved home and had a second child. When Sam originally went missing, Mrs Fielding was receiving treatment for cancer, with the chemotherapy leaving her with health complications including severe heart damage.
The couple had another cat, Oliver, and in the intervening years also adopted a stray, who they called Tina.
But they recently received a call from a vet who had surprising news for them.
Mr Fielding said: “Claire got a call on her mobile from a vets’ asking if we were missing a cat – we looked at each other in confusion as both Oliver and Tina were here.
“Then the vets’ said the name ‘Sam’ and we both looked at each other stunned. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d see Sam again after so long.
“I wasn’t properly dressed for going out so I quickly put on some clothes and rushed down to the vets’ to see Sam. I’m not sure that he recognised us but he was still so friendly and had the same laid-back attitude.
“He was crying in the carrier on the way home but he would let me put my fingers in and stroke his head.”
The pair said Sam was clean and looked well-fed, although there is a tiny cut in his ear.
They were told an elderly lady in Wallasey had been looking after Sam in the past two years.
When she died, a neighbour took over feeding him and called in Cats Protection’s North Wirral Branch for help.
After posting photos to social media with no joy, volunteers took him to the vet clinic to be scanned for a microchip, where it was revealed he did have an owner.
It remains a mystery as to how he ended up in Wallasey, which would involve a journey through one of the Mersey tunnels, or an hour’s road trip around the coast, but he may well have unexpectedly hitched a lift in a van or car.
Mr Fielding said the family is introducing Sam to the other cats very slowly to make sure he readjusts well to their home.
The co-ordinator of the North Wirral Branch of Cats Protection, Stephen Riches, said: “It is a fantastic feeling to be able to reunite Sam with his owner after such a long time.
“His story highlights the importance of microchipping cats. We would also urge anyone who has a stray hanging around their home to call in Cats Protection or a local vet to scan for a microchip, as it may well be a much-loved pet who has found themselves lost.”