Public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air
A family in Coromandel are in shock after their pet cat appears eight years after she disappeared.
Pipi, a gray shorthair from the seaside town of Whiritoa, had been relocated to the Parakiwai Valley in 2014 near Whangamata. After spending only two nights at his new residence, he disappeared.
Lisa Grove and her family had all but given up hope when she got the call from the vet while at work.
“The vet said, ‘Did you lose a cat? It was just found today.’ I went back to work and I couldn’t think, I just couldn’t function. I had to call them back and ask them, ‘Am I wrong?'”
Pipi had been taken to the vet after being found in his hometown of Whiritoa. He had spent eight weeks locked in a one-bach shed, with only a small source of water to sustain him.
He had made the journey from the Parakiwai Valley to Whiritoa, about 10 miles by road, with many streams and forests in between.
Grove called his daughter at school to tell her the news. Caitlin, who was only 6 at the time of Pipi’s disappearance, had always been “hung up” on not knowing her fate.
“I asked her if she was sitting. For eight years, we’ve never recovered. We’re still talking about Pipi.”
When Grove and her daughter arrived at the vet, Pipi immediately recognized the couple.
“I said, ‘Oh my god, Pee! We haven’t seen you in eight years!’ He started meowing and snuggling up to our legs.”
Looking back, Grove said their family immediately knew relocating Pipi was “a terrible, terrible mistake.”
The family expected a change in circumstances that would mean they could no longer keep their pet, but that didn’t happen.
After hearing the news of his escape in 2014, Lisa Grove and her daughter never gave up hope of finding him.
“We always drove slowly to the area where he got lost and called out the window looking for him.”
Grove, while relieved at his dramatic re-entry into their lives, is frustrated that no one during this time checked the microchip that would have let the family know their pet was still alive.
“The vet was convinced someone had taken care of him at some point while he was away, he just wasn’t that bad – although he was always a very good hunter, so he would have could survive alone.
“They could have eased my pain…it’s not really me, it’s my child. She really had a big problem with him getting lost after we relocated him.”
Grove wants others to be diligent when it comes to checking microchips. Even kittens and cats given to you need to be re-checked for a microchip, so owners can keep track of the lives of their former pets.
“Who knows, maybe we said you could keep it…but they never gave us that opportunity.”
Pipi, now 12, will live his last years “like a king”.
He will share his kingdom with two other rescue cats, Smudgee and Shadow who is completely blind.
Pipi and Caitlin, who were born on the same day, have even been able to share a birthday together since they were reunited.
“I love having him in the house so much. It’s so great…He has a bed but he likes to sleep above the washing machine under the dryer where it’s hot.”