Cat returns to family after 14 years

Life With Cats is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.



A family has welcomed back into their home a cat who went missing 14 years ago. They say they are happy to give the kitty a loving home in which to live out the remainder of his days.

The Animal Rescue League of Iowa reunited 17-year old Ralph with his family thanks to his microchip and the shelter’s persistence in locating the family.

ARL Told the story at Facebook Monday, writing:

REUNITED AFTER 14 YEARS! Microchipping pets was only invented in 1985 and when Ralph was adopted as a kitten from the ARL in 1998, we were already microchipping ALL cats, dogs, and rabbits before they were adopted, so Ralph received a microchip that day.

Ralph was a gift from Santa for 8 year-old Jill. Jill and her brother Adam loved Ralph for 3 years…but then as cats sometimes do, he got out one day, and despite searching everywhere, they never saw him again.

A lot changed in their family over the years that followed, so a week ago when they received a call, they had all but forgotten about Ralph…

Officer Bill with Polk County Animal Control had picked up a stray cat – and as they do with all of their strays, he brought it to the ARL to be held until it was reclaimed. Since this cat had a microchip, we called the owner…bad number. So we sent a letter to the address on file letting them know we had their cat and they had 1 week to come reclaim (per Polk County ordinance). But that address was no longer a home, it was a business.

Fortunately someone at the business opened the letter and had the contact information for the former owner of the house and called them to let them know the ARL had their cat.

They were confused because they didn’t have a cat – hadn’t had one for 14 years – but they went to the ARL anyway to see what this was all about.

As you have probably already guessed, the cat they saw in the kennel looking back at them was RALPH! They couldn’t believe it – WE couldn’t believe it! And they weren’t there a moment too soon – this was the last day we were holding him as a stray, after that he would be available for adoption for another family.

Ralph was now 17 years old and when he arrived at the ARL he was sick and needed our help. We treated him with fluids and antibiotics, and tried everything we could to encourage him to eat.

Because it had taken so long for them to get the call that we had their cat, the fees had been building each day and they owed $125 in fees from the ARL (cost of boarding/care) and $35 in fees from Polk County (cost of pick-up). But this is where things get even better…

Thanks to a grant we had applied for (and received), we were able to reduce our fees to just $40 for the week he was with us (since they couldn’t afford the full amount). Officer Bill with Polk County Animal Control happened to be there when they were reclaiming Ralph and since the county’s fees cannot be reduced (per ordinance), Officer Bill PERSONALLY paid the $35 fees from Polk County!

Rita (mom) picked up Ralph and took him immediately to their vet (pictured: right). It’s been several days now and we just heard that he’s doing better and is starting to eat – but that she’s still syringe feeding him supplements every 2 hours as directed by their vet until he’s healthy again.

Jill is now 22 and has a family of her own. Tragically, in 2009 Adam was killed in a motorcycle accident so this photo (left) is a special memory for the family.

Ralph had likely been picked up by someone with good intentions 14 years ago, who kept him as their own. Sadly, had they just had him scanned for a microchip, they would have found he had a family already. This story is a great example of the power of microchips and the importance of notifying the appropriate agencies when you find a lost pet.

Here’s to many more years together for Ralph and his long-lost family!

Jill Petticord told KCCI Channel 8 News: “I am just glad that he gets to finish out his life with me and not somewhere out on the streets and I can make sure that he has a good ending to his life.”

Jill’s mom Rita recalled her daughter’s relationship with her cat in those bygone days before Ralph disappeared, saying:”She carried him around. She did absolutely everything with Ralph.”


Leave a Comment