Molly the cat had been missing from her Binfield home for an incredible 12 years before she was finally reunited with owners Carly and Anthony Stears.
However, the happy homecoming had a poignant ending as 16-year-old Molly, who was suffering from cancer, died just a month after her return.
After giving up on ever seeing their beloved lost cat again following her disappearance in 2006, Mr and Mrs Stears were tracked down thanks to Molly’s microchip and were overwhelmed to unexpectedly be able to share their pet’s treasured final four weeks.
Anthony said: “It was as if she had come home to spend her last days with us.
“It was very emotional but it was lovely, too – we got to see her again after all those years and, even though she died soon afterwards, we felt a real sense of closure.
“That’s why we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Moor Cottage Veterinary Hospital, who were brilliant in caring for Molly in her final days and gave us the help and support to have her at home until the end.”
The amazing tale of Molly’s disappearance began when Anthony and Carly took a year out to go travelling in 2006.
Molly was left with Carly’s parents half-an-hour away in Egham, Surrey, but went missing soon afterwards and, despite the family putting up posters, printing flyers and contacting local vets, there was never any trace of her.
Anthony said: “It seems Molly decided to go on her travels too, except we went for 12 months while she was away for 12 years.”
Incredibly, the doting couple continued to pay Molly’s pet insurance for a further five years in the hope she’d return one day.
That day finally came on May 30, when Carly received a phone call from vets in Egham telling her a stray cat had been handed in and a microchip had identified her as Molly.
“Carly was stunned and thrilled in equal measure,” explained Anthony. “She rushed over to collect her and when I got home from work she told me to sit down as she had good news!
“Then she went off and brought in Molly. It was incredible, I couldn’t believe it. She was finally home after all these years.”
Unfortunately, Molly was clearly not well and vets at Moor Cottage, in Binfield, identified she was suffering from hyperthyroidism and cancer.
Anthony said: “They could treat the first but not the latter, so it was only a matter of time. But Moor Cottage made sure those last few weeks were as special as they could be.
“Molly’s thyroid problem actually cleared up quite quickly, her coat improved and she was purring, eating and even jumping on the bed to see us every morning.
“The tumour was the big problem, though, as it was pressing on her nerve and started to affect the whole of her left side.
“Finally, the vets said there was little else they could do, so advised us to nurse her at home for as long as we could and try to enjoy those last moments with her. Amazingly she lasted another five days.
“We were both very upset when the end came, Carly still gets emotional about it now, but deep down we are so happy Molly came home at last.”
Roberta Duncan, our clinical director, said: “This is an incredible story, both happy and sad, which had an impact on all of us here.
“We were all delighted to be able to help Molly so she could spend those last few weeks back at home with Carly and Anthony.”
Anthony said: “Some people were quite cynical, saying Molly wouldn’t have remembered us at all after all this time.
“I can guarantee she did, she knew exactly who we were and she was so loving and affectionate to us both, just like in the old days.”