An Auckland family have been reunited with their beloved pet cat after the plucky feline was found 10 days after going missing from the family's boat.
Julie Rowe told the Herald that the family, who spend half their time aboard their catamaran, were anchored off Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf at Easter weekend when their pet took the plunge.
Luchs (pronounced "looks, as in 'Julie looks for her cat'," as Rowe wryly noted) is a 1-year-old Bengal cat who spends a lot of time on the boat, though he has never swum before.
Rowe said she has owned Bengals before and the breed is known for having an affinity for water and a "survival instinct" to swim.
She told the Herald she had bought Luchs a lifejacket, but the cat was not a huge fan of wearing it.
Nights on board with Luchs often meant a broken sleep for Rowe, who was frequently awakened by her nocturnal circuits of the boat, and when she woke after a "really great night's sleep" she quickly realised something was very wrong.
Rowe had spent time on deck with Luchs the previous night, shining torchlight on fish jumping from the water.
"I suspect that might have motivated her," she said.
The catamaran was anchored about 50m from the shore of Kawau Island, but even with a Bengal's aquatic abilities, Rowe thought the distance and choppy conditions meant there was "no way in hell" the beloved pet had survived.
They immediately started searching before they were beaten back by the Easter storm and began the grim arithmetic on how long it would take for Luchs' body to float to the surface and where the currents might take it.
But Rowe said she and her partner, Sebastian Leuzinger, still held out faint hope that the cat was alive - as well as fears for the safety of local wildlife had the pet made it to shore.
"I didn't want her on the island killing native birds or anything like that."
She offered a reward for information via social media, hoping the bounty might motivate locals to come forward, and coupled that with a pledge to donate to conservation efforts on the island.
Rowe said the couple's three children were "gutted" by Luchs' disappearance, with her 6-year-old daughter Pixel telling her mum after one unsuccessful search: "Mummy, I think she's dead."
Ten days into the search, Rowe decided to make one last-ditch attempt, believing there was a 1 per cent chance of finding her pet but deciding to push on, haunted by the feeling that she may have been negligent as a "cat mum".
A hunt on the island uncovered false alarms and mistaken identity and Rowe was walking to the jetty and her water taxi home when she was finally reunited with Luchs, with the pair running to each other in what Rowe described as a surreal moment that left her spinning.
"I didn't feel like it was real," Rowe said of the miraculous reunion.
A famished Luchs immediately pounced on Rowe's cat biscuits before she was wrapped up safely and taken home.
Since the moggy mariner returned to dry land Rowe reported she has become extremely clingy and stuck very close to home.
Rowe said the family had yet to decide whether Luchs would take to the seas again but they were in a bit of a predicament given they spend so much time on their boat.
She said she was still donating to the Department of Conservation to aid efforts to protect wildlife on Kawau but local residents had so far refused to take up her offer of a reward.