It's taken 18 months, but Chesh the much-loved family cat has finally found his way home - after being mistakenly thrown out with the rubbish.
The Palmerston North moggy, named for his likeness to the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, was unknowingly taken to the dump when a newly purchased skip he liked to sit in was collected last February.
At the time of his disappearance his owner, 9-year-old Ashlynn Ralston, was in Starship hospital so he was being cared for by her grandmother.
Ashlynn's mother, Nicole, said she began to worry about Chesh when he failed to appear for dinner.
"I just had this horrible thought about the bin."
After calling the local rubbish dump twice, the truck driver said he saw a cat jump out of the bin as it was being emptied and running towards the fence line.
Ralston said her daughter was "beside herself" when Chesh went missing. The charcoal coloured Ragdoll-stray mix was a birthday and Christmas gift for her and they had only had him for around a year.
"She cried all night, she was worried about him. She asked every night, 'Can we go and look?'"
"This is my daughter's beloved cat and the cat did everything with her. She never wanted to go to Starship hospital again."
Ashlynn has situs inversus, meaning her internal organs are a mirror image of normal anatomy. She also has primary ciliary dyskinesia and bronchiectasis and often spends time in hospital. She was very sick when she got Chesh and had a close bond with him.
The Ralstons searched the area Chesh went missing, carrying biscuits and even leaving a pair of Ashlynn's favourite tights by a train station he was spotted at.
The family didn't give up hope on finding their pet and frequently searched for him, often chasing tips from people on social media who thought they'd seen him.
Eventually it was the wide sharing of Chesh's photos that led to his being found, nearly a year and a half after he vanished.
Last Wednesday, Ralston was contacted on Facebook about a post shared by a woman who found stray cats hiding under her household deck. Chesh was among them.
Ashlynn knew right away it was Chesh when they visited the house.
"She just looked at him and she knew. 'Mum, it's him.' She knew."
Chesh seemed to recognise Ashlynn and the family, despite the amount of time that had passed.
"She [Ashlynn] put her head down and he head-butted her with his nose, like he used to."
Chesh came home to a little brother, a kitten named Riggs. Chesh isn't bothered by him.
The cat had been micro-chipped but it appeared to have been faulty. He will now be micro-chipped again soon.
News of Chesh's finding has been shared widely on social media.