A much-loved moggy has stunned his owners — old and new — after trekking, unaided, 5km from his new home in town back to his old home in the country.
Three-year-old tabby Rodent, known by his nickname Rodey, had been living on a lifestyle block in the Motueka Valley, but when owner Brent Howie moved into Motueka township, Rodey was having none of it.
After a few weeks barely peeking out of his new King Edward St home, Rodey emerged into his new landscape — and bailed.
Howie put flyers in neighbours' letterboxes, posted on community Facebook pages, and worried.
But this month, six days after Rodey vanished, the mystery was solved.
The neutered male cat had gone home, crossing at least one busy road. His destination was his old home, where Howie's parents, Marlene and Trevor, live.
Marlene Howie was in the kitchen when Rodey strolled in "as if he'd never been away".
"We heard a little squeak and I looked down and there he was . . . he hadn't lost any weight and he wasn't even particularly hungry, and he'd been away for six days."
She had no idea how Rodey knew the way home, and surmised the clever kitty must have an "internal compass".
"We just don't know, and he's not telling. We've asked him, but he's not spilling the beans.
"It's quite a miracle to me, how cats do this. Because he had to cross one major corner by the airport, and our road [Motueka Valley Highway] is actually a main road. He can't have come down by the road, he must've done a bit of cross-country."
The route potentially took Rodey through the grandest property in Motueka, the home of Sir Peter and Lady Judy Talley, of the billion-dollar Talley's food empire.
The palatial home, which sits on a secluded 20-hectare site, includes large ponds, a tennis court and hedge maze, and is on the other side of a ridge from the Howie family home.
There was no way to know if Rodey had any help on his journey.
He was a "beautifully natured" and gentle cat who never put his claws out to his humans, but that courtesy sadly didn't extend to prey, Marlene Howie said.
Marlene Howie suspected a few mice and birds may have paid with their lives after crossing paths with Rodey on his journey home.
"He's probably done a bit of murdering on the way because he was not in the slightest bit hungry. He's a good hunter and he hasn't lost one gram of weight."
Rodey was already back to stealing her chair, and would be staying put. The family had agreed Rodey would remain in the country permanently, she said.
"He's made his decision. He's a country cat. He likes to be on the country estate, and not in his town house."
Google is full of tales of lost or displaced cats finding their own way home, and many from much further afield than Rodey.
US media reported in 2013 that a cat named Holly had trekked 321km across Florida after getting lost when her owners took her on holiday. Her journey home took two months.
Animal experts were perplexed, and could only put the marvel moggy's successful journey down to possibly following her intuition, scent, sights and sounds.