A Tauranga family has been reunited with their beloved cat 16 months after it went missing.
Padme the black shorthair went missing from Melissa Winn's Pillan's Point home in January last year. Despite weeks of searching, calling and wild goose chases, Padme had not been seen since.
However, a call from Tauranga SPCA last week changed that.
Ms Winn said she became so excited when a message from the SPCA suggested there might have been a development in the search for the cat.
"We ended up playing phone tag over the course of a day. Then, when I was able to answer the phone, they told me the story, really calmly. I was like 'what?!' It was pathetic. I started crying. They found my cat. It was so exciting but how embarrassing," Ms Winn said.
A couple in Greerton had noticed a hungry and friendly black cat hanging about, so they fed it and called the SPCA to see if it had been reported lost. The SPCA advised the couple to bring the cat in to see if it had a microchip. Because it was a former SPCA moggy, it did. SPCA staff found Padme's details and those of her owners were listed on the NZ Companion Animals Register. The SPCA was able to contact Ms Winn straight away.
"It was really nice. It was a bit like a reward for all the hard work I've done," Ms Winn said.
The mother of four, including a 3-month-old baby, said it had been a busy and exhausting time for the family who had since moved to Bureta.
"That's something that truly made my heart jump," she said. "I was really happy. I wanted to go straight away to get her."
Ms Winn brought some love heart treats along with her which she usually used when teaching Padme tricks.
"When we got there I got a love heart out and I was like 'Hi Padme'. I did a shake and she shook my hand. No cats do dog tricks like Padme. She also picked which hand the treats were in. She's super cool."
Ms Winn said the family were over the moon with Padme's return, especially her young son who originally named the cat.
"It's from Star Wars. When we got her from the SPCA, my son, who was obsessed with Star Wars at the time, wanted to call her Darth.
"But we couldn't really name her Darth because she was a girl, so we named her Padme because Padme was the girl in Star Wars."
Padme is now comfortable at home, with fellow cat Badeira, Barnaby the Jack Russell and a couple of rabbits. "She was really, really nervous when she came home but she seems to be getting on okay with the others. It's nice she's home. She puts Barnaby in his place."
Tauranga SPCA could not be reached yesterday, but said on their Facebook page this was a great example of the benefits of microchipping pets.