There’s No Place Like Home

Pretty amazing cat:

Nobody knows how it happened: an indoor house cat who got lost on a family excursion managing, after two months and about 200 miles, to return to her hometown.

Even scientists are baffled by how Holly, a 4-year-old tortoiseshell who in early November became separated from Jacob and Bonnie Richter at an R.V. rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., appeared on New Year’s Eve — staggering, weak and emaciated — in a backyard about a mile from the Richters’ house in West Palm Beach.

“Are you sure it’s the same cat?” wondered John Bradshaw, director of the University of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute. In other cases, he has suspected, “the cats are just strays, and the people have got kind of a mental justification for expecting it to be the same cat.”

But Holly not only had distinctive black-and-brown harlequin patterns on her fur, but also an implanted microchip to identify her.

She just wanted to go out and explore a bit, I guess. I’ll keep this in mind the next time Tunch gets out and is missing for an hour and I am freaking out driving around town at 5 miles an hour yelling out my window like a crazy person.

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45 replies
  1. 1
    Carnacki says:

    With Tunch, you could also probably track him through satellite imagery or seismic activity instead of driving around. I’m just sayin’ is all.

  2. 2
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Carnacki: Fat jokes. How nice. LOL.

    Why do I believe that Tunch would never go missing from John very long? I think that cat knows where its bread is buttered.

  3. 3
    tamied says:

    Is Tunch microchipped?

  4. 4
    Carnacki says:

    @Patricia Kayden: I’m not saying Tunch is an evil fat cat like a billionaire Wall Street toff. He could be big boned.

  5. 5
    AliceBlue says:

    Our sweet, beautiful kitty Buster lost his battle with cancer Friday. I’ve finally managed to stop crying but I’m still hurting so badly.

    Sorry to be a downer on a thread with a happy story. I’m so glad Holly found her home.

  6. 6
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Patricia Kayden:
    John Cole is feeding Tunch bread and butter? Tsk, tsk.

    No, there’s never a bad time here to share the news that you’ve lost a beloved family member, human or otherwise. (((Hugs.)))

  7. 7
    maya says:

    Have the scientists considered the possibility that Holly’s owners have that old-white-people-smell that was just bad and strong enough for her to follow home?

    That’s why I stay clear of senior citizen trailer parks.

  8. 8
    Yutsano says:

    @Carnacki: Tunch is not fat! He’s floofy!!

  9. 9
    namekarB says:

    30 plus years ago we babysat a cat for a friend who lived 8-10 miles away. The second day “Gypsy” went missing. We felt like crap at the thought of explaining to our friend what evil we had done to her cat. A week later, the friend came home and and called us to ask why “Gypsy” was in her own backyard instead of at our place.

  10. 10
    ThresherK says:

    @AliceBlue: Don’t worry about being a downer. This is the place for “cat staffers” to grieve. Lord knows I’ve done it here too.

    And: How much white does a tortie has before she’s a calico? I thought my Jazz was a calico, not dissimilar harlequin pattern to Holly.

  11. 11
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    This wouldn’t be an easy trek for a small animal that is more prey than predator, but cats aren’t exactly stupid animals either. I am not terribly shocked at the outcome.

  12. 12
    trollhattan says:

    Local friends recently got a call from a vet fifty miles away who had their cat, which went missing two or three years ago (I can’t quite recall when). This kitteh–one of several in the household–took off a few days after they acquired a dog. Evidently this was one critter too far for kitteh, whose flight was undone by a chip.

    Anyway, cat’s back home and isn’t sharing any adventure stories, so who knows what happened.

  13. 13
    ding dong says:

    Fat jokes and senior citizen jokes. Add in a mixed breed joke and we ll look like a GOP blog

  14. 14
    trollhattan says:


    These two things aren’t necessarily in conflict re. Tunch. He could easily be both (one wonders if the town staff ever look at Google Earth and send Cole warnings that his keeping sheep is contra local codes).

  15. 15
    Bill Hicks says:

    @ThresherK: Tortoiseshell and calico are more of a continuum than distinctly separate and result from the same basic genetic phenomenon, x-chromosome inactivation in females. Basically females need to turn off one x chromosome to avoid overproduction of genes on the x. The y chromosome has very few genes so is essentially inactivated compared to the x. Because the x chromosome that is turned off is randomly determined in each cell of the developing embryo, some embryonic cells give rise to one color while other embryonic cells give rise to a different color creating a patchwork or mosaic pattern. Usually tortoiseshells are mostly black and orange with little if any white while calicos have white patches but there is a continuum of mosaic cats from classic tort to classic calico.

  16. 16
    Disgruntled Lurker says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    that is more prey than predator

    Perhaps you haven’t spent time with the right cat. If its twenty pounds or under and it moves, our silver tabby is at least going to try to kill it.

    Sometimes I look at him and wonder if he were as big as our American Bulldog mix, would he try to kill small children?

    And then I realize that those are called leopards. And yes, he would.

  17. 17
    Ash Can says:

    @AliceBlue: Condolences on your loss. Buster must have been a great kitty.

  18. 18
    WereBear says:

    Cats are amazing that way.

    Cats and Their Homing Instinct

    But are you going to rely upon it? Nope. Mine are chipped… AND not let out.

  19. 19

    @Disgruntled Lurker: Yep. The only reason why house cats are considered domesticated is because they’re usually too small to kill us directly.

    They’ll just infect us with a brain altering parasite instead, the sick furry bastards.

  20. 20
    Ash Can says:

    @trollhattan: They probably figure it’s an SUV that they’re seeing and think nothing of it.

  21. 21
    trollhattan says:

    @Ash Can:

    Heh! Tunch on blocks.

  22. 22
    ruemara says:

    @AliceBlue: My condolences, Alice. So sorry. We’re all pet lovers here, we’re good with being supportive.

  23. 23
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @AliceBlue: damn it. We lost one two weeks ago and one last August. It’s awful. Hang in.

  24. 24
    Don K says:

    We have two rescue kitties.

    Billy goes out first thing in the morning, comes back inside for his day-long nap, then goes out again in the evening but is sure to show up before bedtime so he can sleep on our bed.

    Pepper, on the other hand, stays out pretty much full-time in the nice weather, showing up only to eat twice a day. Last summer she was gone for several days. We were taking steps to try to find her when, finally, she meowed at the front door on the fifth day wanting to come in and get some food. I guess she just needed some extra adventure.

  25. 25
    gvg says:

    When grandma moved….more than 50 years ago, her cat disappeared. months later it turned up at former house and new residents notified her. By family lore mama kitty was a bit wilder after that but otherwise OK.

    I was always impressed by Incredible Journey.

  26. 26
    AliceBlue says:

    The condolences here mean so much to me. Thank you. It’s just one of the reasons I love this place.

  27. 27
    gelfling545 says:

    My first cat (which was the one who taught me that I WAS a cat person) disappeared when he was about a year old. I was distraught but after a few months I moved on. About 3-4 months later we heard some meowing from the back yard & there he was, wanting to be let in as if he’s just gone out for a breath of air. Afterwards (he lived to be 17) he never went past the gate again & only went out if I went with him.

  28. 28
    Rosalita says:

    @AliceBlue: Alice, I’m so sorry. You are not a downer. I lost my 16 year old kitty at Thanksgiving and I came here too. It’s devastating to lose your furry family members. Hugs to you.

  29. 29
    AliceBlue says:

    I’m sorry for your losses too. Hang in yourself!

  30. 30
    Rosalita says:


    And: How much white does a tortie has before she’s a calico? I thought my Jazz was a calico, not dissimilar harlequin pattern to Holly.

    Calicos have pretty defined patches of black, red and white. Torties can have white but the black and the red fur is blended.

  31. 31
    Lex says:

    When our cat went AWOL just a few days after we moved last summer, we put up posters, checked the animal shelter every other day, etc., etc. We weren’t worried about his being hit by a car — my future wife found him as an adolescent stray at a rest stop on a Mississippi highway, so he knew his way around motor vehicles quite well — but we were worried about his being hurt or, even more likely, taken by some well-meaning neighbor who thought him a stray.

    But while we worried, we also did a lot of research, and what we found was kind of surprising: Missing but uninjured cats seldom stray more than 8 or 10 houses from home in developed areas. Sometimes, something may scare them so that they go to ground for a day or two (ours hates lawn mowers, for example). Or, if they’re at all sociable, someone may think they’re a stray and invite them inside.

    We were terrified that, having just recently moved in, ours really might not have known where “home” was — or that he might have tried to return to my new wife’s old house, 30 miles away. But in 10 days, he showed up at the back door, uninjured, healthy and looking very well fed. And he has not been gone more than 18-24 hours at a time since.

  32. 32
    Robert says:

    Has no one seen Homeward Bound? Is it only believable when a dog does this?

  33. 33
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    It would take Tunch more than 2 months to look emaciated.

  34. 34
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @AliceBlue Condolences on your loss from this quarter, too. We’re lucky to have them during their all-too-brief stay.

    @Cole The Pantload kitties never go outside, either. But back in the ’80s, one of mine did manage to get out and disappear. I, too, was in quite a state, although I did find her in my yard months later when I’d just happened to step out for a last breath of air before bed.

    Where I live now in Seattle is pretty darn urbany and close to downtown. You’d think cars would be a cat’s main danger (and indeed, our neighbor’s cat lost part of his tail when hit by a car), but we also have raccoons, and I’ve also seen a nasty lookin’ possum and even a white owl. No way in heck I’d let my kittehs out to tangle with such manners of elements.

  35. 35
    JustRuss says:

    My favorite kitteh disappeared about 10 years ago, after she was missing two weeks I figured she was a goner. Then a neighbor came by and said he was hearing odd noises under his house, and wondered if I was missing a cat. Sure enough, she got in the crawl space when some work was being done and got trapped.

    I had to crawl under his house and drag her out, and I don’t think she learned anything, as she kept up her wanderings, although she never disappeared like that again.

  36. 36
    Persia says:

    @Disgruntled Lurker:

    Sometimes I look at him and wonder if he were as big as our American Bulldog mix, would he try to kill small children?

    And then I realize that those are called leopards. And yes, he would.

    One of my old professors said ‘coyotes and wolves don’t bother me, it’s the cougars I’m afraid of. They’ll kill you for fun.”

  37. 37
    Citizen_X says:

    @Carnacki: you could probably find Tunch by aerial mapping of gravitational anomalies.

  38. 38
    Haydnseek says:

    @tamied: I don’t know if he’s been microchipped, but he looks to have been thoroughly potato chipped.

  39. 39
    NCSteve says:

    In other cases, he has suspected, “the cats are just strays, and the people have got kind of a mental justification for expecting it to be the same cat.”

    When I read this story, I knew they were talking to the kind of scientist who thinks “science” is sitting around going “hurrumph,” the kind for blind allegiance to received wisdom and who thinks scientific skepticism is the same thing as brittle, narrow minded dogmatism. And possibly one with pretty severe social skills issues.

    Because, right, cats are just personality-free interchangeable blobs of featureless protoplasm with which their owners are minimally engaged such that you can just swap one for another without them noticing anything different about them.


  40. 40
    Another Halocene Human says:

    I love how the researchers think the cat finding its way home impossible, and even when the microchip PROVES that it’s not all in the owners’ heads (what, they think people can’t recognize their own cat?! yeah, that’s plausible), they maintain their belief that it’s impossible.

    Never let reality get in the way of a good theory your fixed biases.

  41. 41
    Maude says:

    They’re experts. Uh, oh.

  42. 42
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Love, love, love this story. Holly is a beautiful girl, and obviously, very smart.

    Cole, you may remember it the next time Tunch gets out, but it won’t stop you from yelling his name all over your neighborhood.

    Plus, y’all need to leave Tunchie alone. There’s just more of him to love and squoosh.

    @AliceBlue: So sorry to hear about your loss of your beloved Buster. My deepest condolences, and don’t worry about being a downer. We’re cat lovers here; we get it. ::Hugs::

  43. 43
    Wolfdaughter says:


    I lost a cat to feline leukemia twenty years ago. Despite her having all the shots. The memory still brings tears to my eyes. My sympathy is with you.

    John–I recently adopted a stray cat who rivals Tunch for weight. My kitty is bigboned. (All right, laugh, all you BJers.) I picked him up yesterday to move him out of the way and he’s HEAVY. But I love him dearly.

  44. 44
    Tokyokie says:

    Marvin, our beloved lunatic lilac-point rescue Siamese, is always trying to get out and frequently succeeds, but as near as we can tell, he never leaves our yard, even if he’s in the front yard where there isn’t a fence to mark the border. We still go out and collect him, but he’s never very hard to find.
    Of course, we never try calling him, considering that, as a cat, he wouldn’t answer if he didn’t feel like it. Which you’d think Cole would have figured out by now.

  45. 45
    Jax6655 says:

    Haven’t thought about this in years. We lost our Siamese female during a move in Chicago. Devastated, we knew a 4 lb. declawed* middle-aged house cat didn’t have a chance in the city, even our squirrels could kill her, right?

    About 10 days later my sis called and told me that while she was breaking down the boxes stacked in the basement, out pops Jai. She had jumped in the box and someone put other boxes on top. If she cried, we didn’t hear her, and Siamese can get pretty loud, nor did she respond to our calls over several days. I guess she just went catatonic (no pun) and waited.

    She was extremely skinny and highly pissed off, because of course it was our fault, but she lived for another 8 years after the experience.

    *before anyone howls about the declawing part, it was a long time ago (70s) and I would never do it now.

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