When animal lover Susan Zelitsky’s cat, Jimmy, went missing one day in 2014, his absence devastated his owner. After searching for ages but with no sign of him anywhere in her New Jersey neighborhood, Zelitsky began losing hope of ever seeing her tabby again. However, a couple of years later she noticed a very familiar face staring back at her while browsing online.
Zelitsky lives with her husband, Bob, in Wanaque, NJ, where they both work in accountancy. In 2014, the couple were the proud owners of a dog and a 13-year-old cat called Jimmy. However, little did they know that they were about to lose a member of their furry family.
The Zelitskys had never expected Jimmy to go missing. Although the tabby was mischievous and enjoyed a wander, his explorations never took him far away from home. In fact, most of the time the cat simply preferred lounging on the porch with his owners.
Technically, he was an indoors animal and when he did venture further afield, it was usually only as far as the driveway. The feline had a bit of a thing for climbing into cars through open windows, but nothing serious. Alternatively, Jimmy would go and visit a kindly neighbor who would give him something special to eat. Occasionally, if he was feeling adventurous, the tabby would follow Zelitsky apiece as she walked the family dog.
However, no matter where Jimmy strayed, Zelitsky would usually find the cat meowing at the door within a matter of hours. However, one Saturday in September 2014, the tabby didn’t return. “He used to go in and out every day but always came back, except that one night,” Zelitsky told animal interest website The Dodo in October 2017.
On that day, Bob had let Jimmy out for his usual pad about. But – unusually – after a while, when the Zelitskys felt it was time for the cat to return he didn’t turn up. As a result, Zelitsky called out for him until midnight when she suspended her efforts until the following day.
The next morning, the concerned owner went out to look for Jimmy around the neighborhood. However, her search-and-rescue mission proved fruitless. But, unwilling to give up on their tabby, the Zelitskys hung missing cat posters all around the local area. Furthermore, they contacted local shelters and police departments in the hope of any lead on the missing moggie.
As the time passed, the bereft human mom continued to call out for Jimmy whenever she walked her dog. However, she never received a response and the family did not get any news about their cherished cat. Consequently, the Zelitskys began to give up hope of ever seeing Jimmy again. “We were devastated,” the mom later told local new website NorthJersey.com.
However, the family had little choice but to get on with their lives. So the Zelitskys tried as best they could to adjust to life without Jimmy. They even got two new kittens to try and fill the feline-shaped hole in their home. But their original cat was never far from the family’s minds.
Over time, Zelitsky developed a theory as to what had happened to Jimmy. As we have learned, one of his worst habits had been to sneak into parked cars to snooze. So the family came to believe that some unwitting motorist may have returned to their vehicle and driven away with a sleeping Jimmy on board.
With all this in mind, it seemed unlikely that Zelitsky would ever see Jimmy again. However, one day when she was browsing through social media in March 2017, a post from the nearby West Milford Animal Shelter caught her eye. The organization had taken in a stray tom cat after he had been caught in a blizzard, and it had updated its Facebook page with a picture of the forlorn feline. And he looked remarkably like Jimmy.
It had now been a long two-and-a-half years since Jimmy went missing. Furthermore, the tabby the shelter had rescued was found ten miles away from the Zelitsky family home, in the High Crest neighborhood of West Milford, NJ. Nevertheless, his owner had a positive feeling about the cat.
Consequently, Zelitsky left a message below the Facebook post in an attempt to determine whether the cat was in fact her Jimmy. Following her comment, she exchanged a number of old photographs of the feline with the shelter. Then – presumably unable to wait – Zelitsky arranged a visit to the facility the very next day.
To help the cat remember her, she gathered up some familiar items including a pillowcase and one of Jimmy’s favorite toys – a dog’s chew toy. For added emotional support, she also brought along Dayna Devine, who was the kindly neighbor who would give Jimmy treats to eat. In fact, it was Devine who had given Zelitsky the feline in the first place.
Zelitsky was presumably nervous when she entered the West Milford rescue center. However, as soon as she saw the cat in question, she knew it was her tabby. “When they opened the crate door, I said, ‘Jimmy is that you, bud?’ and he walked over and head-butted me and smooshed his nose into the dog’s toy,” she told NorthJersey.com.
Zelitsky added, “I immediately started to sob. He started to rub up against us, and when I was rubbing his belly he nipped me – which he always did.” But then it was time for a second opinion. Zelitsky said, “He put his head in Dayna’s hands and he started to purr loudly.”
After a gap of more than two long years, Zelitsky now knew that she had reunited with Jimmy. “I was convinced it was my boy,” she revealed. But now it was important that Bob also saw for himself. “I called my husband and he came to the shelter,” Zelitsky continued. “When he saw Bob, he did the same head-butt.”
At this point, with the shelter staff watching all this unfold, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the stray cat was Jimmy. As a result, the cat was soon back at home with the Zelitskys. And the prodigal tabby wasted no time in reasserting himself into the family hierarchy.
Zelitsky revealed, “When it was OK to let him roam the house, he walked around like he owned the place.” Luckily, however, the family dog remembered him. And what’s more, as Zelitsky informed NorthJersey.com, “The new kitties, who are two, welcomed him, and everyone is one big happy family.”
With the wandering feline finally home and fitting firmly back into the family, Jimmy’s owners could not have been happier. “We are over the moon,” Zelitsky told The Dodo about her and Bob and their two grown-up daughters, Taylor and Paige. “It’s the greatest story ever and almost too good to be true… but it is!”