When Jennifer Leigh Thompson’s cat died, her home just didn’t feel the same. And as a result, she started pestering her husband for a new pet. However, all plans to adopt another feline were put on hold when Thompson got a phone call that may have left her reeling…
Thompson herself lives in the city of Longmont in Colorado with her children and her husband. And she and her kids were all cat lovers; in fact, they had often shared their home with feline friends over the years.
Pilot was one such companion, joining the family in 2004. Three years after Pilot’s adoption, though, he went missing from the Thompsons’ home – perhaps never to be seen again. And this type of behavior, it seemed, was rather unusual for the cat.
Indeed, Thompson would tell The Sacramento Bee in 2017, “[Pilot] was not a cat to wander far from home, so it was shocking when he didn’t come home one evening.” And, naturally, the Thompsons had gone on a hunt for their missing pet. Nevertheless, the cat owner continued, “We checked the shelters for months with no success. It was a pretty sad time for us.”
And Thompson would further describe Pilot on a GoFundMe page, explaining, “He was an indoor/outdoor cat that always came home every evening like clockwork.” She added, “He [was] microchipped and was wearing a collar with a tag the day he never came home.”
Thompson further revealed that Pilot was “a very special cat who loved my kids, loved to play in water and followed us around like a dog. His disappearance was extremely traumatizing.” In 2010, though, the family moved to Colorado without Pilot ever having been found.
Then, in 2017, Thompson lost another one of her beloved cats – this time, to cancer. And the death of her pet understandably left her feeling as though there was a gap in her home that needed to be filled. First, though, she would have to convince her husband that adopting another animal was a good idea.
Meanwhile, in October that same year, the Tubbs Fire broke out in Northern California. And the wildfire burned for 23 days, wreaking havoc across large swathes of Napa, Lake and Sonoma Counties and devastating the region as a result.
In fact, by the time that crews managed to contain the blaze on October 31, 2017, the Tubbs Fire had burned across approximately 36,807 acres of Californian land. In its wake, in excess of 5,600 buildings had been decimated, of which more than 4,600 were residential dwellings. Most tragically of all, though, the inferno also claimed 22 lives.
At around the time that the Tubbs Fire was slowly being contained, however, Thompson got an unexpected call. That came from the staff at the Petcare Veterinary Hospital in Santa Rosa, California, and they had contacted the cat lover to give her some astonishing news.
It turned out, in fact, that Pilot had gotten caught up in the Tubbs Fire, during which he had suffered severe burns. Luckily, though, a kind stranger had found him and delivered him to Petcare Veterinary Hospital. And it was there that it was discovered, by looking at the details on Pilot’s microchip, that the cat belonged to the Thompson family.
And, understandably, learning that her cat was still alive after ten years away from home came as a surprise to Thompson. “Honestly, I still can’t believe it. It’s surreal,” she admitted to The Sacramento Bee during her 2017 interview with the newspaper.
Thompson also revealed to the publication that, despite Pilot’s burns and the fact that he had gone without substantial food and water for two weeks, the cat was relatively stable. “To know what he’s been through with the fires is absolutely unbelievable,” Thompson explained. “He’s one very determined little guy. And he’s doing amazingly well considering his injuries.”
And after hearing from the animal hospital, Thompson arranged to fly out to collect Pilot a week later. In the meantime, though, he would need expensive veterinary treatment. So, to help her pay for her cat’s medical assistance, Thompson set up a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe. In particular, she hoped to raise $3,000 to ensure that her beloved pet recovered from his awful ordeal as quickly as possible.
What’s more, Thompson would explain on the GoFundMe page why she was willing to go to such lengths for Pilot. She wrote, “I can’t express how excited I am to see his face. I am really looking forward to being able to bring him back to our family.” And she also emphasized what her cat had been through, saying, “Pilot has severe burns on his paws: so severe that he is burned to the bone in some places. He is going to need extensive care and treatment.”
Thompson added, “[Pilot] was dehydrated and starving, and yet he kept going. He’s in really good spirits and gets excited and wants to be petted and loved on the moment someone opens his cage door at the veterinary hospital. He’s not ready to give up, so neither am I.”
Then, in the days that followed, Thompson met her long-lost fur baby once again. About that reunion, she told The Sacramento Bee, “I have no doubt that Pilot remembers me. I will never, ever forget that moment.” The relieved cat owner added, “He was asleep, and he woke up and whipped his head around as soon as he heard my voice,” she told the outlet.
And, eventually, Pilot was well enough to be brought home to Colorado. When there, moreover, he spotted someone whom he still seemed to be able to identify – even though he hadn’t seen her in a decade. In a December 2017 interview with the Times-Call, Thompson explained, “When I brought him back, he definitely recognized my daughter. Definitely… Right away, he went and cuddled up with her. I had no doubt. It’s like, ‘Okay, he knows my kid.’”
And, unsurprisingly, Thompson was over the moon with what had transpired. That’s plain from what the cat owner told The Sacramento Bee; indeed, she revealed, “We are so happy to have [Pilot] back.” She added, “He’s just as sweet as he always was, and he doesn’t leave my side at night. It’s truly a miracle!”
So, with her cat back at home, Thompson finally feels like her family is complete. “I have been telling my husband for months that we have a vacancy in our house,” she added to The Sacramento Bee. “And I couldn’t be happier that Pilot will be filling it.”