A stunned family has been reunited with their lost pet cat – 15 YEARS after it went missing.
Black cat Winston disappeared after his owner Jan, 56, moved in with her new husband Peter Barnes, 65, in 2002.
Initially, the adventurous feline would go off for a few days then return fatter than before but eventually left and failed to return.
Peter and Jan had long given up hope of ever seeing Winston again – but were stunned when a vet called to say he had been found just before Christmas.
He was seen staggering in the road in Launceston, Cornwall, 35 miles from the family home in Carlyon Bay.
Winston has now been returned to the family home but Peter said they have no idea where he has been all these years.
He said: “The children were sad he was gone and would make a fuss of him when he came back, but he’s a very aloof cat and I don’t think he liked too much fuss.
“He was found in Launceston by some customers of Castle Veterinary Group, they found him staggering in the road and they stopped the traffic and took him to the vets.
“The vet took him in, scanned him and gave us a call. You get strange phone calls and I thought, ‘this can’t possibly be’.
“But when they said the cat is Winston, how could they possibly know?
“Because he was a rescue from the RSPCA he was chipped but we would have got him chipped anyway.
“It saved this cats life, because if there hadn’t been any thing he would have been euthanised because of how bad he looked.”
Jan, an artist, initially got Winston as a rescue cat when he was around one-year-old, and he is believed to be about 17-years-old today.
Between them, Peter and Jan have six children and three grandchildren.
Peter, a retired printer, believes the cat may have left because he couldn’t settle after moving house.
He added: “He must have disappeared about six to eight months after Jan moved in, he went missing in stages because he would go and come back.
“Each time he went back he got bigger, someone was obviously feeding him.
“I don’t think he settled because we had teenagers and dogs in those days.
“We had no idea what had happened to him, cats do this so we didn’t think too much of it really.
“The cat was getting fatter and fatter so we thought someone was looking after him well.”
The older Winston returned in a bad state, and the Barnes’ had to pay a costly vet bill to get him back.
Peter added: “He’s a house cat now because he’s so frail, I think this is palliative care.
“It’s cost us a bit to get him back, my wife has a bigger heart than I do wallet.
“It was about £50 to get him back and we have vet fees this end, it’s about £100 so far and may go up.”
But Jan and Peter and happy to have Winston back in the family home, and are hoping that he will make a full recovery.
Peter said: “It’s nice to have a cat back. He flops in the hallway and in the conservatory, he’s quite happy.
“We have two dogs but they are the most placid dogs in the world – the pecking order is already being sorted out.
“He’s so hungry, that’s what gives us hope that he will be ok. I can’t believe how much he eats.”
Jan said: “It was a massive shock, I really didn’t think I would ever see him again.”
Steve Cox, practice manager at the Castle Veterinary Group, said: “We get dogs and cats that have been separated from their owners on a regular basis, but none that have been gone for as long as Winston.
“We don’t know how he managed to make the epic journey from St Austell to Launceston.
“We are urging all owners to get their animals microchipped, it’s inexpensive and painless, and can help you be reunited with your lost pet.”