Wis. family reunites with cat lost 5 years ago

In this photo provided by Lindsay O'Neill is her son Liam, 3, with Sammie at the family's home in Racine, Wis., after the family was reunited with their gray tabby that ran off five years ago. According to the Wisconsin Humane Society, a woman had seen the cat around her Racine home for several months and began to worry when the weather turned cold. So she brought the cat in and officials found he had a microchip registered to Lindsay O'Neill. (AP Photo/Lindsay O'Neill)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A southern Wisconsin family who had lost hope of ever seeing their cat after he ran off five years ago has been reunited with the gray tabby.

A Racine woman turned Sammie into the local Wisconsin Humane Society after being concerned the declawed kitty that'd been hanging around her home for months would not survive the cold weather. Turns out the 8-year-old cat was microchipped, so owner Lindsay O'Neill, who also lives in Racine, was called Monday evening after the cat had been brought in.

She picked him up Tuesday at the shelter, about 30 miles south of Milwaukee.

"When I saw him I just broke down and cried," O'Neill, 32, said Thursday. "It's really hard because for five years he was without a home. He was roaming the streets. ... It just broke my heart that he went through that. He's a good cat and I'm so glad he's home."

She said she originally wasn't sure if they could take back Sammie, who spent the first four years of his life with the family before running off while they were moving into a new home. The family was worried that he'd changed, and they also had a new cat, dog and a third child — a toddler.

"As soon as I brought him home within 45 minutes I had some alone time with him," she said. "He was purring. He was affectionate, rubbing his body against my legs. He was licking my face, just very loving and that's who Sammie is."

He did have a skin infection caused by fleas and a mouth injury that was already healed, but otherwise he was fine. He still even uses the litter box.

The family, including two daughters that are now 13 and 10, was devastated to lose Sammie, she said, and for a while, they kept up hope he's return because of his microchip. But as time passed, the family assumed his sweet personality attracted him a new owner.

"Microchips make reunions like this possible," said Alison Kleibor, director of the humane society's Racine location.

O'Neill agreed, saying Sammie is warming up to the new animals and to her 3-year-old son.

"I just think he's relieved to be indoors," she said. "He sunbathes at the patio door but has no desire to go outside."

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