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Thistle, the Russian Blue cat, was recently the best Christmas miracle ever for a Winter Garden, Florida family, thanks to a feral cat rescuer in Orlando.

Laurie Bobletz has cared for a colony of feral cats in Orlando for ten years. Every day, she cares for stray and feral cats near her home, a habit that began when her neighbor moved and left their cat behind.

“It started with my neighbor’s cat,” Bobletz told the Orlando Sentinel. “My neighbor just moved away and left the cat. So I convinced the kitty to come across the street to our house. She was my first outside kitty, but pretty soon I had 13 kitties before I was able to catch them all and get them fixed.”

One night, she heard meowing outside her door and discovered a new kitty she hadn’t seen before. There on the front porch, a friendly Russian Blue cat appeared. Bobletz could tell this kitty was hungry, and his behavior indicated he wasn’t feral but must have been loved by someone. 

“The way this kitty acted, it was clear he was used to being snuggled and he was used to being held and he was used to being inside,” she said. “Somebody out there loved him.”

Somehow, he must have known this was the place to come for help. Indeed, it was exactly where the lost cat, named Thistle, needed to be. Due to her experience and compassion for cats, Bobletz decided she needed to check Thistle for a microchip. But first, she would need to catch him because he ran away before she could catch him. It would take two weeks before the cat finally came inside her home.

Little did she know, her patient efforts would be a Christmas miracle for a family living in Winter Garden, a 45-minute drive away.

Thistle’s Family Misses Their ‘Teddy Bear’

In Winter Garden, 22 miles west of Bobletz’s home, the Nielsen family recently relocated from Boston. Soon afterward, one of the family’s beloved cats disappeared into the neighborhood, which was still under construction. Thistle’s sister Rye remained safely at home, but he was nowhere to be found. As a rescue cat, he had traveled from Georgia to Boston and then to Florida to completely unfamiliar territory.

It was devastating for the four kids aged 3 to 11 to lose their “teddy bear.” According to the Sentinel, Christian Nielsen, 8, decided that all he wanted for Christmas this year was “the real Thistle,” and “not a new one that look like him.”

“Thistle was like the teddy bear of the family,” said Christian’s mom, Taylor Nielsen. “My husband said, ‘What are we going to do? Christian specifically said he doesn’t want another cat.'”

At the time, Thistle had been missing for five weeks. Although the family searched door to door and posted their story on PawBoost.com, they couldn’t find Thistle. Privately, Taylor worried that Thistle had come to a tragic end.

Thistle, Russian Blue cat

Russian Blue cat by Josephchae via Pixabay, Pixabay License

Christmas Miracle in Winter Garden

The first day in December, Taylor’s phone rang, and a woman connected her to Bobletz. To her shock, Thistle was alive and somehow had managed to travel to the home east of downtown Orlando. It will likely forever be a mystery how the timid gray cat found his way there, much less his rescuer.

Immediately, the happy mom drove to get Thistle, who was safe in Bobletz’s bedroom.

“I opened the bedroom door, and he comes out and sees her and just takes off running to her, and she just scooped him up in her arms,” Bobletz said. “It was just the best feeling in the world.”

Early Christmas Present of Thistle

Back in Winter Garden, Taylor reunited Thistle with his sister Rye. Then, she prepared a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime reunion for her kids.

© Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel The Nielsen kids gather around their cat Thistle at the family home in Winter Garden. From left: Kalei, Christian, Nora and (standing) Weston.

© Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel The Nielsen kids gather around their cat Thistle at the family home in Winter Garden. From left: Kalei, Christian, Nora and (standing) Weston.

When the kids arrived home from school, they saw a big present with a bow on top. 

“We have an early Christmas present for you,” Taylor and her husband told them.

Thistle, Russian Blue cat with Nora

© Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel Nora, 6, give Thistle a welcome-home hug.

With that, Christian’s seemingly impossible Christmas wish came true, astonishing the 8-year-old. Likewise, his siblings were over the moon with excitement, cuddling their beloved kitty for the next hour. For the rest of the day, Christian remained near Thistle.

Russian Blue cat with Christian, 8, and mom Taylor Nielsen

© Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel Christian with Thistle and his mom, Taylor Nielsen

Following the joyful reunion, Taylor praised Bobletz for making it all possible. For Christian, she gave the family “our Christmas miracle.”

 

Featured image: Russian Blue cat by Josephchae via Pixabay, Pixabay License

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