When Ritz, a two-year-old tabby slipped out of Jason McKenry’s apartment in Bear, Delaware, McKenry did whatever he could to find his microchipped cat. He went knocking on doors and posting flyers everywhere. Jason also called shelters every couple of days to see if his kitty might be there. He was very afraid Ritz may wind up euthanized if he didn’t keep checking.
The worst part McKenry said, was discovering shelters and vets usually didn’t check cats for microchips.
“Almost universally, the answer I got from all the shelters and vets was that they checked for dogs,” he said, “but they really didn’t check routinely for cats.”
How sad and careless. Let’s hope this practice has changed for the better. Those of us who have cats and dogs love our kitties as much as we do our dogs.
The terrible day for Ritz and McKenry began on June 14, 2006, according to Delaware Online. McKenry was on a business trip when his roommate opened the door to their apartment when the cat darted outside. There was a small spot of hope when a neighbor told him that as he was driving down Route 1, not far from Route 40, someone flagged him down to tell him that a cat had jumped out of his pickup bed. It’s harrowing to think of this poor cat leaping onto a busy highway. Even worse, this made it harder to determine where to start searching for Ritz.
“Because of the way he disappeared, we really didn’t have a good idea of where to start looking,” McKenry said.
As days turned to months and months to years, Jason became convinced he would never see his sweet grey tabby boy again.
He married his girlfriend Liz. Her kitty Bailey was Ritz’s best friend. They moved to Annapolis and now have two children. Bailey and another kitty they adopted since Ritz’s escape have died, and Jason and Liz held out little hope that Ritz was still alive.
“We just kind of figured that if he survived the first months, surely by now he was gone,” Liz said.
The Unthinkable Happens — Thanks To A Microchip
Fate stepped in and unbelievably, Jason received a text showing that Ritz was in fact still alive. He had an injured back leg and had been taken to the vet and was on the verge of being put down. Then someone found a microchip.
He had been gone 16 years.
How did this cat manage to survive in the wild for all these years? The last time he’d ever been seen was when he leaped out of that truck bed. I’m guessing this kitty had to be pretty smart when you consider Delaware has wildlife that might see him as dinner.
But over the past couple of years, Ritz had a lucky break. Kind people near Lums Pond (only 11 minutes away from Bear) fed him. Emily Russell was one of those good people. The sweet grey tabby began showing up at her home in a mobile home part near Lums Pond and she fed him over a period of two years until he showed up one day with an injured paw and leg. She and her father took Ritz to the vet, and that eventually led to Ritz and McKenry being reunited.
“He was just so sweet and innocent,” says Emily, who’s now 20. “I named this cat Tom because he looks like a Tomcat. He’s an old man.”
Russell has been feeding eight outside kitties, but Tom was the only one who would let her pet him. He’d sleep under the mobile home.
“We would have love sessions outside,” Emily says. She says she also let the friendly cat come inside so he could interact with her two indoor kitties.
But when he showed up with injuries she took him to Lums Pond Animal Hospital hoping to save him from euthanasia.
“It looked like he got hit by a car,” she says. “His front leg was very hurt. He was holding it up and he wasn’t able to walk.”
Then She Discovered Ritz Has A Microchip
“I started bawling my eyes out,” she says. “If I had known he had a chip, I would have taken him sooner, but he just looked like a feral cat.”
For McKenry, the text message was a joyous shock and his reaction caught Liz’s attention.
“What did you just say?” she asked her husband.
She grabbed his phone and ran upstairs and called the animal hospital.
“That doesn’t feel possible,” she said when she was told he’d been found. “Are you sure?”
“He’s a gray tabby,” was the response. “He’s right here.”
Life for this boy and the kind people who lost him all those years ago was about to improve vastly.
With kids in tow, Jason and Liz made their way to Delaware to the animal hospital to reunite with their beautiful cat. After his successful treatment, Ritz is recuperating at the home of Liz’s mom, Caroline Clark. The family jokingly calls her the “certified cat lady.”
Jason and Liz aren’t sure if Ritz remembers them but he’s clearly happy now that he’s safe with his family. He’s lovable and very friendly.
“I wish he could talk,” Jason says. “I’d love to hear his story.”
“He’s obviously had a long, eventful life,” Jason says. “But he’ll be comfortable for whatever time he has left.”
Ritz Is Safe, Happy, And Loved
Everyone who came to know this sweet boy, including the microchip makers and the folks feeding him at Lums Pond finds his story completely amazing. Tom Sharp, president of AKC Reunite, a national database for microchipped pets, couldn’t help but express happiness that Ritz was now going to be safe after coming so close to a tragic end.
“Sixteen years,” he said. “That’s a new record as far as I know. That’s amazing.”
Sharp says that stories like Ritz’s are the reason why he expects vets and shelters to check cats for microchips when they are brought in or before they are adopted out. The microchips also called radiofrequency identification don’t have GPS, so they aren’t able to track a pet’s location. Instead, they contain vital information that can help a veterinarian contact you. It’s a tiny implant that the vet injects into your kitty — usually between the shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique identification number that a vet can scan to locate the cat’s owner.
It’s amazing to think something so tiny can be so important, but for Ritz and his family, it’s making everything better. How thrilling that he’s now safe. You can watch this kitty’s amazing story below.
Video by Delaware Online below: