Black and white Raffael, known as Raffi, disappeared from Mustafa Javed’s home in Old Trafford just before Christmas 2016.
After a long search, and the gutting acceptance that he may be gone forever, the family gave up hope.
But thanks to some smart detective work from the RSPCA, they discovered him via scanning a microchip.
The Javed family received a phone call completely out of the blue from the charity, who told them their beloved cat had been found.
But out of the blue, they received a call from the RSPCA to say the chipped pet had been found.
Speaking to I Love Manchester, Mr Javed said: “We couldn’t believe it, the children were so excited, it’s all they could talk about.
“I think the whole family was stunned and shocked.
“We’d been through the grieving process and had even had a burial for him to try and bring about some sort of closure.
“So to hear that he’d been found alive after all this time, it was a lot to take in.”
The breakthrough came after RSPCA inspector Rachel Henderson was called to a property in Longsight on 17 January after the charity was contacted about an injured cat that had been found in a garden.
When the officer scanned him she discovered he was microchipped and registered to the Javed’s property about five miles away.
Mr Javed’s family own a garage in the area and thinks Raffi may have ended up there after climbing into one of their cars and then getting out – unseen – at the other end. He’s thought to have been living on the streets as a stray ever since.
Now settling back at home in Old Trafford after being treated at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester Animal Hospital for an abscess on his back, the family – who had adopted Raffi as a young adult cat – say they hope his story inspires other people to get their pets microchipped.
“My children, Maryam, Ibraheem and Khadeeja were only seven, six and three at the time and they were devastated when Raffi went missing, “ said Mr Javed.
“He was a clever cat, he wasn’t the sort that would just wander off, he always stayed near the house, so it was the pain of not knowing what had happened to him that was the worst part.
“I remember it was cold at the time but we searched for him in all weathers, we’d go out walking in our wellies, we looked for months and months, setting up Facebook groups and going from house to house in the local area.
“I was travelling back to the UK from abroad at the time when my brother rang me to say Raffi had been found. We couldn’t believe it, the children were so excited, it’s all they could talk about.
“I think the whole family was stunned and shocked; we’d been through the grieving process and had even had a ‘burial’ for him to try and bring about some sort of closure, so to hear that he’d been found alive after all this time, it was a lot to take in.”
Mr Javed said Raffi had a particularly strong bond with his grandfather and he would often sit in the sun on a little roof outside his room overlooking the garden.
Sadly he died five years after Raffi went missing, although poignantly, he was found on the anniversary of his passing.
He was also affectionately known as ‘Bobtail’ by people in the local area because of his unusually short tail – which is thought to have become trapped when he was a kitten – and the way he used to sit and watch the dogs in the park opposite his house.
As well as two new family members – Mr Javid’s brother and his wife have since had two children – Raffi is also slowly getting to know another cat, Marshmallow, who the family adopted about four years after he went missing.
The RSPCA says the heartwarming story illustrates why microchipping is the most reliable way of ensuring owners are reunited with lost, injured or stolen pets.
“More often than not when I pick up a stray cat, the animal isn’t microchipped which is very frustrating, especially when you suspect the cat is owned and is probably someone’s much loved pet and you want to be able to return them home,” said Rachel, who has also thanked the concerned homeowner who reported injured Raffi.
“I was shocked at how long he’d been missing, but delighted to be able to let Mustafa and the rest of his family know the good news. It’s been an emotional time for them – they’d grieved and understandably moved on in the years since – but seeing the joy on their faces now their much-loved pet is back is something I will remember for a long time.”
Mr Javed added: “We wish Raffi could talk and tell us his story. When we picked him up from the animal hospital he looked at us as if to say ‘where have you been all these years?’ We get the feeling he knows where he is and, amazingly, he’s safe, he’s well, he’s back and we get a chance to have him with us again.
“We’d also like to think his story inspires other people to microchip their animals and gives hope to those whose pets are missing.”