In early November 2012, 4-year-old tortoiseshell cat “Holly” was separated from her owners Jacob and Bonnie Richter at an RV Park in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Richter’s said the normally well-behaved Holly just bolted out of the RV door one day. Fireworks that night may have further spooked Holly. After several days of searching, alerting animal agencies and posting fliers, the Richters returned home without Holly. Two weeks later an animal rescue worker called the Richter’s and told them that a cat fitting Holly’s description was seen eating scraps behind a local Hooter’s restaurant. For several weeks, that was the last anyone heard of Holly.
Then on New Year’s Eve, a 52-year-old women in West Palm Beach, Florida, 200 miles from Dayton Beach where Holly was last seen, noticed a haggard cat, barely able to stand, rummaging around in the trash in her backyard. After some coaxing, they managed to get the cat inside and fed it. They took the cat to a local vet who said the cat was underweight and dehydrated but was “bright and alert” and had no parasites, heartworms or viruses. What they did find was a microchip embedded in the cat which when scanned, showed the cat to be Holly.
Scientists are baffled by how Holly managed to find her way home from 200 miles away. Migratory animals like birds, turtles and insects have been studied more closely, and use magnetic fields, olfactory cues, or orientation by the sun, but scientists have no idea how cats do it (sometimes dogs are able to replicate the great cat feat).
The Richters noted that Holly’s weight had dropped from 13 1/2 pounds down to 7 pounds and that her “front claws were really sharp, the back ones worn down to nothing.” They explained that Holly had always had the personality of “a survivor”.
“Her mother was a feral cat roaming the mobile home park, and Holly was born inside somebody’s air-conditioner. When, at about six weeks old, Holly padded into their carport and jumped into the lap of Mr. Richter’s mother, there were “scars on her belly from when the air conditioner was turned on.”