Five years ago, a cat named Willow went missing in Boulder, Colorado. She turned up this week nearly 3000km away in New York City. How did her owners track her down? A tiny microchip, and huge heaping helpings of luck.
Willow is (must be) some kind of Achillean battle kitty. Her estranged owner explained that the family gave up hope after a while because of the "tons of coyotes" and owls in the area, assuming she'd been eaten. Nope. She was living it up in New York City.
We'll never know exactly how she got to New York. Maybe she just hoofed it the whole way; maybe she fell in with some kitty-lovin' hitchhikers; or could be she rode the rails and lived off of cans of baked beans cooked over barrel fires the whole way across the country. A spokesman for the New York's Animal Care & Control said Willow's in "very good condition, clean, a little chunky", so obviously she's had someone taking care of her once she got to the city.
Pet microchips are passive RFID devices, and don't require an internal power source, so they can last the lifetime of a pet. They're about the size of a grain of rice and generally cost under $US100. Scans for the chips are standard when a lost or stray animal is found by authorities, and the biggest hassle is figuring out which of the why-are-there-this-many services has the owner's information.
Willow's owner joked that all of his pets are microchipped, and he'd microchip his kids if he could. But really, if it's this easy to reunite a cat with its family across five years and half the country, why aren't we microchipping basically everything in our lives? [NY Times, The Atlantic, Wikipedia, LA Times]
Image: Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press