Willow the cat has had quite the journey. The calico kitty disappeared from her home in Boulder, Colo., almost five years ago, and was thought to be lost forever but, to her family's surprise, she was found walking the streets of Manhattan.
Thanks to a microchip implanted between her shoulder blades when she was just a kitten, Willow, now 6, will be reunited with her owners, who had long given up hope.
"To be honest, there are tons of coyotes around here, and owls," said Jamie Squires of Boulder. "She was just a little thing, five and half pounds. We put out the 'lost cat' posters and the Craigslist thing, but we actually thought she'd been eaten by coyotes."
Willow was found on East 20th Street and was immediately brought to a New York City shelter.
Squires and her husband were shocked when they got a call on Wednesday from Animal Care & Control, which runs New York City's animal rescue and shelter system.
"My husband said, 'Don't say anything to the kids yet. We have to make sure,'" Squires said. "But then we saw the picture, and it was Willow. It's been so long."
Willow escaped in late 2006 or early 2007 when contractors left a door open during a home renovation, Squires said. Since then, the family moved 10 miles from Broomfield, Colo., to Boulder, but kept their address up to date with the microchip company.
ACC Executive Director Julie Bank said a scanner found the chip that led to the Squires family. She said that Willow, who now weighs 7 pounds, is healthy, well-mannered and probably has not spent her life on the streets of New York City.
How she got there, however, is likely to remain unknown. There are no clues about her cross-country trip or anything about the five years she's been missing.
Squires was a little worried about what Willow would be like after her years on the run.
"I don't know what kind of life she's had," she said.
When she disappeared, she added, "She was a really cool cat, really sweet."
Willow will return to Boulder soon, and will be meeting the old -- and new -- members of her family. The Squires have had another child and adopted another dog since her departure years ago.