By JENNA RAFFAELLI
A LONG lost cat has been found more than a year after he went missing – almost 500 miles away from his home.
Sampson, a large white and brown tabby cat, was handed into a vet centre in Plymouth, Devon – 478 miles away from his home in Penicuik, Midlothian.
The marauding moggie was identified by a microchip in his skin to the delight of owner Linda Jansen, the Assistant Science Curator at the National Library of Scotland, who will finally to be reunited with her beloved tabby tomorrow.
Overjoyed Linda, 45, said: “We thought we would never see him again but then on Sunday I got a call from a veterinary surgery in Plymouth.
“At first I was sceptical about whether or not it was him.
“But when the vet described him to me, I knew it was Sampson.”
Linda and her two daughters Kirsten, 12, and Lauren, 16, told how they first rescued Sampson from a cat sanctuary in the Borders and discovered he was a loveable animal.
The cat spent hours watching people from the balcony and became a firm member of the family before he disappeared in March 2008, sparking a desperate hunt to find him.
He was last seen lounging in the garden when Linda had gone to work but when she returned, he was nowhere to be found.
Linda said: “He was such a character and really was the man of the house. It was so strange when he went missing and we couldn’t find him.”
“He didn’t come in for his dinner that night or his breakfast the next morning. It was very unusual as Sampson loves his food.”
It was then she alerted the local vet and police.
Linda said: “I had the vet, the police and all the locals out looking for him. We had moved house about a year before Sampson went missing and sometimes he would wander along to the old house, which was only just down the road.
“I went along with his basket, fully expecting to find him there but he was nowhere to be seen.”
“My daughters both asked at their school to see if anyone had seen him and my niece made a poster to put up in her school.
“I thought he had been stolen.”
Linda had given up hope of seeing her beloved cat again and even crossed his name off at his vet.
So was a huge surprise to receive the call from the Woodlands Veterinary Surgery on Sunday.
She said: “I couldn’t sleep at all after I got the call. I had given up on seeing him again.
“The odd thing is that he is a very bad traveller, he always gets car sick when he travels so I can’t imagine him lasting on a long road trip like that.”
Because Linda lives so far away, there was the initial worry of just how to bring Sampson home.
But local firm Edinburgh-based Eagle Couriers got to hear of her plight, and offered to bring her pet back to Penicuik free of charge.
Director Fiona Deas said: “His is one of the most amazing pet stories I have ever heard. I don’t suppose we’ll ever find out how the animal ended up on the south coast of England, but we can make sure it gets home safely.
“As an animal lover myself I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of shock and elation the owner must be feeling at the moment. It really is a quite incredible turn of events.
“We understand the animal gets distressed when it is travelling by road, so we will liaise with the vets and do everything we can to make sure the journey home is as comfortable as possible for the big reunion.”
Fiona owns the Noah’s Ark pet shop in Granton Road, Edinburgh, while her firm sponsors Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian and has a long running contract to ferry samples between vet practices and the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies, so was well placed to help.
Todd Jones, student veterinary nurse who made the amazing from call Woodlands Veterinary Surgery to Linda said: “It is very unusually for owners to find their missing cats after 18 months, especially from so far away.
“I think that Sampson must have climbed into a long-haul truck or a moving van for him to have travelled so far.”
“He was handed into us by the RSPCA. It was obvious he had been in a fight a while back as he had a burst abscess on the top of his head. It was an old wound and we gave him some antibiotics to clear it up.
“Apart from that he was perfectly healthy. He had been straying for a while but it didn’t look as though he hadn’t been fed.”
And she said having Sampson micro-chipped was the only way they were able to reunite him with Linda – making it money well spent.
She said: “It is always a good idea to get an identity chip for your cat as it makes them much easier to find. As a lot of cats look the same, it can be upsetting for owners to keep getting false alarms when they are looking.
“When cats are micro-chipped, it only take a minute or so to access the database of addresses. I was on the phone to Linda after 10 minutes of getting Sampson.
“The chips only cost around £20 and can be done with minimal fuss.”
Delighted Linda, who spent part of yesterday buying Sampson new toys, litter and food, added: “I have no idea how he travelled so far.
“I think wherever Sampson leaves his hat is home. I know is survived ok by himself but I am just thrilled to get him back.”
“He may have been trying to get home but was walking in the wrong direction.
“Forget The Proclaimers, my cat really did walk 500 miles.”