Shelby the Cat Reunited With Her Owners After Being Missing for 13 Years

A mostly black cat sitting on its guardian’s lap surrounded by the family children seems like a routine scene. But it is nothing short of a miracle for the Harper-Adams family.

Shelby the Cat had been missing for 13 years. Then one day, the original baby in the Harper-Adams’ household appeared on the family’s doorstep. As reported in Jezebel, Paula Harper-Adams thought that she was only doing a random act of kindness when she took the stray cat on her doorstep to a veterinarian. After looking past the matted fur and lice covered coat, Paula realized that this could be her Shelby.

It was!

Yet, the real mystery is: how did Shelby, and the cats like Shelby, manage to make it home?

How Did Shelby Make it Home?

While there could have been miraculous powers at work, Shelby’s homecoming could also have a lot to do with science and other forces that we don’t fully understand.

Here are a few things that could have helped Shelby make it home:

1. Homing Instinct: One possible explanation for the Shelby’s return is the homing instinct that cats have. According to Sonic, ”cats have sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field.” This heightened awareness can aid them in making the trek home.

2. Psi Trailing: The closest thing to psi trailing that humans have is the sense of déjà vu. According to New Dualism, psi trailing is described as an “extrasensory ability” in animals that helps lost animals find their guardians, even in unfamiliar territories.

I’d say most pet guardians feel very connected to their pets in the heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul ways. But there could be more. According to Sonic, psi trailing is another possible connection: cell-to-cell and atom-to-atom connection.

3. Memory: Shelby’s plain memory could have helped her return home. According to Psychology Today, while cats’ brains are small, they are extremely complex.

They have both short and long-term memories, and they are especially good at remembering things for long periods of time. A cat is more of a tactile learner in that it remembers more by doing than by seeing.

4. Landmarks: As The Washington Post explains, cats might use landmarks the way we do.

Most cats thrive on routine and order. A post in the Way of Cats blog highlights this perfectly. The author recalls how her cats were not OK with a change in their bowl location during feeding time because it was in the wrong landmark.

Extraordinary Journeys of Cats Coming Home

These are a few explanations for Shelby’s homecoming, but we might never know. Here’s something that we do know: Shelby loved the Harper-Adams family enough to make her way back to them.

Here are a few more extraordinary cats who have made similar hero’s journeys that will make your heart smile.

The Daily Mail writes about Molly the Cat who made it home after 11 years. Molly’s guardians instantly recognized the now 16-year-old cat. Lynne Peart, Molly’s guardian, expressed that she hopes Molly spends her “twilight years” with the family.

Cats have outsmarted time, but they have also outfoxed distance. As The Dodo reports, Jill Robertson might have reluctantly given her cat, Mayhem, to a new home because of her new move, but Mayhem didn’t approve. It took six miles and three weeks, but Mayhem made his way to Jill and the new home that he had never seen.

But six miles is kitten’s play for some cats. Love Meow writes about Holly the Cat’s epic adventure. She was riding in the family’s motor home for vacation, but fireworks spooked her and she ran away. Amazingly, she trekked 200 miles to reach her guardians. While her microchip made the reunion possible, Holly was astonishingly found in her guardians’ neighborhood.

Shelby’s guardian, Paula, reminded pet guardians to never give up hope, and these stories are a testament to that. Let’s hope that there are plenty of more of these reunion miracles for more guardians and pets to come. I suspect that there will be. Have you ever reunited with a lost pet? Tell us your story below.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Roslyn McBride
Roslyn M2 years ago

Although this isn't unheard of, 13 years seems an incredibly long time before turning up.

laura Frey
laura Frey2 years ago


Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper2 years ago


Brigitta MacMillan
Past Member 2 years ago

I've heard many stories of lost cats who were found miles away. I've also heard of found cats who were traced to homes far away. I suspect that cats will jump into a parked delivery vehicle or construction truck to explore and they get locked in and driven away. When they can jump out again they might be many miles away. If a cat goes missing, ask neighbours if they had any deliveries that day or any contractors working at their homes. Check the animal shelters in the town where the company is based.

Linda G.
Linda G.3 years ago

When is was a young girl, our cat disappeared and we were just sick about it. Days turned to weeks and we didn't think he would come back. One evening, we could hear dogs barking and noticed it was coming from the front door. We opened the door to our shock and surprise there were two dogs at the door and between them, was our dirty kitty. Our cat hopped in the house, took a look back at both dogs as if to say thanks and the two dogs turned and walked away. That was something to witness but it was obvious that these two dogs brought our cat back home.

In this day and age people should not be letting their pets loose to be picked up by sick people, injured or killed. They are God's creatures and we must protect them. I live in the country and I can not believe the amount of animals loose, dead on the roads, very sad and unnecessary. Basically, if you love animals, respect, love and protect them.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

Awwww... I am so glad Shelby found her way back home to her people!
Maybe one of the kids pulled her tail and she was waiting for them to grow up (LOL)!!

Shelley Parsons
Shelley Parsons3 years ago

My beautiful orange tabby named Geo went missing on July 26. People keep saying don't give up yet, but maybe this is a sign that I shouldn't. I just miss him so much and worry what's happened to him.

It must have been hard to see Shelby in such poor shape and wonder what the poor fellow has been going through all those years.

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn P3 years ago

SO happy for Shelby!

Diana Hudspeth
Diana Hudspeth3 years ago

The fact 'remains that cats are amazing in many, many ways. Any cat owners know this if they have a relationship with a marvelous feline. Thank you Jesus for the cats you created!