Ritz the Cat Returns After 16 Years


Ritz After 16 years, Liz and Jason McKenry are reunited with their cat

(USA TODAY) Sixteen years ago, Jason McKenry's 2-year-old gray tabby escaped from his Delaware apartment. And McKenry thought he would never see Ritz again.

Then this week, he got a text. Ritz had been taken to a veterinarian and was about to be put down when someone found a microchip.

What has Ritz been up to all these years? How did he survive? 16 years is believed to be the US record for a lost and returned pet.

Little is known of his whereabouts after the day Ritz disappeared. Though McKenry did learn Ritz hitched a ride in a neighbor's pickup truck after charging out of the apartment in Bear, Delaware.

For the last couple of years, Ritz has been surviving thanks to the kindness of strangers. It was one of those strangers who took the cat to the vet and started the chain of events that led to McKenry and Ritz being reunited.

Everything in between is a mystery.

"I wish he could talk," McKenry said this week. "I'd love to hear his story."

"Sixteen years? That's a new record as far as I know," said Tom Sharp, president of AKC Reunite, a national database for microchipped pets. "That's amazing."

What little is known about Ritz is still quite a tale.

McKenry was on a business trip when his roommate opened the door to their apartment and Ritz ran out on June 14, 2006. McKenry, who had owned Ritz for two years, went knocking on doors looking for him.

One of his neighbors told him that while driving down Route 1, a person flagged him down to tell him that a cat had jumped out of his pickup bed.

"Because of the way that he disappeared we really didn't have a good idea of where to start looking," McKenry said.

Ritz as a kitten

McKenry posted flyers in the area and called shelters every couple of days to see if the short-hair feline had been spotted.

He also kept in touch with animal shelters for months, fearing if he didn't they would euthanize Ritz. That's because he was told that many places at the time did not check for microchips.

"Almost universally, the answer I got from all the shelters and vets was that they checked for dogs," he said, "but they really didn't check routinely for cats."

As the months went on, the search for Ritz tapered.

McKenry married his girlfriend Liz, whose cat, Bailey, had been Ritz's best buddy. The couple moved to Annapolis, Maryland, about 11 years ago and had two children.

Now, Ritz the cat is getting to know the brother and sister he left behind.


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