Family enjoy ‘Christmas miracle’ as cat missing for nine years returns home

Family enjoy ‘Christmas miracle’ as cat missing for nine years returns home
The family were reunited with their cat nine years after she vanished (Cats Protection/PA)

A family were part of a “Christmas miracle” when they were reunited with their cat after nine years, thanks to a charity volunteer and a microchip.

Long-haired Strawberry went missing in June 2014 after failing to return to her home in Stoke, Plymouth, but was reunited with her owners – Lee and Jo Harris-Joce – in December 2023.

Around two years ago, someone living around three miles away in the St Budeaux area of Plymouth found Strawberry in a sorry state and fed her whenever possible.

In December, they contacted Cats Protection’s Plymouth branch after becoming concerned about the animal’s health.

Woman and cat togetherStrawberry with Lizzie Smith (Cats Protection/PA)

Lizzie Smith, a lost and found volunteer at the branch, said Strawberry, who is now 11, was “covered in fleas” but was microchipped.

However, the hunt to find her owners proved to be tricky.

“The email linked with Strawberry’s chip was incorrect, so I phoned the number and left a message,” Ms Smith said.

“After receiving no answer, I went to the address linked with Strawberry’s record a few days later but her owners had moved on.

“Running out of options I searched social media and luckily her owners have a distinctive surname, so I sent a message to a lady with the same name, asked if she was missing a cat and added a strawberry emoji.

“Her owner Jo responded almost immediately, she was in shock and elated, it was an emotional moment all round.”

Woman and catJo Harris-Joce with Strawberry after the pet was reunited with her family (Jo Harris-Joce/PA)

It was Mr Harris-Joce, 43, and 12-year-old daughter Emily who were the first to see their cat again.

Ms Smith met Mr Harris-Joce and Emily at Exeter service station to “shorten the journey for everyone” as the family now live in Portsmouth.

Mr Harris-Joce said: “We kept Strawberry’s microchip active in the hope that one day she may be found and we would always have that link.

“I was absolutely shocked when I heard the news that Strawberry had been found.”

Mrs Harris-Joce, 36, added: “My daughter was in tears when we told her, she’s so glad to have her back.

“Strawberry recognised us immediately and has not stopped purring since coming home… it really was a Christmas miracle.”

Someone holding a cat carrierStrawberry’s new carrier (Cats Protection/PA)

Richard Weeks, a store manager at Jollyes on Coypool Retail Park in Plymouth, was also part of the “Christmas miracle” as he donated a carrier and blanket in time for the reunion.

“I was in the office when Lizzie came into the store, and a member of staff called me on to the shop floor where Lizzie explained the situation,” Mr Weeks said.

“I was so taken back by it and the right thing to do was to help as much as I could after hearing about this amazing story of Strawberry and her long-lost family – just in time for Christmas as well.”

Strawberry’s microchip has since been updated.

More information about what to do if a cat is found can be accessed here:   

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