Holly seemed to be an average housecat; her owners, Jacob and Bonnie Richter, say she had an easy temperament and took to traveling well when they decided to include her on family R.V. excursions. But one day, something spooked her, and she took off through an open door 200 miles from home. The Richters posted fliers and organized a search for their pet, but she was nowhere to be found. Heartbroken, they returned home without her.
Two months and many miles later, Holly came back to them.
She’d been living with Barb Mazzola and her family in West Palm Beach for a short time after making the trek from Daytona, where she’d disappeared at the R.V. rally the Richters had brought her to. Mazzola said she found Holly barely able to stand, weakened, and with wounded paws. She cared for her enough to get her back on her feet, then took her to a local vet to be treated.
“I almost didn’t want to ask, because I wanted to keep her, but I said, ‘Just check and make sure she doesn’t have a microchip,'” Mazzola said.
Sure enough, Holly had been implanted with a chip, allowing the vet to find her true owners after a staggering two months. Now, scientists are puzzling over how she made the long journey on her own. While some say it could be that Holly learned to follow her nose–keeping the ocean to one side of her and the interstate on the other–one scientist thinks it could just be that Holly is a natural survivor. After being born inside an air-conditioner, the Richters say, Holly managed to crawl out and adopted them as family, bearing burn marks on her belly as proof of where she’d been.
“You’ve got these real variations in temperament,” Dr. Marc Bekoff, a behavioral ecologist, said. “Fish can by shy or bold; there seem to be shy and bold spiders. This cat, it could be she has the personality of a survivor.”
Whatever the reason, Holly is now safe at home with her family because of it.
Image: Barbara P. Fernandez for The New York Times