HORSHAM'S Walter family experienced a small miracle last week when their beloved pet cat Rusty was found after he went missing nine months ago.
Nerissa Walter, her husband Chris and their three children Addison, Dominic and Alexis, welcomed their furry friend home on June 20.
Rusty was also welcomed home by the family's three other ginger felines - Peaches, Dash and Rafa. All four cats were adopted, most from Horsham PAWS.
Mrs Walter said Rusty went missing nine months ago after he was routinely let outside one morning.
"He was pretty much home-bound before he went missing and he didn't wander," she said.
"We tried not to think of the worst, so we started on the hunt for him from day one.
"We delivered pamphlets for the first month and had four phone calls saying they had seen him - two from around here and two from Ingenia Gardens."
Like all Horsham PAWS animals, Rusty was micro-chipped.
Mrs Walter received a phone call from the Horsham pound on Thursday with some good news.
"They said 'I've a big ginger cat here called Rusty and I think he might be yours'," she said.
"The pound had received a phone call from someone at Ingenia Gardens saying they had noticed a cat hanging around there for the last few months.
"We went and picked him up, and he just purred straight away. We took him to the vet, and they said he was normal and healthy.
"I picked the kids up after school and Rusty was already home. I told them I had news, and they asked 'have we got another cat?'. I said 'we don't have a new cat, but maybe have an old one back'."
Although she wasn't sure what adventures Rusty had got up to during his time away from home, Mrs Walter said he was well looked after.
"He must have been having a good time because he hasn't lost weight. Someone has obviously given him some love," she said.
Mrs Walter encouraged other pet owners to micro-chip their animals.
Rusty was adopted by the family after a Horsham PAWS adoption day at PETstock Horsham.
"We saw him and knew he was the one," Mrs Walter said.
Horsham PAWS president Penny Stemp said she hoped Rusty's story would help others see the importance of micro-chipping animals.
The state government's new Pet Exchange Register comes into effect on July 1.
From 1 July, it will be an offence to advertise a dog or cat for sale unless the advertisement includes the animal's microchip number and the source number generated by the Register.
Mrs Stemp said the new laws might mean more animals would be dumped or surrendered to the pound.
"It's certainly going to affect us in terms of people wanting us to re-home their animals that aren't micro-chipped," she said.
"We will also see a higher dump rate, because people aren't going to pay to microchip the kittens they're going to give away on Facebook for free. It could get nasty, but something has to change."
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