When a precocious cat named Poldi disappeared from his home in Munich, Germany in 1996, his owners searched for months before finally coming to terms with the probability they would never see him again.
But now, thanks to the efforts of some kind hikers who rescued the cat from the forest, Poldi has been reunited with his owners after 16 years, according to Metro.
A father and son hiking in the forest about 20 miles away from Poldi's former home spotted the sickly feline sitting on a stack of firewood, the German newspaper Muenchener Abendzeitung reports.
"My son immediately noticed that the animal was quite old. He felt sorry for it because it no longer had any front teeth," Bernhard Schöttel told the paper. "The tom was very trusting. We fed him for a few days and discovered that he was tattooed, so we took him to the animal sanctuary over the weekend."
The Schöttels knew that Poldi once belonged to a family because every pet cat is tattooed with its own unique identification number, Eveline Kosenbach, a spokesman for the Munich Tierschutzverein Animal Rescue Centre sanctuary, told Agence France-Presse.
Kosenbach said the animal sanctuary takes in a about 4,000 stray cats per year and keeps a database of animal identification numbers. Thanks to Poldi's tattoo, employees were able to cross the number against the database and track down his owner, Monika Moser, who was reportedly in shock that Poldi was still alive after all these years.
"She really didn't think she would see the cat again after such a long time," Kosenbach told the AFP.
Kosenbach said that Poldi's recovery is extremely rare and, in his case, it couldn't have come at a better time: the emaciated cat had developed liver and thyroid problems.
"The cat was not feeling well - and obviously wanted to be found. He is now enjoying being looked after and is happily back with his owner at long last," Kosenbach told the Daily Mail.