Montecito cat returns to owner three years after mudslides
It turns out, cats really do have nine lives.
At least Patches does.
The pet cat was believed to have died in the Montecito mudslides, but lo and behold, after three years, she returned less than a quarter-mile from where her Montecito home used to stand.
Her owner, Josie Gower, was killed in the tragic debris flow, and the home was destroyed. Ms. Gower’s body was found the night of the debris flow near a highway that had been hit.
However, on New Year’s Eve, Patches was reunited with Ms. Gower’s partner, Norm Borgatello.
The Animal Shelter Assistance Program shelter in Goleta received a call Dec. 19 that there was a stray cat, that it was microchipped and the owner was found to be deceased. Ms. Gower had been a supporter of ASAP, so ASAP Shelter Operations Supervisor Becky Morrill recognized the name.
“A weird coincidence was that one of my colleagues had been Josie’s landlord, and when Josie died, her children took over the property so we had that connection,” Ms. Morrill told the News-Press. “My colleague reached out to Josie’s children and made contact, and they were beyond excited.”
Mr. Borgatello came to the shelter Dec. 31 for the fateful reunion.
“I think we were all crying more than him, but Patches came right up to him (Mr. Borgatello), and she hadn’t been greeting everybody who came to meet her, but the minute she saw Norm, she came up to the front of the cage and was loving on him,” Ms. Morrill said. “It was almost like he was seeing a ghost. I think it was very overwhelming at the moment for him.”
However, she said that Mr. Borgatello came back a couple days later to return the carrier he carried Patches in, and said that Patches is still the same cat.
Patches was in great condition, according to Ms. Morrill, so they assume somebody has been taking care of her these past few years, but that person or family has yet to come forward.
“The great mystery is where has Patches been?” Ms. Morrill said. “Norm told us that they just absolutely believed that she had died in the debris flow along with Josie. There was no sign of her since that night.”
Patches isn’t the first feline to come back home after fleeing the mudslides. She joins two other kitties who reunited with their owners after the tragedy.
“On the night of the mudslides, them taking off would make great sense,” Ms. Morrill said. “But no one has been as close to their point of origin as Patches. Three years is a long time, but Patches at least looked very well cared for.”
Ms. Morrill said she hopes Patches’ caretakers will come forward, but unfortunately, “Patches hasn’t been talking about it.”
In addition, she said this highlights the importance of microchipping pets.
“If she hadn’t been microchipped, she never would have been reunited with Norm,” she said. “Microchip your animals — it has allowed for some pretty miraculous stories.”