Tornado tabby: Cat that disappeared in 2004 tornado returns home

Sunday, January 8, 2006

HALLAM, Neb. -- The Tighe family had long ago written off Harley the cat as dead.

He was 8 years old when he went missing. He was declawed. And he disappeared in the May 22, 2004, tornado.

And even if he had survived the storm, which claimed the Tighe home, he wasn't a very nice cat, Sue Tighe said. She didn't think he'd find anyone willing to take care of him.

Somehow, though, Harley made it. On Monday, he came home.

Tighe's grown daughter Samantha Tighe saw a big orange-and-white tabby cat at the edge of the yard. She called his name.

He ran to her, meowing the chirpy meow she remembered.

She got out his baby pictures to double-check his markings, the width of his stripes, the white marks on his face. They all lined up.

But she didn't need those to prove it was him.

"As soon as he started running and meowing, I knew it was him," Samantha said.

Sue got Harley as a 4-week-old kitten. She gave him to her son Shaun, who was then 10.

And the story gets even better.

Shaun, who's 20 now, is in the Army National Guard. He's been stationed at Camp Shelby in Mississippi since October and likely will be deployed to Iraq in March.

Shaun got to come home for Christmas. The night before he left, his cat came home. For 45 minutes, Shaun just sat outside and petted him, Sue said.

It was like Harley knew he'd be there, she said.

Harley came back in remarkably good health, said Jeremiah Vondra, a Crete veterinarian who treated Harley after his return. The only problem seemed to be earmites.

"I think he used his nine lives up," Vondra said.

Sue Tighe wonders how he kept safe all that time. And she wishes she knew what he's been up to.

"Where has he been? What's he been doing for the past year and a half? It's just weird," she said. "But we're glad he's home."

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