Stephanie Fulkerson could hardly believe her ears.
Her cat Rusty had disappeared nine years ago but showed up last week after being captured in the wild near Felts Field, just outside of Millwood.
“I thought it was some kind of mistake,” she said after her family received a telephone call from SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. that the cat had been found.
An electronic identification chip implanted in Rusty years ago was used to identify him.
Life in the wild wasn’t so great. Rusty has ear mites and a raw patch on the back of his neck apparently caused by scratching. He also was suffering from bad matting of his fur, and his weight is down.
Fulkerson, of Otis Orchards, took Rusty to SpokAnimal’s pet clinic for treatment Monday.
“I think he’s just happy to have a home,” she said. “He rubs and snuggles and follows me around. He’s still a lovey cat.”
Rusty appears to remember Fulkerson. “He warmed right up to me,” she said. Then again, Fulkerson provides the food.
“He’ll eat a whole can of cat food” at a single meal, and he has been sleeping a lot, she said.
While Rusty is black, Fulkerson explained that she chose the name when she got him as a kitten from a shelter 11 years ago because part of his hair was brown at the time.
He disappeared about the same time other cats in the neighborhood went missing, and Fulkerson long suspected someone had taken him.
Lori Humphrey at SpokAnimal said Rusty may have had another home at some point because it’s unlikely that a cat would survive in the wild for nine years. But it’s clear from the matting and mites that he’s been without a home for some time, she said.
SpokAnimal is accepting donations to help Fulkerson and her family pay Rusty’s vet bill because Fulkerson’s husband recently lost his job. Donations can be made to the Lucky to be Alive fund in Rusty’s name at SpokAnimal, 710 N. Napa St. The phone number is (509) 534-8133.
SpokAnimal offered $10 microchip implants Saturday, coincidentally the same day Rusty was reunited with Fulkerson. The animal agency implanted 26 pets with their owners’ information that day.