After four months of searching, days of driving and a case of mistaken feline identity, a California man has been reunited with the pet cat he lost in Idaho last year.
Bill Uhlig said he was headed to his northern California hometown from Glacier National Park in Montana last September when he stopped in Idaho and lost Cinderella, the cat that had been his constant traveling companion.
"I never expected to find her but I did," he said Saturday from Covelo, Calif. "She's lost a lot of weight in four months but she's putting it back on; I'm feeding her good."
Uhlig, a retired heavy equipment mechanic, said he now believes he has good cat karma even though sightings of Cinderella were slim after it jumped out of Uhlig's motor home at a gas station in American Falls in southeastern Idaho.
Uhlig was unaware of the cat's escape until he pulled into a rest area about 10 minutes later.
An hours-long search of the gas station and surrounding structures failed to locate the gray cat with ears that bent down instead of erect. Ailing from flu, the 78-year-old Uhlig decided to drive home.
"I felt sick - and it wasn't only the flu," he said.
After two months and a blitz of online bulletins about the missing cat, an animal shelter worker from Idaho telephoned to report a cat fitting the description was holed up in a barn 15 miles north of American Falls.
Uhlig, whose wife of 58 years died in July, drove to Aberdeen, Idaho, to collect the cat, which was anything but welcoming.
"She was hissing and wanting to fight," Uhlig said. "I thought she was really mad because I left her. I finally got her cornered and into a cage and figured she would get calmed down when I got her home."
Instead, the cat disappeared under Uhlig's bed. He decided to let it outside - and hasn't seen it since. He now knows it was a Cinderella look-alike.
"It was the exact same cat," he said.
Earlier this month, the mix-up was confirmed when Uhlig got another call about a stray gray cat near American Falls.
This time it was no fairy tale.
"It was really Cinderella," said Uhlig, who recently returned from Idaho with the cat he raised from the time it was just weeks old.
"When I showed up to get her, she jumped right in my lap and started purring," he said.
A leg Cinderella broke during the months on the run is now healing and Uhlig said it's a happy ending except for the imposter cat that cut and run.
"You know, though, they have nine lives," he said.