The Cambrian

An Arizona couple lost their cat in San Simeon. 4 months later, they’ve been reunited

A 14-year-old domestic short-hair cat is home with her family in Tucson, Arizona, after a four-month mystery survival saga in and near the San Simeon State Park campground.

Gracey got lost in June while on an RV trip with owners Rick Hutchins and Clare Austen, plus fellow feline, Vinnie, and border collie Zoe.

The couple had stopped at the campground on their way home to Arizona. Early the next morning, Rick and Gracey went for a walk, with him being extra watchful, even though the cat had always stayed close to her people when they were on jaunts together. “We’d heard coyotes the night before,” Rick recalled recently, so extra caution was in order.

Even so, suddenly the cat disappeared.

The frantic couple “searched and searched... for most of the day,” Rick remembers.

They were unsuccessful. Finally, they had to head home, leaving contact information and Gracey’s description with campers and the park ranger. They hoped against all odds that Gracey was alive somewhere and that somehow her microchip and fate might reunite them.

Rick Hutchins of Tucson, Arizona, is reunited with Gracey the cat after the pet was lost at San Simeon State Park campground. Courtesy photo

Cambria no-kill shelter HART steps in

Four months later, while Nancy and Scott Armour were camping at the park, they spotted a skittish, weak and thin stray cat. They offered food, which she eagerly ate, but warily kept her distance. Nancy stayed nearby, hoping to pick the cat up and take her to their tent for the night, but it didn’t work.

It was Gracey.

That night, the Armours logged on and learned about HART, Cambria’s Homeless Animal Rescue Team no-kill shelter.

The next morning, the couple again took food to Gracey, hoping to capture her. This time, to their surprise, she approached them. “We were able to pick her up... she came right to me,” Nancy told HART. “She was so exhausted and so grateful to be warm.”

At HART, Medical Director Evelyn Zanella scanned Gracey, and was delighted to find a microchip, although it took some tenacious sleuthing to eventually locate her owners. It was a search worthy of Holmes and Watson: The cat’s microchip was registered in Portland, but Rick and Clare had moved to Tucson and the phone number on the registration had been disconnected.

On Oct. 4, an astounded Clare received a phone call from Evelyn, saying that Gracey was alive and in HART’s care.

HART Medical Director Evelyn Zanella, left, helped reunite Gracey the cat with owners Rick Hutchins and Clare Austen, not pictured, of Tucson, Arizona, after the couple lost the pet while camping at San Simeon State Park campground. Courtesy photo

Non-stop drive from Tucson to retrieve cat

Almost immediately thereafter, Rick drove 12 hours, nonstop, from Tucson to Cambria to pick up the miracle cat that they’d adopted 13 years earlier from an animal shelter in Spokane, Washington, the cat that had almost vanished from their lives forever.

Gracey’s vet in Tucson reportedly has given the cat a clean bill of health, although she’d lost over half of her body weight during her four-month ordeal. She’s catching up now.

How a 14-year-old, “mostly indoor” cat escaped predators, vehicles and other threats to survive in the wild for four months remains a mystery.

However she did it, Gracey’s owners say they’re overjoyed to have her safely at home. They’re thankful to the Armours, Zanella and HART, but especially for the microchip that made Gracey’s return possible.

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