'I thought he was dead': Tabby cat reunited with owners 12 years after running away

The cat's been missing since 2011 then one day, he was found roaming around in a backyard in Blythe!

ByRob McMillan KABC logo
Saturday, October 14, 2023
SoCal tabby cat reunited with owners 12 years after he disappeared
You'll never believe the story of Butters the cat. He's been missing since 2011 then one day, he was found roaming around in a backyard in Blythe! Here's how it all happened.

BLYTHE, Calif. -- Reunification between people and their pets isn't uncommon these days, especially with the practice of microchipping.

But people involved in the saga of Butters the tabby cat are saying his story is extraordinary after being reunited with his owners Angelo and Shelley Castellino more than 12 years after he disappeared. It's something they never saw coming.

"No, I thought he was dead," said Angelo. "I thought he was someone's meal."

The Castellino family adopted Butters when they lived in San Diego more than a decade ago.

Then, one night in 2011, Butters disappeared.

"Butters was a very adventurous cat, and he liked to go outside a lot, and he had learned how to use the dog door," said Angelo. "And one day, he never returned.

"We went looking for him and our assumption was the coyotes got him because there's a canyon nearby, and we didn't much think about it after that except that we were sad he was gone."

Angelo and Shelly moved to Seattle a few years later, along with their other cat Barnacles - who is Butters' brother - convinced they'd never see Butters again. But on Oct. 1, which coincidentally happened to be their 29th wedding anniversary, they got phone call they say they'll never forget.

"At first, we didn't pick it up because we thought it was one of these scam calls, but when they called back again, my wife picked up," said Angelo. "He told her they had Butters.

"I thought it was a prank call because the cat was gone for 12 years, but how did he know our cat's name?"

The person making the call was Riverside County Animal Services Officer Dalton Churchwell, who had found Butters wandering around in his backyard in the desert community of Blythe.

Using his wand, the officer was able to determine that Butters was microchipped. Using the chip, they found the information for Butters' owners. Through a generous donation by the Animal Solutions Konnection, a charitable organization serving Riverside County Animal Services, volunteer Larry Randolph boarded a flight for Seattle this past weekend to return Butters to his owners.

It's unclear how Butters made the 216-mile journey from San Diego to Blythe, nor what exactly he's been through over the past 12 years. But Randloph said fact that he made it all the way back to his owners is remarkable.

"It is amazing, and we almost think it was meant to be," said Randolf. "You're talking about the area of Blythe, where it's in the desert, where we have only two employees out there, and the cat decided to jump in his backyard."

Shelley said their story is a perfect example of why it's important to microchip your pets.

"Our prodigal kitty has come home," she said. "I cannot stress enough how important it is to get your kitty cats and your doggies chipped."