NEW YORK (AP) -- Five years after she went missing from her Colorado home, Willow the cat has been reunited with her owners in New York City.
How the calico cat ended up on a Manhattan street remains a mystery. But three children and their parents are certainly glad that she'll be headed home with them.
``Hey, kitty cat!'' squealed three-year-old Lauren ``Lola'' Squires, as she greeted the cat for the first time at the Hilton New York hotel on Thursday evening.
Lola hadn't been born when Willow went missing from the family's home near the Rocky Mountains. But since the cat popped up more than 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) away, she has captured the little girl's imagination. Now the family is on a whirlwind media tour. The ``Today'' show flew them out to New York and they were headed to NBC's studios for interviews early Friday morning. The reunion _ which came just moments after the family arrived at the hotel _ was also taped.
The cat's adventures _ which mom Jamie Squires now hopes to parlay into a children's book _ were the subject of intense speculation in some circles. The news website Gothamist claimed an exclusive when an unnamed tipster said a New York man ``fell in love'' with the cat while on a ski trip in Colorado and adopted her. A blogger for The New Yorker wondered whether she'd ``be bound to complain that nothing stays open late enough,'' upon her return to Colorado.
Willow disappeared when a contractor left the front door ajar during a home renovation project five years ago. The family sent out frantic online messages and put up posters around their home. But when Willow didn't return, they assumed the petite 2-year-old had been eaten by a coyote.
But it turns out Willow was never on the menu. On Sept. 14, a man brought her to Animal Care & Control in New York, saying he had found her on East 20th Street. A quick scan identified a microchip implanted when she was a kitten. The chip contained a code linked to a database of owner information. Despite moving, the Squires had updated their information, making it easy for authorities to contact them.
When Jamie's husband Chris got the call, the couple doubted it could really be Willow. They asked the shelter to send a photo of the cat in question.
Sure enough, it was long-lost Willow.
At the Hilton, Jamie Squires marveled at the weight the cat had put on. She seemed to be well-cared for, with a shiny coat and tipping the scale at a healthy seven pounds (3.2 kilograms) when she was found.
The children _ the older two are Jack, 10 and Shelby, 17 _ delighted in asking where Willow could possibly have been for all that time. They may never know the answer. But Jamie Squires, who has vacationed around the world with her family, tells them Willow might have done some globe-trotting of her own.
Willow is set to fly back to Boulder on Sunday. She will join her former housemate, a yellow Labrador named Roscoe, and a new one: an English mastiff named Zoe.
Julie Bank, executive director of New York's Animal Care & Control, which runs the city's animal rescue and shelter system, said the unlikely reunion underscored the importance of implanting microchips in pets. All animals in city shelters get the chips before they're adopted.
Bank added that when a pet goes missing, people often give up hope too soon.
``You should never give up,'' she said. ``You never know when your pet is going to return home.''
길잃은 고양이 5년만에 주인 품으로
미국 콜로라도 주(州)의 한 가정에서 사라졌던 고양이가 5 년 만에 2천600㎞ 떨어진 뉴욕에서 주인과 재회해 화제다.
주인공은 콜로라도 주 로키산맥 인근에 거주하는 스콰이어 가족이 키우던 고양 이 윌로.
스콰이어 가족은 미 방송사 NBC의 요청에 따라 뉴욕으로 날아와 동물보호소에 맡겨져 있던 윌로와 22일(현지시각) 밤 극적으로 재회했다.
윌로는 5년 전 집 수리업자가 문을 열어두는 바람에 집 밖으로 나간 뒤 행방을 감췄는데 스콰이어 가족은 인터넷에 윌로를 찾는 글을 올리고 동네 곳곳에 전단을 붙였지만, 고양이를 봤다는 연락은 없었다.
가족은 2살밖에 안 된 윌로가 코요테에게 잡아 먹혔을 것으로 생각하고 윌로 찾 기를 단념했다.
그러나 윌로는 뜻밖에도 2천600㎞ 떨어진 뉴욕에서 5년 만에 발견됐다.
지난 14일 한 남성이 이스트 20번가에서 발견했다면서 '길 고양이' 한 마리를 뉴욕 동물보호소로 데리고 온 것.
보호소 측이 고양이 몸을 조사해 보니 애완동물 마이크로 칩이 심긴 사실을 확 인했고, 칩에 담긴 정보로 주인을 알아냈다.
스콰이어 가족은 그간 해외여행을 다니고 주거지도 옮겼지만, 애완동물 소유주 데이터베이스(DB)를 정기적으로 갱신한 덕분에 동물보호소 측이 수월하게 연락을 취 할 수 있었다.
윌로가 지난 5년간 어디에 있었고 어떻게 대륙을 건너 뉴욕까지 오게 됐는지는 미스터리다.
'엄마' 제이미 스콰이어는 "우리 가족이 해외에서 휴가를 보내는 동안 윌로도 자신만의 세계여행을 했을 것"이라면서 윌로의 모험을 담은 동화책을 내고 싶다고 말했다.