JOPLIN, Mo. — The Kent family resigned themselves to life without their beloved cat, Simba, when a powerful tornado destroyed their home on May 22, 2011. The family had huddled in the basement during the powerful, EF-5 storm. Their furry, grey friend wandered away.
Jan Kent visited animal shelters after the tornado, which destroyed 7,500 homes here and 158 people. She went back over the streets at night. There was no sign of Simba.
Then, on Sunday, the Kent family was touring the old neighborhood with an aunt in town from Atlanta and returned to the place that was once their home. That's when Jan Kent saw a cat that looked much like the one they lost 17 months earlier.
“There’s a nick on his ear, and when I saw that, I just knew,” she said. “I called his name, and he came right over. I never thought we would have him back.”
The Kents had adopted Simba from a PetSmart in 2002. Sisters Alexandra, 21, and Stephanie, 14, chose him because he was active and appeared tough.
“He was the wildest cat there," said Stephanie. "We knew he was a survivor.”
Of course, the Kents aren't sure who or what might have been helping Simba survive these past few months. No one had given him a collar. They knocked on a door near where they found him, with no luck.
“He’s a lot smaller now than he was at the old house,” Alexandra said. “He was a big kitty before, but you can tell someone has taken care of him by feeding him."
The Kents are staying at a hotel until their new house is ready next month. Simba will stay with their grandmother until the family moves in.
Stephanie said Simba's return will be the best possible housewarming present.
“It’s like he never left us,” she said. “This all feels like a dream to me still.”
Details for this story were reported by The Joplin Globe.