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Lisa Pederson initially believed there'd been a mistake when she received a call from a vet in the Porirua suburb of Whitby informing her their 13-year-old cat, Garry, had been found.
Pederson had given up hope years ago Garry would return, believing she was not confident enough to beg food from strangers and had likely died.
"She went missing pretty much exactly five years ago," she told the New Zealand Herald.
"We moved from Westport to Wellington, she just sort of escaped."
The were living in Whitby, north of Wellington City, when their precious pet disappeared.
The couple tried all they could to find her, including putting up posters and leaving out blankets, but after about six months they eventually accepted they wouldn't see her again.
"She was such a scaredy-cat, we thought, 'Well, she's probably just gone off and died'.''
But last week someone who had spotted the now-elderly cat hanging around Whitby picked her up and took her to an after-hours vet and scanned her microchip.
Pederson and her partner had since moved to Masterton, adopted two more cats and had children.
When she received the call, she didn't believe it at first.
"They were like, 'Oh, she's just really skinny and dehydrated, but she's alive and pretty friendly'.
"I've heard of stories where the cat just sort of wanders home, I never sort of believed it. But turns out it happens."
Once she realised they did, in fact, have Garry, Pederson was "so excited" to pick her up.
"I was sort of, like, a bit worried that she wouldn't know us."
But Garry seemed to recognise her owners and has so far been happy to snuggle with Pederson on the couch at home.
Garry has not changed much since she disappeared five years ago, aside from her transformation from being timid to friendly.
The family have had her home for about a week and are getting her checked over at their vet to make sure she does not have any serious health issues.
Pederson encouraged all cat owners to get their pets microchipped, saying there was "always hope", and reminded them to keep their details updated.
SPCA central region general manager Ros Alsford said the family were "over the moon" to have their cat back, and that it was one of the best pet reunions she'd seen.
"This is just another example of the importance of microchipping your pet. That microchip allowed Garry to be reunited with her owner and she has made herself at home again rather quickly.
"It's so important to microchip your animals. Losing your pet can be a stressful ordeal and having your animals microchipped provides peace of mind if they were to ever get lost."
Pederson's partner is a teacher in Masterton and has assigned his class a creative writing task with the topic "what happened to Garry?"
While the truth may never be revealed, Pederson is happy knowing her beloved cat won't be spending her twilight years on the streets