The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 29, 2012

Family reunited with missing pet nearly 18 months after tornado

By Ryan Richardson

— As the May 22 tornado destroyed their home on Kingsdale Street, the Kent family remained safe after taking refuge in their basement.

That is, everyone except their cat, Simba, who had wandered off before the storm’s full fury devastated their home. Sisters Alexandra, 21, and Stephanie Kent, 14, thought their furry, grey friend was lost along with their house.

On Sunday, however, the family was reunited with their beloved pet.

“We took my aunt, who was in town from Atlanta, through the old neighborhood and we were looking at where the house had been and mom saw the cat,” Alexandra said. “I said, ‘That looks like Simba,’ so we got out and I went up to him. I never thought it would actually be our cat.”

Once her mother, Jan Kent, realized that it was the same cat that they had thought they lost, the family circled around him.

“There’s a nick on his ear and when I saw that, I just knew,” Jan said. “I called his name and he came right over. I never thought we would have him back.”

In the aftermath of the storm, the family had contacted local shelters and posted on message boards in hopes of recovering the animal.

“I had went to shelters and even went back over to the streets at night,” Jan said. “We’ve always held out hope that maybe someone took him in or that he had found his way to another loving family somewhere.”

Simba had been a member of the Kent family since they adopted him in 2002 from PetSmart. Stephanie said that the sisters had picked the cat out because he was active and looked like he was tough.

“I liked that he was so wild when we were adopting him,” Stephanie said. “He was the wildest cat there, we knew he was a survivor.”

Despite a little bit of weight loss and a thicker coat, Simba survived to reunite with the family.

“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. There wasn’t a collar on him or anything and he was near a house. We tried to knock on the door near where we found him, just in case there was someone to thank.”

The Kent family is currently staying at a local hotel until their new house is ready to move into next month. Simba will stay with their grandmother, Ruth Snider, until the new house is ready.

For Stephanie, having him back with the family is the best housewarming present they could receive.

“It’s like he never left us,” she said. “This all feels like a dream to me still.”