Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

Howie walks home across Australia

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Howie, a three-year-old Persian, was a feline who enjoyed the better things in life: good food, a comfortable house and plenty of fuss and attention. His owner, teenager Kirsten Hicks from Adelaide in Australia, was devoted to the cat, and Howie was equally fond of his mistress. When Kirsten was not at school the pair were practically inseparable.

In 1977, however, the Hicks family was getting ready for a long overseas trip. Kirsten was looking forward to the journey, but was worried about what to do with Howie while they were away. Obviously they could not take the Persian with them, but Kirsten did not trust anyone outside her family to look after her pet.

In the end, Kirsten came up with a solution: Howie could stay with Kirsten’s grandparents, who loved the cat almost as much as she did? Although her grandparents lived more than a thousand miles away on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Kirsten was sure this was the solution.

So Kirsten bade Howie a tearful farewell and her grandparents assured her that the cat would be just fine with them. A month later, Kirsten and her family returned to Australia after their trip and headed first for Queensland to collect Howie. Kirsten’s grandparents, however, had some bad news.

They had not told Kirsten while she was away because they did not want to ruin her trip but―Howie had gone missing. They assured her that they had done all they could to find the cat, but in vain. He had simply vanished into thin air. Kirsten was understandably shocked by the news, and although she did not blame her grandparents―whom she knew also loved Howie―she went back to her home in Adelaide with a heavy heart.

Her parents tried to console her with the offer of another cat to replace Howie, but Kirsten rejected this. For her, no cat could replace her lovely Persian pet.

All Kirsten could think about was Howie lost and alone in a strange environment. She felt sure Howie could not survive for long on his own.

The months passed by, and soon it was a year since Howie had vanished.

Then one day, while Kirsten was at school, a dirty, scrawny cat turned up at the family home. Mrs Hicks instantly took pity on the poor creature, which was in a pitiful state― hungry, bleeding and terribly thin. The cat gratefully gobbled down some tuna Mrs Hicks gave it, and then a thought struck her: maybe Kirsten would like to look after this needy pet, as a replacement for poor old Howie?

So she took the cat inside and waited till Kirsten came home before showing her daughter the animal. The teenager took one look at the poor, bedraggled animal and shouted in excitement: “Howie!”

At first Mrs Hicks was stunned. But then she examined the cat more closely. Underneath the grime and the dirt, was the unmistakable fur of a Persian cat. And from its reaction to Kirsten, it was quite clear now who this cat was. There was no denying it: Howie had made it home. Somehow, this cosseted cat had travelled more than one thousand miles from Queensland, across mountains, barren plains and rivers, braving all sorts of perils, from dogs to snakes, scorpions and other wild animals.

How he had managed to know the way, no one can say. But now, after all his hardships, Howie could once more enjoy the comforts of his Adelaide home. As Kirsten said: ‘His paws were sore and bleeding but Howie was purring.’

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