Sanne Van Der Zweep thought her fiancé was playing a cruel joke when he told her he had received a phone call saying her missing cat Tigger had been found.
She had long since given up hope of finding Tigger, who ran out of her Wendouree home in Ballarat, in Victoria's Central Highlands, in December 2018 and hadn't been seen since.
Tigger vanished was two weeks after Ms Van Der Zweep moved to Ballarat for a new job. Tigger and her other cat Casper were kept inside to get used to their new home, but one morning at 5.30am when she was leaving for work Tigger bolted out through the door.
"After putting up flyers and posting on Facebook for six months, all hope was lost," she said.
But out of the blue, earlier this month, her fiancé received a call from Ballarat Animal Shelter saying Tigger had been handed in.
"I didn't believe it. I swore and told my fiancé to get stuffed, don't lie to me ... I had a customer in front of me and I jumped up and down and had tears in my eyes. I was in shock," she said of the moment she received the call.
"I thought when Tigger went missing that either someone had kept him or he'd passed away and no one had discovered him ... but I never thought I'd get him back," she said.
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Ms Van Der Zweep is certain someone had kept Tigger and looked after him before he ran away again.
A good samaritan who noticed Tigger hanging around her new house fed him to gain his trust before catching him and first taking him to the vet, then to the Ballarat Animal Shelter where he was scanned for a microchip which Ms Van Der Zweep had kept updated with her details.
"There was my little ginger lion all beefed up and clearly well-loved. There is no way Tigger could have survived on the streets for two and a half years."
While missing, Tigger had grown a 'mane' and put on more than 2kg but his loving nature did not change.
"He still loves me to death. He is such a friendly cat and he was like that with me straight away. It only took a day and a half after he got home and he was sitting on my lap again - I think he knows and remembers me," she said.
While overjoyed to have Tigger home again, Ms Van Der Zweep was a little disappointed with the time it took to notify her that he had been found.
She missed a call from the animal shelter on June 29, two or three days after he was handed in, but they did not leave a message and when she tried to call the number back it went unanswered. Then on July 8 they called a second time which she also missed because she was at work, again leaving no message, but this time they rang her fiance who was listed as a secondary contact.
She had updated the microchip details on the Central Animal Registry as soon as Tigger disappeared, flagging him as missing.
"It's annoying that I could have had him home sooner," she said. "But I think the most important message from this, apart from keeping your details up to date, is don't keep an animal that's not your own."
The woman who ultimately caught Tigger and handed him in had posted a picture of him on Facebook to see if anyone knew the cat, and two or three people had claimed he was theirs, but they couldn't catch him.
"Don't put an animal you've found on Facebook - the owner might not see it. Take it to the vet or animal shelter so if a person is missing an animal and has their details up to date it will go to the right place," she said.