BUBBLES the cat has delighted his owners – by returning home after being missing for three years.
But a slightly weathered Bubbles is now home where he belongs, lying in the warm, and snacking on cheese in the arms of his loving owners.
Hannah Welstead, mother to Arleah, 11, Ethan, nine and Elijah eight, moved her family to Warblington Terrace in Havant exactly three years ago. They had owned Bubbles since he was a seven-week-old kitten.
Hannah said: ‘We moved to the new estate and he got out. We didn’t think we would ever see him again. We were all devastated.’
He appears to have spent the past three years roaming Havant having unknown adventures and fending for himself.
Hannah’s daughter Arleah carried a picture of Bubbles with her in her school bag. She said: ‘Bubbles is my best friend. He used to wait at my bedroom window for me to get home from school and would sleep on my bed. If I felt down he was always there. After he went missing I would take the picture out and look at it because I felt like a part of me was missing.’
The family stuck posters up throughout the town and leaflets through doors but to no avail.
Hannah said: ‘It really hit the family hard. We searched day and night for Bubbles but nobody could find him. We had him for years and after six months I thought we’d never see him again.’
Three years after Bubbles went missing, Hannah’s niece Tiegan spotted a promising picture on Facebook.
Hannah recalled: ‘I saw a photograph somebody had posted. It said that a stray cat had been near the Bear Hotel grounds and the picture looked just like Bubbles. I didn’t say anything initially as I didn’t want to get Arleah and the kids’ hopes up. When I responded saying I believed he was my cat, the response was incredible.’
Representatives from Stubbington Ark and members of the public began to lay traps in the area to try and catch Bubbles to get him home and the Welstead family were showered with support.
Once Hannah had told her children of the news, they got to work constructing a trap. Hannah said: ‘Nobody had caught him so one night I lay a friendly trap out on the living room floor.’
Ethan said: ‘Mum covered the trap in pillow cases and we painted it camouflage colours. We put rib meat inside for Bubbles because he likes meat.’
For days the family would check the trap on the way to school to see if Bubbles had taken the bait.
One morning, Ethan and Elijah were on their way to check the trap as usual.
Hannah said: ‘All I remember was seeing the boys’ faces as they came running towards me, yelling: “We’ve found him mum! He’s here!”.’
From his green eyes, a scar and his colouring, Hannah knew immediately that it was Bubbles.
She added: ‘I took him straight to the vets. He had lots of ticks which were all removed and he was very smelly. He lost his thumbs out in the wild and he’s had three hair cuts in seven days!’
When Bubbles arrived home for the first time, Hannah said: ‘He went around the house and I could tell he remembered. I’ve never heard him purr so loudly!’
Knowing how happy the news would make Arleah, Hannah rang her school to tell her she needed to come home and attend an appointment.
Arleah said: ‘I thought something was up because I knew we always arranged dentist appointments well in advance. I remember turning the corner, seeing the house and looking up at my bedroom and I saw a cat in the window. I thought “Oh my God, he’s home! He’s found us! I knew it was him and ran straight up the stairs!’
Since being at home Bubbles has spent most nights on the end of Arleah’s bed – his favourite spot. Hannah said: ‘He hasn’t had enough rest because we can’t stop cuddling him! His fur is still slightly discoloured but he looks much better than he did. He was always such a loving and cuddly cat, that hasn’t changed. I wish he could tell us what he has seen but we’re just happy that he’s safe and home where he belongs.’