Seminole County

‘My baby is coming home’: Cat missing from Maine since 2015 found in Central Florida

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Denise Cilley remembers the exact day her kitty named Ashes went missing nearly seven years ago, on Aug. 14, 2015 — her daughter’s 10th birthday.

Ashes was only nine or 10 months old when she escaped from the family’s Chesterville, Maine, home more than 2,300 days ago. Then last week, she got a call from a veterinarian 1,400 miles away in Seminole County, Florida, saying they had found her missing cat.


In less than seven days, the pair are set to be reunited thanks to a well-connected network of animal welfare volunteers.

Cilley said her first thought when she got the call was, “I’m not missing a cat,” especially not one in Florida. She figured a predator in her wooded neighborhood had sent Ashes to kitty heaven years ago.

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When the shelter gave her more details, it clicked.

“Oh my God, that’s Ashes,” she said. “I haven’t seen her for six-and-a-half years!”

A Longwood couple started caring for Ashes as a stray when they noticed her declining health. The vet they took her to did a quick microchip scan, putting together the first piece of the long-distance puzzle.

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“Microchipping your animals is like magic because you can find them years later,” Cilley said.

After she got the call from the vet, Cilley reached out to a friend who reached out to another friend, Janet Williams, who does animal welfare work in Orlando to try to figure out a way to bring Ashes home to Maine.

Williams put feelers out to her networks and within a day, found a Southwest Airlines flight attendant willing to fly Ashes up to Maine on her day off next week.

READ: Cat who loves to sit on horses reunited with family after three years

“I think I’m probably going to cry,” Cilley said. “It’s like a long-lost child. My baby is coming home.”

Cilley and Williams are left to wonder how Ashes ended up on the opposite side of the country all these years later.

“She apparently went out to have a great adventure and now she is ready to go home,” Williams said.

READ: Colorado cat missing four years reunited with owner in Texas

Did she hop in a truck and hitchhike her way down the East Coast? Did a family in Maine take her in and then move to Florida?

“There’s literally dozens of scenarios and she’s just not telling,” Williams said. “I don’t know how many lives she’s used up, but I hope she’s got a few more.”

Williams launched a GoFundMe to help cover the costs of reuniting Ashes with her family. She said they’ve already reached their goal, but any additional money raised will be used to cover the vet care Ashes needs after her years on the road.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson,

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.