Stray cat, 17, who shacked up in St Annes phone box 10 years ago and never left is finally traced back to owner who lost him

An opinionated street cat who shacked up in a disused phone box in St Annes a decade ago and never left has been traced back to the owner who lost him... 14 years ago.

Saturday, 16th January 2021, 7:00 am
Susan Entwistle and Wendy Buckley with Sooty

The black stray, nicknamed Sooty, started making frequent visits to the Monterey Beach Hotel on North Promenade in 2010 after guests there started feeding him scraps in the car park. He soon laid claim to the phone box outside the property, and hotel owner Wendy Buckley even put a bed in there for him, and had a cat flap installed.

For years the feisty feline was a familiar face at the hotel, but his background was shrouded in mystery - until now.

When a well-meaning passerby saw Sooty in his phone box home, she thought he was trapped and called local pet rescue group Homeward Bound, who tracked down his former owner, Daniel Serella, using his microchip.

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Sooty, formerly known as Cole

Daniel revealed that Sooty had gone missing 14 years ago after bolting from a vets appointment, and was feared long dead. Sooty - then Cole - was three years old when he disappeared, making him 17 now.

Wendy said: "He was a wild cat. You couldn't get anywhere near him. If somebody was walking across the car park and he didn't like them I saw him go for their ankles. He's quite feisty when he wants to be.

"He's got a real split personality. Sometimes he's so loving and will come up to you and curl up for a cuddle and even lick you. But then when he's had enough he's had enough. He's very set in his ways.

"There's a four-year lapse between when he disappeared and when he showed up at the hotel. This is a cat that had been on the streets for years. It took us a while to get hold of him. He had been wild for years. Now he comes in when he wants and goes out when he wants."

Sooty's original owner Daniel Serella

Wendy said that she took Sooty to the vets several years ago when she noticed he was suffering from an eye infection, and a quick microchip scan revealed his old name and Daniel's details.

However, when attempts were made to get in touch with him they found that the registered phone number was no longer in use and the trail went cold. But Homeward Bound volunteers managed to track him down anyway through a bit of online sleuthing.

The two were reunited at the hotel this week. But after so many years apart, and with Daniel now a dog owner and father to two young children, he was happy to let Sooty live out his twilight years in his beloved phone box.

He said: “It was a major shock after 14 years. You don’t expect the cat you lost all those years ago to not only turn up, but turn up just around the corner. I have walked past that hotel hundreds of times when I’ve walked into St Annes over the years.

“He was two or three when I lost him, so he was an energetic, playful cat, out and about all the time. Now he’s 17 and much slower. I don’t think he remembers me because it’s been so long.

“There was no question of having him back when they rang me and said the hotel had him for 10 years. He was happy where he was.

“He was feral and had been missing four years before he found them. When he found them he wouldn’t go to them. They would feed him and he would snatch the food and run away. For him to come home with me now wouldn’t be right.

“I only had him for two years. They had him 10 years and he’s become part of the family. He’s an old cat and I wouldn’t dream of taking him away from the life he’s known.”

Wendy said: "Some guests absolutely adore him. Some people come just to see the cat. They buy him treats, I have had blankets knitted for him. He's even been to weddings. He comes waltzing in and curls up on a chair next to you whether you like it or not."

'ALWAYS UPDATE YOUR PET'S MICROCHIP'

Wendy Mulela, of animal rescue group Homeward Bound, who helped track down Daniel, said: "Cole's original owner was taking him to the vets when he escaped, and he thought after all this time he had died, so he was shocked that he was alive and well.

"Everyone at the hotel really loves him and look after him really well. He can come inside if he wants to, or sleep in his phone box. They've looked after him for years and years and Daniel said he didn't want to take him away from that because he now has dogs, and he doesn't want to disturb him in his twilight years.

"I think it gives a really important message to people who have lost a pet that there is always hope, and I think it also gives the message that chip details must be kept up to date, because this could have been a whole different story from when the vet checked the chip all those years ago."