Many know the pain of losing a pet without knowing what happened to them – being left with the torturous thought of whether they ever found somewhere safe.

Ruth Armstrong, 50, endured this for 14 years after her black and white cat Elsa disappeared in 2007.

Now 16 years old, Elsa has miraculously been found and returned to her home in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

Elsa, aged two at the time, went missing after she had started to spend more and more time outside the house.

‘One day she came in, weed on the sofa and disappeared forever,’ Ruth remembered.

The diet consultant looked for Elsa ‘for a long, long time’ but eventually realised ‘she wasn’t coming back’.

Ruth hoped her pet had found a warm, loving home of her choosing – as cats are infamous for doing – but Ruth also tried to accept that Elsa may have died.

Elsa had in fact found a new home. But not the kind Ruth was thinking of.

For some reason, Elsa decided to set up camp on the grounds of a local factory where staff members fed her.

But Elsa’s feeders noticed she had tumour on the side of her head on November 25 and called the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Animal welfare inspector Allison North took Elsa to the vet, who scanned the cat’s microchip and saw she had been registered as ‘deceased’.

The animal lovers were able to call Ruth and tell her Elsa was indeed alive, albeit with a possibly cancerous lump.

Ruth said: ‘I’m elated, overwhelmed and shocked. I still cant believe it. She has a big tumour on side which the vets think are cancerous.

‘But I’m just thankful she was taken off the street just before the cold snap. With her age I’m not sure she would have survived – the timing was just amazing.’

Allison said the ‘happy ending shows just how important microchipping your pet is’.

‘While collars and tags can easily be removed – microchipping identifies pets permanently and effectively,’ she added.

She went on to remind owners that microchips are only effective if people keep the database updated with the right address and contact details.

Ruth has now started a fundraiser for the medical care Elsa will need, as the cat’s insurance was cancelled when Ruth thought she had died.

She wrote: ‘After spending so many years out in the cold, fending for herself, Elsa deserves the best chance to enjoy her twilight years at home with her loving family.

‘I can’t bear the thought of the decision that would have to be made because we can’t afford the treatment she requires.’

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