Call it a cat-astrophe averted.
A local feline who went missing earlier this month after a neighborly mix-up is back home on Newport Island, his owner said Friday.
"We are just overjoyed, and I can't say enough about all the people who have supported us and him, and prayed for him, and helped search for him, and put out posters for him," said Gail O'Hea, owner of Toulouse, a long-haired tuxedo cat. "He just purred the entire night. He's so happy."
The earlier mix-up occurred when a neighbor found Toulouse but thought he looked like Jerry, a gray-and-white cat who had been missing for months. The neighbor, a 9-year-old, left Toulouse in a garage and called Jerry's owner, Lisa Lily, to say — in error, it turned out — that her cat had been returned to her.
Around the time Toulouse disappeared, Balboa Cove residents Mark and Linda Tsuji, who have three rescue cats of their own, noticed another cat hanging around.
"At first, we thought the cat looked well-groomed, and we thought it was maybe a new one [in the neighborhood]," Mark Tsuji said. "We caught him coming in the house and trying to get food, and he had a little face-off with one of our cats."
The Tsujis continued seeing the cat around for about two weeks, Mark said, until neighborhood kids brought Linda one of O'Hea's fliers asking for help finding Toulouse.
"I walk in the door and take a look at that poster and it's the same cat," said Mark, who called O'Hea Thursday evening to inform her.
Mark said that when O'Hea arrived to pick Toulouse up, "He popped out of the bushes and jumped in mom's arms."
Mark said he was happy to have been able to help.
"We'd hope somebody would do that for our cat," he said.