The cat came back — more than a decade later.
Oscar the tomcat has been reunited with his family in Morinville 12 years after he went missing.
Thin and emaciated, he was found wandering the streets of the small town and turned in to the Morinville Veterinary Clinic just days before Christmas.
Oscar has some old "ink" to thank for a happy reunion with his human family.
As staff were treating Oscar for dehydration, they spotted a faded tattoo on his ear, an identification number from his first visit to the clinic so many years earlier.
Clinic Manager Elyse Prince scoured their records and tracked down Oscar's owners who were "absolutely shocked" by the news.
"It took them a while to remember the cat; it had been so long since they had seen him," said Prince, with a laugh, during a Friday morning interview on CBC radio show Edmonton AM.
The man who picked Oscar up was a child when the family pet went missing and now has a family of his own.
"The reunion was touching. The owner was happy to see the cat after so long. He was a boy when he had last seen him, and the little girl he was with was so excited to take the cat home," Prince said.
"Oscar was happy, he was purring. I do believe that Oscar does remember his family. He's a smart little cat."
Even with nine lives, just how Oscar managed to survive on his own for so many years remains a mystery, but there have been some clues.
"We've heard bits and pieces from people in the community, that people had been feeding him, leaving food and water — the people of Morinville are very compassionate," Prince said.
"He could have been roaming from farm to farm, mousing in during the summer and spring. The only one that really knows is Oscar."