The “resurrection” story of a lanky, gray cat from a well-heeled town on the coast of Maine has caught the attention of everyone from a former president to national news outlets.
After going missing from his Kennebunkport home a year ago, Romeo the cat was resurrected from the dead in the eyes of his owner, George Lichte, last month when a Good Samaritan found Romeo wandering around the Unity College campus, more than 100 miles away from his home.
Thanks to Romeo having been microchipped, Lichte and his cat were reunited a few weeks ago. Romeo ― famous for wandering around Kennebunkport, including to former President George H.W. Bush’s Walker’s Point compound ― has settled back into his routine of traipsing in and out of Lichte’s home as he pleases.
But after the cat’s return, questions remained for Lichte and his family.
Where was Romeo during his yearlong sojourn? Did he ditch his collar and hop a train car for Unity to start his life anew? Was he stepping in where the North Pond hermit left off in the wild woods of central Maine?
Or, did someone simply take Romeo?
Well, it turns out to be a rather complicated story.
For the last month, Whisper Waite, a Unity College student, has been feverishly searching for her cat Neptune. She called nearly every animal shelter and veterinarian’s office in the area. She put up posters. But the efforts were to no avail. She was heartbroken
Then on Tuesday, a friend tagged her in a Facebook post that shared a Bangor Daily News report about a cat named Romeo that had been reunited with his owner in Kennebunkport after being missing for a year.
Waite was shocked.
It turns out that Neptune, first and foremost was not a female cat as Waite had thought, and that he had a home in Kennebunkport with a family who thought he was dead.
She found Lichte on Facebook and sent him a message.
“I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I just cannot let this guy think this cat has been lost in the wilderness,’” Waite said. “I also apologized for inadvertently kidnapping his cat.”
The mixup all started a year ago, when her former college roommate attended a wedding in Kennebunkport. Romeo was famous in the town for loitering at local hotels and restaurants.
Being a friendly and curious cat, Romeo sought out these situations. Whenever Lichte would get a call from a local establishment that Romeo was making the rounds, he’d fetch the cat only to have Romeo do the same thing shortly thereafter.
But when Romeo showed up at the wedding Waite’s roommate was attending, the hotel staff said they were going to take the cat to a shelter if his owners didn’t get him soon. Waite’s roommate asked if she could take the cat. Allegedly the staff consented.
When Waite’s roommate returned with the cat to their Unity College dorm, she said it didn’t have a collar and her roommate was already calling it Neptune.
Shortly thereafter, Waite’s roommate dropped out of college, but left the cat. Having already bonded with the cat, Waite took it on as her own.
“It didn’t ever occur to me to check that it actually had … owners,” Waite said.
Waite said she and the cat instantly bonded.
“The cat was extremely attached to me and vice versa,” Waite said. “Everyone loved this cat because he was just an awesome cat.”
While she was in school last year, the cat remained indoors. But when she returned home for the summer, Romeo was allowed to roam free outside again. Waite said she brought the cat for shots, but that it was during a veterinarian’s visit to a Tractor Supply Co. event, where they did not check for a microchip.
When she returned to school this fall, Romeo continued to be an outdoor cat. Waite said he would come back whenever she called for him, except for a weekend in early October.
Around this time, Kevin Taft, of Solon, was working in a park on the Unity College campus and he heard a meow. What he discovered was a cat that crawled up into his lap. Taft returned the next day with a cat carrier to find the cat and bring him home, assuming it was a stray.
He decided he would call the cat “Unismoke” because of its smoky coloring and having been found in Unity. But when Taft took the cat to a veterinarian in Skowhegan for shots, a scan for a microchip determined that the cat was Romeo.
While Taft said his “heart sank” when he found out his new feline friend already had a home, he knew he needed to return it to its rightful owner if they wanted him back.
A few days later, Lichte, who couldn’t believe his beloved cat was alive after a year, drove up to Waterville to bring Romeo home.
Knowing the joy that Romeo has brought into his own life, Lichte said he and Waite are arranging a time where they can meet so Waite can officially say goodbye to the cat she grew to love during the last year.
“This cat has had a crazy life,” Waite said. “Of all of the scenarios that could have happened with this cat going missing, this was the best one.”
In light of Romeo’s reunion with his owners, the Animal Medical Clinic ― the vet’s office in Skowhegan where Romeo was scanned for a microchip ― will be running a special on microchipping in December.
“I was pleased to be ‘the vet’ in this heartwarming story,” Dr. Amanda Bisol wrote in a Facebook post. “We are all so happy that Romeo was able to find his way back to his original home after such a long trip.”
While his story has gained serious momentum, Romeo is oblivious of his newfound fame, Lichte said.
“Romeo is just out being Romeo.”
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