Bella Russell was certain her cat would return if for no other reason than he loved her and did not like other people or their houses.
The feline, Thomas, was among a litter of three Santa Claus adopted at the Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society Christmas 2011 and left at Bella’s north Leon County, Fla., home.
The kittens were named Thomas, Grady (Grace) and Leon after counties in which the Russell family had lived.
The family went to Disneyworld a month before Thanksgiving last year. When they returned, Thomas was gone.
“She would not accept that he would not come back. ... She said the cat loved her,” said Geraldine Russell, Bella’s paternal grandmother and a Grady County resident.
Bella, 9, said someone told her Thomas “cat-mated” with another cat, fathered kittens and had a new family.
“I’m like, ‘No, we’ve gotten him fixed, and he would not have mated,’ “ Bella explained.
“We also talked about heaven,” Bella’s grandmother said. However, the child was confident Thomas was alive.
The Russells live in a heavily wooded, rural area where a fatal snakebite was possible. Leon had been bitten by a rattler or moccasin, but survived.
Bella prayed nightly for Thomas’ return. “I knew he was coming back,” she said. “I just felt it.”
On the day before Thanksgiving, the girl’s mother, Krysta, was in the back yard of the family home when a cat suddenly ran past her.
Ms. Russell heard a faint cry, then saw Thomas, who was very hungry. The haggard cat devoured luncheon meat and drank milk and water.
Bella, who was at her grandmother’s, was contacted and soon was home cuddling with Thomas.
“I sat on the couch and loved him,” she said.
Because of the way he walked upon his return, it appeared Thomas might have been cooped up in a shed or other small, enclosed building.
Bella’s father, Greg, thinks Thomas might have been in the back of his truck and was injured when he jumped out.
Bella said Thomas loved her too much to leave her. Besides, she explained, Thomas was starving and needed to return home for food.
Thomas, an extremely laid-back, loving feline, is back doing his favorite things — lying on baby quilts under Bella’s bed and sleeping in a chair made of beaver fur.
Bella has lost kitties in the past, “but this one was different,” she explained.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.