A year and a half ago, Conjus the cat stalked out of Jennifer Daniel's home and, it appeared, out of her life forever.
For weeks, Daniel drove slowly through the streets near her home in Fort Meade, searching for the small gray-and-black tabby. Eventually, she decided the cat had met an untimely end and gave up.
This week, she got a phone call: Conjus had been found and identified by a microchip implanted in the scruff of her neck. Daniel, 27, was astonished and delighted. Conjus appeared unfazed.
"Once she did a sweep of the house, she just sat on my lap and watched TV," Daniel said yesterday. "It's unreal. It's like a day never passed."
The cat surfaced a few weeks ago on the porch of a first-floor apartment in Odenton. On Monday, the couple who lives there lured her inside, fed her a little chicken and kept her in a bathroom until animal control workers arrived.
The workers took Conjus to a shelter where her microchip was read. They were able to trace her back to a Fort Meade vet who led them to Conjus' owner, said Mark Smith who oversees the Anne Arundel County Department of Animal Control.
Workers were surprised that Conjus had been missing for 18 months. "It's the longest I've heard of since I've been here," Smith said.
More than a half-million pets have been returned to their owners since microchips were introduced in 1995, said Julie Lux, a spokeswoman for Home Again, the company that made the cat's chip.
Daniel had adopted Conjus when she was stationed with the U.S. Navy Reserves in Bahrain. The cat was a stray with a habit of snatching food, and a doorman had dubbed her "Conjus," which means "stingy" in Hindi, Daniel said.
In early 2006, Daniel found herself back in the U.S. with Conjus. The cat appeared to love her leafy new home and spent hours stalking songbirds. Everything went well until a friend with a large mutt visited Daniel in the summer of 2007 and the cat took off, Daniel said.
When the two were reunited at the county shelter Thursday, Conjus fixed her big green eyes on Daniel and nuzzled her hand. "Of course I just melted on the spot," said Daniel, who now lives in Gambrills.
The cat appears well-groomed and heavier than before, leading Daniel to believe that someone had been caring for her.
She said she doesn't plan to let the cat out again. "Although," she added, "she obviously knows how to take care of herself."