Missing cat who fell through Mackay office roof reunited with owners after eight months and 1,600km journey

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A large ginger cat shocked Ergon Energy workers when he fell through the ceiling of their office in Mackay, 1,600 kilometres from where his owners were living.

Eugene, the domesticated cat, had spent nearly eight months fending for himself on the streets and cane fields of Mackay.

The Ergon crew was checking in for a Monday morning shift when they opened the door to get their equipment and instead found Eugene and a hole in their ceiling.

Ergon Work Group officer Amanda Morris said the cat sprinted out the door, but for several days they heard his “small meows” coming from their ceiling.

The team contacted Mackay Pet Rescue Incorporated (MPRI) and together they set traps in the ceiling.

“We’d noticed that the cat was starting to get used to us and you would look up occasionally and just see this cat looking at you,” Ms Morris said.

After several days the cat was caught and his owners were called.

And to everyone’s surprise, they lived 1,600km away in Newcastle, NSW.

Eugene’s escape
Eugene’s adventure began when his owner Sophie Kilgariff and her fiance moved from Townsville to NSW in December 2021.

The couple had stopped in Mackay to visit Ms Kilgariff’s parents on the way down.

“We had ummed and aahed about whether we would fly the pets down,” Ms Kilgariff said.

“We decided not to, that we’d drive down with them. We thought … it wouldn’t be as scary for them.”

During a stop in nearby Sarina to clean out Eugene’s travel cage, the cat made his first dash.

“Everything was fine. And then he basically did a Houdini jump and got out of his harness and ran into the cane fields,” Ms Kilgariff said.

A game of literal cat and mouse ensued with the couple spending hours looking for the frightened Eugene.

But a work deadline meant they had to keep travelling and she was forced to leave her number with neighbours, relying on her parents to continue the search.

“I was heartbroken,” Ms Kilgariff said.

Several days later, Eugene was found and returned to her parents, but a paralysis tick threatened his life.

Despite being warned he might not make it, Ms Kilgariff paid the vet to do what they could to save him.

The procedure worked and several days later Ms Kilgariff’s parents retrieved Eugene, setting him up at their Mackay home while their daughter moved into her new place.

But Eugene’s adventure wasn’t over — he escaped again.

Months passed with Ms Kilgariff continuing to post on Facebook and receiving sporadic news of his sightings, but eventually resigned herself to the fact she would never see her fur baby again.

She said she clung onto the hope a loving family had adopted Eugene.

“Because otherwise, it just would break my heart,” she said.

Ms Kilgariff couldn’t believe it when she received a call eight months later from MPRI.

“I had this voice message saying ‘I’m calling you about your cat’ … it took me a second and then I just realised that was about Eugene and I just started crying,” she said.

A ‘rare’ case
Eugene’s story of reunion is the reason MPRI’s Robyn Van Rooyen continues in the work she does, despite the often heartbreaking outcomes.

“So when we have these rare opportunities where the owner has done the right thing and the animal is microchipped, it’s an amazing feeling to connect the dots,” Ms Van Rooyen said.

“And especially for Eugene, so many months had passed … it’s just really great.

“I wish we saw more of it than what we do, unfortunately.”

Ms Van Rooyen said she still cried when she received letters from owners who had been reunited with their pets.

She said it was a crucial reminder for owners to ensure their pets were microchipped and the details were kept up to date.

“The whole link between getting the happy ending was the importance of a microchip,” she said.

Eugene has now been reunited with his owners in Newcastle.