"I was like, 'What cat?'" Takayesu told The Dodo. "And they said, 'Oh, we have your tortoiseshell tabby, and she's fine, and we're waiting for you to come by.' But I hadn't had a cat in 15 years."
Takayesu figured the shelter had made a mistake, and that someone — the cat's real owner — would eventually claim her. But no one did, and the shelter kept calling Takayesu. Over the weekend, an animal control officer even visited Takayesu's house to remind her about the cat waiting at the shelter.
"They said it was a senior cat," Takayesu said. "I was concerned that nobody would adopt her, and she'd be euthanized or something. I didn't want that on my conscience, so I decided to pull her out, whomever she belonged to."
Four days after the initial call from the shelter, Takayesu went to collect the mystery cat. The staff delivered the cat to Takayesu in a carrier. When Takayesu opened it, she got the biggest surprise.
"I opened it up, and I was like, 'Oh my god! That's my cat,'" Takayesu said. "It was crazy."
The cat turned out to be James, a female cat Takayesu and her family had owned 15 years ago. She was named after a character in her son's favorite show, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. James the cat had first lived with the family in Kula, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, then moved with them 10 miles away to another part of Maui, Makawao.
"She was fine for a month [in Makawao] — she had the same routine," Takayesu said. "She'd come in at night, and during the day, she'd wander in and out. Then we noticed she didn't come in at night. We went looking for her and couldn't find her."
The family searched for a month, driving around each evening to look for her. They even went back to Kula, to see if she'd gotten disoriented and wandered back home. But she never came back. The family had previously lost a cat to a dog attack, so they feared the worst, and eventually stopped looking.
Takayesu never would have guessed she'd see James again 15 years later. But she did, thanks to the cat's microchip and the ID number tattooed in her right ear.
"No one ever expects their pet to go missing, but when they do, permanent identification can make all the difference in getting them back home where they belong," Jerleen Bryant, the CEO of Maui Humane Society, told The Dodo.
James was also in really good shape, which made Takayesu suspect someone had been taking care of her, and that she might have belonged to someone else. But, she had no way of knowing what may have happened to James' other owner.
Even more mysterious was the fact that James was found only a block from Takayesu's current street. "I don't know if she made her way back, and this just happened to be where she was picked up," Takayesu said. "It's crazy. She's a little miracle."
Whatever happened to James, Takayesu is positive the cat remembers her. "She just wants to be petted," Takayesu said. "It's like time never passed."
James also loves being cuddled and pet, and she'll curl up on Takayesu's lap the same way she did 15 years ago.
"She just purrs and drools, so I'm pretty confident that she remembers me," Takayesu said.
Takayesu never got another cat after James disappeared, but her family had accumulated four miniature pinschers. Not wanting the dogs to scare James, Takayesu only lets James roam the house when the dogs are outside.
"I'm worried about letting her out," Takayesu said. "I see her on the windowsill looking out, and I have a feeling she wants to go out, but I'm pretty hesitant about it. I don't want her to run away, and I don't want anything to happen to her."
Other than gazing outside, James loves napping with Takayesu's daughter and playing in her cat house.
"She's so agile for her age," Takayesu said. "She just jumps up on my lap, or on the bookcase or the windowsill with no problem."
"I am thrilled to have her back," Takayesu said. "It's just like when a piece of you that you don't know is missing, all of a sudden reconnects. She moves me to tears."