Lost cat turns up thousands of miles away in Alaska. Here's how he got home

A lost cat is home after going on quite an adventure.

Panda, a black-and-white house cat from Washington state, vanished on Oct. 8. Christina Clevenger said that she initially didn't think much of the cat disappearing for the day, since he likes to be outdoors and wander their 40-acre property and surrounding neighborhood.Once Clevenger and her husband realized that Panda had been gone longer than usual, they started searching for him.

"We had about a dozen people helping us look for some sort of sign or clue, like if he ended up getting caught by a coyote," she told TODAY.

Clevenger and Panda after he was returned home.
On Oct. 11, with no trace of Panda on their property or in the surrounding area, she posted the cat's picture on several local Facebook groups to no avail.Nearly two weeks later, a family member saw a picture of Panda on social media. The post confirmed that he was alive — but in Alaska.

"My husband's aunt is the one who actually found the post ... she came running down to our property and asked me, 'What color collar was Panda wearing?'" Clevenger said. "And I said a bright green one. And she turns her phone around and goes, 'Isn't this Panda?'"

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"I was holding my daughter's little Chihuahua, and I hate to say this, but it's true, I ended up dropping the little Chihuahua, and my phone," Clevenger said. "I instantly started bawling. ... The fact that she turned the phone around and he was right there, I lost it. I was emotional for the whole day."

Clevenger said that it wasn't until she read the post in more detail that she realized that Panda had been found at a Home Depot in Kenai, Alaska. She believes that he accidentally got onto a boat or truck bringing a delivery to the store.
Once Clevenger got into the Facebook group where Panda's photo had been shared, she found that United Angels, an animal rescue organization, was already taking steps to get Panda home.

"It was amazing that they got a hold of us and jumped to help right away," Clevenger said. "Honestly, if it wasn't for (United Angels), we would probably have not gotten Panda back, because there was so many hoops to jump through."

Working with United Angels, Clevenger raised money for the associated costs with getting the cat home from Alaska.

Clevenger's husband and one of their children pose with Panda.Courtesy Christina Clevenger

First, he had to be taken to a local veterinarian to be checked out and get a health certificate that allowed him to be placed on a plane. According to Clevenger, the veterinarian said that Panda was dehydrated and had lost weight, but was otherwise healthy.

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Once he was cleared to fly, Panda was flown from Kenai to nearby Anchorage. There, Panda was handed to another airline, which flew him from Alaska to Washington's Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where the Clevengers greeted him.

"It was hectic, but it was a good hectic," Clevenger said. "I just want to thank everyone. I know that sounds cheesy, but everybody came together. They helped us get our baby home."

Now that Panda is home, his ability to roam the Clevenger's property has been strictly curtailed.

"He's spending all of his time inside," she said. "I learned my lesson the hard way ... He got grounded permanently. We gave him more toys to play with; he gets more treats. He's more spoiled than he ever was."

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