A calico cat named Patches had belonged to Josie Gower, one of the 23 people killed in the mudslides that hit Santa Barbara in January 2018. Patches was thought to have died, too.
"We had kinda lost hope," Briana Haigh, Gower's daughter, told NPR. Her mom's several cats had slept in her garage, which was destroyed during the disaster.
But in December, Patches was found alive and roaming around the same area she disappeared in.
"It's a nice thing to hear that, after that many years, you can get a little bit of joy out of something that was quite horrific," Haigh said.
"I mean it's obviously not as bad as losing the house and Mom, but it was pretty horrific to actually lose them as well, that kinda connection to her," Haigh said.
Just weeks ago, Patches was taken in by the Animal Shelter Assistance Program, a local shelter in the Santa Barbara area. Staff say they were able to identify her because of a microchip registered under Gower's name.
"It's a great mystery to us about where she's been for the last almost three years," said Becky Morrill, a staff member at the shelter.