Kimbo, a little black cat with white markings, meows the minute someone walks in the door of Jana Sullivan’s apartment.
He stares up at the stranger, tail fluidly sweeping across the floor.
Then, he’s off to play with his salmon toy before eventually leaping into his cat tree to stare out the window.
It’s hard to believe that Kimbo was living on the streets in the not-too-distant past. Harder still to imagine is that he has been reunited with his owner after getting lost five years ago.
Sullivan, who now lives in Anaheim, said Kimbo loved going outside when the two lived in a small studio apartment in Laguna Beach. The apartment wasn’t the best place to keep cats, but it was all she could afford at the time.
Despite her best efforts, Kimbo somehow got out in 2014. He didn’t come back.
Sullivan, who has dealt with several health issues, said she decided to get another cat this year because she missed having someone to take care of and to comfort her.
“I live alone and my family’s really spread out across different states,” she said. “When I finally decided to get a cat again [this year], I was really missing [Kimbo]. I really missed him and having just somebody that loves you back, too, someone who’s excited to see you when you get home and all of those things.”
In September, as she looked at the adoption page for the Ark of San Juan — an animal rescue group based in San Juan Capistrano — she happened to spot a cat that looked exactly like Kimbo. It had the same eye color, the same ear and eye shape.
“Some people think all black cats look alike. They really don’t,” Sullivan said. “I thought, ‘That’s weird. I should just go see this cat and see if it’s my cat. I’m sure it’s not.’ ”
The cat — named Roady, because he was found on the side of the road with wounds down his back — was being housed at Catmosphere Laguna, a cat cafe. Robin Morris, the cat coordinator and president of the Ark of San Juan, said she felt he would be able to “shine” more outside of a shelter.
Sullivan headed there in September, on “Friday the 13th, which was the full moon.”
“It was a weird, windy, blustery gray day, too,” she said. “I went there telling myself the whole way, ‘This is not your cat. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s been way too long. I’m sure it’s not the same cat.’ ”
Right as she walked into the cat lounge at 381 Forest Ave., though, the cat “ran right up to me ... and just started purring, like really strongly and loudly,” she said.
“He’d rub his face on mine and he just seemed really excited to see me and it really surprised me because as he ran up to me, I was thinking, ‘This is the exact same size. Same paw shape, same everything,’ ” Sullivan said. “And so, I burst into tears.”
While there’s no scientific way to tell for sure that this is the same cat — the microchip that was implanted in Kimbo would have likely been pulled out in whatever incident led to Roady’s injuries — Sullivan said she’s sure they are one and the same. Roady has the same markings as Kimbo, the same claw that can’t be retracted, he even lies down the same way.
Sullivan’s vet even said he’s around the same age Kimbo would be.
“It really could be him,” Sullivan said, beaming. “I think it’ll always be one of those 99.9% sure things, but I’m just so glad I have him.”
Gail Allyn Landau, the owner of Catmosphere, said its “mission is to provide ‘furr-ever’ homes for homeless and abandoned cats and kittens, but never did I envision playing a role in such an incredible story of reunion.”
“Reuniting Jana and Kimbo was powerful and a perfect example of the power of hope, and the reward that having hope brings,” she said Friday. “Stories like this may seem unfathomable, but felines possess an incredible intuition and superior recognizance.”
As for Sullivan and Kimbo, they’re still settling back into their old groove.
“He’s the same cat but, at the same time, he’s been through something, so he’s a little scared, like me,” she said. “I’m kind of jumpy, too. I don’t like loud noises and he doesn’t. So, I think the two of us are good for each other because we’re kind of similar. We’ve both been through something crazy and we’re both getting better and we both need somebody to love.”