Woman successfully tracks down stolen cat 1,600km away: 'A miracle'

Miraculous rescue raises concerns about animal trade in China.

A cat owner whose pedigree pet was snatched off the street by animal traffickers used some clever detective work to track it down nearly 1,600 kilometres away.

The owner, identified as Ms Zhang from Huzhou in China, knew she had just days to save her pet from being skinned and butchered, however police turned down her plea for help to find it.

Luckily Ms Zhang had fitted an Apple AirTag tracker to her British shorthair Mantou's collar and was able to track the animal as it was driven through China on its way to a grim fate.

Kidnapped cat
Mantou the cat was saved from certain death, thanks to a tracker it was wearing. Source: AsiaWire/Australscope

After tracing the cat's movements on her phone app south to the city of Guangzhou, Ms Zhang jumped on a plane to save it. One the way, she asked for help on social media and was met at the airport by animal lovers who drove her to the kidnapper's location after a painstaking three-hour search.

Astonishingly, Ms Zhang found Mantou still alive in a cage with the tracker hidden under thick fur. "When I saw it for the first time, it was full of tears. It had experienced a lot, and it must have been very scared," she said in an emotional video of the rescue, adding that the animal was "relatively healthy".

Kidnapped cats in truck
Ms Zhang's search for her pet led rescuers to a truck full of kidnapped cats. Source: AsiaWire/Australscope

"I was very lucky. The volunteers who helped me find the cat said it was a 'miracle' that I could find it," Ms Zhang exoplained. "In fact, many cats now wear trackers, but they may be removed on the way. Mantou's locator is placed under the neck, which is relatively concealed. It is also a relatively fat cat, so it was lucky not to be discovered."

Aboard the truck were other stolen cats, all apparently heading to a slaughterhouse. The cats' skins are sold as fur pelts, while their meat becomes food, and even their bones are sold to make glue.

Kidnapped cats in crate and cage
All of the kidnapped cats that were found with Mantou were rescued and will hopefully be reunited with their owners. Source: AsiaWire/Australscope

All cats on the truck were rescued by the group of volunteers, who will give the animals shelter while searching for their owners. Some cats, however, were not so lucky, as the truck appeared to have been partially emptied out before it was tracked down.

The case has renewed public concern about China's dog and cat kidnapping chain, as crime groups continue to steal pets for human consumption. It's estimated that around 10 million dogs and four million cats are killed for this purpose each year across the nation, according to Humane Society International.

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