A CAT that was stolen from outside his front door and sold to another family has been reunited with his owners.

Six-year-old Sam was snatched from owner Julie Appleton in Swaythling at the end of June.

After four weeks of searching, the 49-year-old began to lose hope of ever finding her beloved pet.

However, a surprise phone call from a veterinary practice in Chandler’s Ford revealed her ginger tabby had been sold online for £20 and had been staying with a new family.

'We couldn't believe it'

Julie said: “When the vets phoned me and told me they had Sam, it blew my mind.

“We couldn’t believe it as we never thought something like this would happen to us.”

Daily Echo: Sam reunited with his owners Julie Appleton and her son JaySam reunited with his owners Julie Appleton and her son Jay

According to Julie, Sam was sitting outside their home waiting to catch mice on June 26 when he disappeared.

She said: “I thought he had probably gone to the neighbour’s house, but when it got to about nine o’clock we were starting to worry.

“After printing off flyers and receiving a few phone calls, I got a message on Facebook from a woman who thought she knew where my cat was.

“She said Sam had followed her and she thought he was a stray so took him home, before putting him back outside.

“I was out at all times in the day, including 4am in the morning, searching for him.”

READ MORE: Beloved family cat loses leg after being stuck in animal trap

'There is a cat thief'

Julie met the woman to ensure Sam wasn’t at her house before continuing her desperate search.

It wasn’t until a month after Sam’s disappearance that Julie and her family received some unexpected news from the vets.

Julie said: “The woman who messaged me on Facebook had sold Sam to a Chandler’s Ford family.

Daily Echo: Sam the catSam the cat

“They took him to the vets to be microchipped and neutered as the family were told he was a female cat.

“We both visited neighbouring addresses in Meggeson Avenue when dealing with the woman, so I am trying to get the news out there that there is a cat thief from there.

“I want the woman to be charged. The more people that know about this, the more they might have a chance of getting their cat back.”

'We needed a new companion'

Sam was advertised on Pets4Homes two days after he was stolen and was purchased for £20 by Chris Gibbs and his family on June 29.

READ NEXT: Marwell Zoo's new penguin chicks given clean bill of heath

Chris, 33, said: “We recently lost our cat so we needed a new companion. We saw the advert for who we thought was two-year-old Marmalade and we fell in love.

“After we were told the news about Sam I was very angry. I still have a lot of anger.

“I have a three-year-old girl who recently lost a cat and has lost the new one we introduced, so she is very upset.

Daily Echo: Sam the cat Sam the cat

“I am very happy for Julie and her family as they have been reunited with Sam. It is nice to see him settled back into his home.”

According to police, an investigation is underway to ascertain the exact circumstances surrounding the incident.

Enquires remain ongoing at this time.

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this article - we appreciate your support in reading the Daily Echo.

Subscribing to the Echo means you have unrestricted access to the latest news, features and Saints coverage - all with an advertising-light website.

You will also have full access to Saintsplus, your new home for Southampton FC tactical analysis, features and much, much more.

Don't take my word for it - subscribe here to see for yourself.

Follow the latest breaking news in the Southampton area by joining our Facebook group - Southampton News - Breaking News and Incidents

Follow the latest court and crime news on our dedicated Facebook group - Hampshire Court and Crime News