ANNAPOLIS, Maryland. (WLNS) – Before they had children, even before they were married, Jason and Liz McKenry of Annapolis, Maryland say their baby was a cat named Ritz.

At least he was until 2006, when Ritz bolted out of their apartment door and never returned.

“We spent months looking all around and talking to the shelters. Yeah, anything we could think of we tried,” said Jason.

In fact, they still have his lost pet poster.

“It felt like if I deleted it, it never happened, and he’d be forgotten. And I couldn’t do that,” said Liz. And so her sliver of hope remained through that decade and into the next. Sixteen years came and went.

Then, just a few weeks ago, six miles from Jason’s old apartment building, a woman found a stray cat living in a trailer park. The cat was in terrible shape, so she brought it over to a veterinary office to be put down. But before doing so, as is standard procedure, the vet scanned the cat for a microchip.

At that moment, Jason got an automated text: “Cat Ritz has been found.”

“I was like, ‘well, that’s gotta be a mistake.’ I mean, I’m thinking they recycled the microchip number. And she’s upstairs and she overhears me. And she goes, ‘what did you just say?'” Jason said.

And yet there he is. The record holder.

No pet has ever been reunited with its family after being missing for as long as Ritz.

Despite two bum legs, Ritz is on the mend. He already has his favorite chair and is now enjoying the attention of the brother and sister he never knew: Jason and Liz’s kids.

Ritz still has a very sweet demeanor which means he may have been a house cat at some point, but there’s no telling.

All we know for certain is that for 16 years, Ritz was lost, but hope wasn’t.