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MOUNTAIN GREEN — When the Flitton family spotted a small kitten at the Davis County Fair four years ago, it was love at first sight.
"We thought he was a girl, so we called him 'Mittens,'" Cyndi Flitton said with a laugh. "And then we took him in to get fixed and they said, 'This is a boy.'"
Mittens found a home with the Flittons. Cyndi's daughter, Allison, became especially attached to him.
"You fight with your brothers and sisters but you never fight with your pets, and so they're always someone who's constantly on your side," she said.
Mittens was in charge around the Flitton house, coming and going as he pleased.
"I don't have the heart to keep him in and he'll let you know when he wants to come in. He can turn the knob on that door," said Cyndi Flitton, gesturing towards the garage. "He can bring it down."
But one day, Mittens vanished.
"I thought he was fine for that first day," Cyndi Flitton said. "As it got creeping into two days, I was worried about him."
"I was so sad," said Allison Flitton. "I was so upset. I just went outside and I just kept calling his name."
The Flittons racked their brains, trying to figure out where he could be.
"One of Mittens' favorite places is to sleep inside the boat," Cyndi Flitton said. "I asked my husband where he could be, and that's when he mentioned the boat. But he said, 'I chased him away. I don't think he got in the boat.'"
That boat was gone, out to Salt Lake City, being repaired.
"I called down to Marine Products and they said that there had been a cat in their boat yard, meowing like crazy," Cyndi Flitton said.
Frightened, alone, and surrounded by strange noises and unfamiliar surroundings, Mittens made a ruckus. Employees even came out to investigate and snapped a picture.
"He was underneath a boat, meowing," Cyndi Flitton said. "He wasn't under our boat, so they didn't know he was our cat. Another customer had come with a dog, and he had run away."
Mittens ran away towards the busy city streets. Cyndi and Allison went and put up fliers, checked in with a nearby animal shelter — doing everything they could to find their cat.
But it was too late. Mittens was officially lost.
"That made me sad because I knew there was no way he could get back here," Cyndi Flitton said.
No way, because Mittens isn't from Salt Lake. He lived in Mountain Green, up Weber Canyon — nearly 40 miles away.
And what stood between that cat and his home was the impossible: the Wasatch Mountains — rugged terrain and peaks approaching 12,000 feet. The impossible.
But luckily for Mittens, he'd been training for this his entire life.
"He's a hunter," Allison Flitton said.
"Voles and mice," Cyndi Flitton said. "Recently rabbits."
"One time he brought back a bird, live in his mouth," Allison Flitton said.
If any cat could accomplish the impossible, Mittens could. Four months after fleeing from that boat yard, someone found him and brought him to veterinarian Dr. Carl Prior, who scanned him and found that Mittens had been microchipped.
"It had lost a lot of weight," said Dr. Prior. "Its feet were injured."
But what's interesting about Dr. Prior isn't what he had to say about Mittens, but where he works — Park City Animal Clinic.
Mittens had conquered the mountains.
"It had some abrasions, the toenails were torn up just from the hiking and the surviving," Dr. Prior said.
Although there's no way to track the route Mittens took, Dr. Prior has no doubt that he'd climbed over the mountains, trying to get home. Aside from the physical evidence of Mittens' journey, Dr. Prior said it just isn't plausible that Mittens had gotten a ride to Park City.
"If it had hitched a ride, that person would've probably taken it to their vet and it would've been scanned," he said.
Instead, it was a Park City resident who'd found Mittens lurking around their yard.
"Animals are amazing," Dr. Prior said. "I think that they have instincts and abilities that we just can't understand. There's many stories like that. There was a case where a cat was missing for three or four years. The people had moved and the cat had escaped while they were moving their stuff. The cat came back to the original home."
Dr. Prior believes Mittens was headed towards Mountain Green when he was found.
"This story is a special story about a special cat that was just trying to find its way home," he said. "He didn't know how far the path was going to be, but it didn't matter to him. He was going to go for it and find his way home."
Cyndi Flitton couldn't believe it when she got the call.
"I said, 'You have Mittens? In Park City?'" she said. "We thought that they had made a mistake, that it was the wrong cat. My husband asked me to call down and see if we could get a picture of him because there's no way he could end up in Park City."
But all doubts were erased when Allison held Mittens in her arms.
"I think he loved all of us," she said. "Just like we loved him."
After returning home, Mittens has been smothered with attention.
"I guess he's been a little bit pampered," Allison Flitton said.
"He is spoiled," laughed Cyndi Flitton. "In fact, he's gotten really fat. When he got back, all he did was eat."
"Right when we got home, he just sat on this couch with me and fell asleep on my lap," Allison Flitton said.
But still, adventure calls. Though he doesn't go outside quite as often as he used to, the Flittons say Mittens still runs to the door when they open the blinds. But whether he's indoors or out, the Flittons know their cat is a member of their family.
"It's great to know that he knows who we are and that he loves us and wants to be with us," Cyndi Flitton said. "That much to cross the mountains, anyway."