A SHOCKED cat owner has been reunited with her family’s feline friend which had been missing for EIGHT months...after recognising his meows in the background of a phone call to her vets.

Rachael Lawrence’s black cat Barnaby - known as Fatman by the family - had been a much-loved member of the family for more than a year when he went missing.

Rachael and her three children were left distraught when the podgy puss disappeared, but all efforts to find him, including knocking on doors and calling the vets and the animal rescue centre, were fruitless.

But just when Rachael thought all hope was lost, a routine phone call to her vets reunited Barnaby and the family.

Rachael had called Vets4Pets to inquire about another cat, Torvi, who had recently had a castration operation.

While on the phone, Rachael heard a faint meowing noise and thought she recognised it.

Gazette: Cuddles - 'Fatman' Barnaby with Torvi

With the noise bugging her, Rachael called back to ask about the cat, which the vet said was a stray found one week earlier.

Due to Barnaby having a distinctive white blotch of fur on his back foot, Rachael asked for a description.

Amazingly, the description checked out and she was finally reunited with her lost cat.

Rachael, 40, from Braintree, said: “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I just cried when I saw him, full on. I just couldn’t believe it.

Gazette: Family Pet - Barnaby with Rachael's eldest, B, 12

“We had given up hope. The kids knew I was going to the vets, but I video called and said ‘Look who I’ve got’.

“They recognised him straight away, they couldn’t be happier.”

Now the family is working to ensure Fatman returns to his former glory after he has become Fatman Slim due to his time away from home.

Rachael said: “He is so skinny and is looking a little worse for wear.

“He is missing some fur and now he is back he is still getting used to it. He is on high alert all the time.

“One of his ears is slightly bent and he has some scars, war wounds from fighting to keep himself alive.

“I would like to find out who it was who brought him in. I want to thank them.

“It was just so many little things which just fitted together to find him.”